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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Rediscovering the Heart of Mercy

We are so  honored to be with you each day sharing hope. Our outreach has grown at a tremendous pace. We are averaging over 100 new subscribers a day. We just past 104,550 in followers. That’s because people are searching for hope and we provide it.

We are in a new promotion. The person who is our 105,000 will wins some nice prizes. We are only 450 away from our next goal . It goes very fast so don’t miss out. 

_____________________________________

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

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

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

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

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Rediscovering the Heart of Mercy

Linda S. Clare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Can Persecution be a Good Thing?

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 99,650 in followers. That’s because people are searching for hope and we provide it.

In our current promotion the winner will be the person who is the 100,000th subscriber will win some nice prizes. We are down to the last 350. It will go very fast. This is a huge milestone for us. 

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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 details about the new book. Look for updates here.

UPDATE!!  In the final stages of having the book finished. Much of it is already sent off to my editor. The countdown begins!!

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We have a special guest blogger today. Taylor Wilkins ison staff for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. FCA is reaching out to the local high schools in my area, and Taylor (with God) is the reason for all of its success. This post will show you why.

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Signs of Hope- The Honor of Persecution

“they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” -Revelation 12:10-11

Have you ever been put down, persecuted, or physically abused for your belief?

I’m sure to some extent all of us have experienced this; but for most of us, we don’t consider persecution a blessing—At least not yet!

Throughout this past week God has been highlighting to me Persecution. In John 15:20 Jesus tells his followers; “no servant is greater than his master, if they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” and again in John 16:33 Jesus says; “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” As I asked God to search me and show me the places in my life that need to grow, the fear of persecution has been revealed to me as a weakness. This is not good because this causes a compromise in my obedience to the Holy Spirit’s voice and leading in my walk with him.

The reason to fear persecution usually comes from a lack of understanding about the treasure behind it. Jesus says that blessed are you when you are persecuted for my names sake. Even when the world comes against us for our faith we are blessed by our father in heaven. The weight of being persecuted by man compared to being blessed by God is of no comparison, yet we often fear the latter!

It could be that what I’ve been describing above is resonating with you—or maybe you have been abused for things completely unrelated to faith. We live in a world that often tears people down better then it builds them up. Your story could be of broken trust, abuse, bullying, an affair, sexual abuse, or abusive parents. My heart breaks thinking of the terrible things that are happening to wonderful innocent people—and often the ones who can’t defend themselves. If your story of persecution is along these lines, I want you to know it is the glory of God to redeem that which was lost. God has been through everything with you and he will not let your tears fall to the ground unnoticed. He loves you, and He will redeem your life.

Today this is a Sign of Hope, that no matter the circumstance you are in, or the breakthrough you need, God is near to you and He has “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Taylor Wilkins

Fellowship of Christian Athletes

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Remember:

You are never alone.

You are never forsaken.

You are never unloved.

And above all….never, ever, give up!

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Searching for Your True Identity?

We are still doing our promotions I next winner will be the person who is our 95,000th subscriber. As you found out here, it goes very fast. We average over 30 new subscribers a day. We will get there pretty fast. We just passed 92,550 If you haven’t already subscribed please do by clicking on the icon right after the title of this post.

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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 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 ever 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.

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So Proud to share with you a  guest blog by Taylor Wilkens. He is a new writer here at Signs of Hope. He is an excellent writer as you will see.

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My True Identity  

Growing up, athletics came really easily for me. I felt like a fish in water whenever I was doing anything athletic. Whether it was football, basketball, swimming, tennis, track or underwater basket weaving it didn’t matter to me, I was going to be the best at it. Because of my athletic ability people began to give me nicknames according to my lifestyle such as, the jock, Taylorade, and the chosen one. One nickname that sticks out to me the most is one I received in college and that was T-Flex.

In my opinion it is the ultimate meat head nickname and it probably paints a picture about my life at the time! I believe nicknames can symbolized what things appear to be superficially, but they hardly ever speak to the heart of a person. It’s unfortunate because often times we tend to believe we are what people see on the outside.

For me, I believed my value as a person came from my athletic ability. The value of my life was completely dependent on how well I could compete in athletics. If I did well, I had great value, but if I did poorly I had little to no value.

It was a roller coaster of ups and downs emotionally. I was either king of the world or a complete failure. This continued for many years until finally a new light was shed on my life. For me, that light didn’t come until after I hit rock bottom. It was at my lowest point that I decided, I’m tired of living for myself and I gave my life to Jesus  and began to seek him in a secret place.

After that, everything started to change because it was a new voice speaking over my identity. My value shifted from being an athlete trying to perform for people, to being a son standing approved before my father in heaven.

God took me on a journey to show me that my value has nothing to do with what I do, but who I am in him. One verse that encourages me and I hope you is found in Psalm 139:17-19 “How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand when I awake, I am still with you.”

God’s thoughts toward you out number the grains of sand on the earth, and all his thoughts for you are about the love and good will to you. You are precious to God, and the value of your life doesn’t depend on what you do. The value of your life only comes from who God says you are.

Today this is a Sign of Hope, that no matter the circumstance you are in, or the breakthrough you need, God is near to you and He has “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Taylor Wilkins
FCA Salem Area Director
twilkins@fca.org
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he  do…” John 14:12
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