Hope is Still Alive if You embrace it

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 97,800 in followers. That’s because people are searching for hope and we provide it.

We are starting a new promotion and the winner will be the person who is the 100,000 subscriber will win some nice prizes. That is a huge milestone for us. More details later. 

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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. Doug just interviewed a WWII veteran, for the book.  Fascinating! Look for updates here.

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Welcome back Linda Clare who has another inspiring post for us all. Linda has been through the gauntlet of life, and she shares her experiences to help us grow, and be stronger.

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Hope’s White Teeth

This past week, I’ve been in a heated battle, trying to hold onto my tattered hope—the same radical hope I proclaimed joyously only a few days before. But life is like that, isn’t it? You swell with victory after you’ve run the gauntlet and emerged riding high on God’s shoulder. But then, stuff hits the fan from every direction. Again. How do you stay fixed on hope? Through your fears? Through your tears? When every verse feels hollow and every moment explodes with grief, with loneliness, with numbing terror?

These last few days have reminded me that keeping hope alive is hard work.

I’ve already told you about the addiction and mental illness my three adult sons battle. The nightmare of their substance abuse and mental problems has kept me awake during verbal and physical fights, broken or stolen property and even a suicide attempt. But a couple months ago, one of these sons confessed that he, “couldn’t do this anymore.” He was worried about his looks. Would I help him get his teeth whitened? As with many addicts or alcoholics, he hadn’t seen a dentist in years. I said, “Maybe we should get you in for a checkup so we’ll know if you’ll still have teeth to whiten.”

The conversation was like opening a window in a very stuffy room. Suddenly he was willing to change, if only to keep his smile bright. I didn’t care. In my mind, I turned to Jesus and said, “Wow, thanks for carrying us both to this place.”

My son and I agreed to a plan. Thanks to severe anxiety and panic disorder as well as agoraphobia, he doesn’t do well in group settings like AA or treatment. His dad and I would be his support as he took the hard road to sobriety. As he took his first steps, my hope for his recovery grew strong deep roots and began to bud after what seemed like an eternity of winters.

My radical hope in God probably made my own smile brighter. That same week, I counseled another mom in the depths of grief surrounding her son’s drug use and mental issues, and I felt guilty that finally—finally—my own hopes had begun to crawl out of the pit. My friend tearfully related the things only another mother can understand—how they tried toughness to keep him on the straight and narrow but ultimately, they lost control. How they’d driven nine hours to rescue him after he called home, sounding as though he’d lost touch with reality. How her and her husband’s resolve for tough love meant that if he was using, he couldn’t sleep in their house—but that she’d take extra blankets out to his car, where he spent the night.

I cried as she sobbed into my shoulder. Whispered, “Jesus is carrying us all.” Meant it, too. But at that moment hope didn’t ride into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. Hope, even radical hope, was scourged and beaten and dragged through the streets with a heavy cross on its back. Hope was about to be nailed and die, and it wouldn’t matter who spoke encouragement to this weeping mother. Her grief and fear were like the sudden darkness of Saturday, as Jesus breathed his last. All I could do was cry with her and cling to the truth that God loves her and her son and me and my son. Before we parted, my friend asked if her mascara had run and said, “Don’t worry. I’ll be OK.”

I went home from that meeting feeling guilty. My son was standing up for his life and starting down the perilous sober road. She didn’t even know where her son was at. My other two sons still needed the same deliverance, but having even one glimmer of possible success made me more grateful for God’s mercy toward my son. I prayed for the same grace to visit the other mom and my other boys before praising God for my son’s courageous progress. Whenever I thought of my son’s determination to be drug and alcohol free, my face light up like Sunday morning.

Except that in life we seem to go from Sunday back to Friday and through the cycle over and over. The next evening, my son’s outlook had changed once again. He came to me, begging for one more drink. He called it his “sweet nectar.” A chill ran down my neck and my hopes took a giant step back.

The sturdy optimism about my son that I’d shared with my friend only a day earlier now crumbled into a swirling sinkhole of broken pieces. Hope had no real footing, even as Jesus stood by and let me cry into his shoulder. I was still certain of God’s radical hope in Jesus but less sure that I was ever going to make it out of the valley of the shadow of death. All I could think of was that the table was prepared for me—cup running over and everything—but that it wasn’t yet time to lay down that armor of God. Saturday was back and meaner than ever. I admit that I was ready to chuck hope into the lake for good.

I sobbed and asked if the darned cup of my loved ones’ addictions and mental issues could please pass from me—pretty please?—but Jesus didn’t say much, just held me closer and breathed love and life into my soul. In that moment I understood more about the mystery that is a loving God, as Saturday gave way to Sunday. Again.

This radical hope is hard work all right, and sometimes it’s all you can do to hold on as Jesus does the heavy lifting when life is awful. But I think God asks nothing more from us than to keep our eyes on Him when we’re too numb or hurt or grief-stricken to do much radical hoping. Those are the times when I have to believe He will catch me as I fall, just as angels keep us from dashing our feet against stones. That His grace really is sufficient even if it doesn’t feel nearly enough. That God is not required to take the thorn from our sides.

The next day, my son apologized. Was eager to get back on track. Eager to get his teeth looking brilliant again. He sounded more like the courageous son and less like the defeated son jonesing for a drink. Hope took another baby step. “I guess I’ll have ups and downs,” he said.

“You all right?” I tried not to sound too eager.

“Don’t worry. I’ll be OK.”

I cautiously hope for him, while remembering all those whose grief is pure and raw and deep. Sometimes, OK is the best you can be.

Linda Clare

 

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What A SuperBowl Game!

We are so  honored to be with you each day sharing hope. Our outreach has grown at a tremendous pace. We just past 95,500 in followers. That’s because people are searching for hope and we provide it.

We have a promotion going with prizes. The person who was our 95,000 follower will receive two nice prizes, which we will not name. (This is called a hook in writing.)

WE HAVE A WINNER!! We will be notifying the winner by email, if they put in the right email address. I will also let you know about when the winner subscription happened, so you can know that it may be yours. 

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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 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. Doug just interviewed a WWII veteran. Fascinating! Look for updates here.

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It is time again for Taylor Wilkens to do his guest post. He always inspires us, and tonight he is talking about the Super Bowl.  Thank you Taylor for your insight, and wisdom.

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Super Bowl Champions 

Today is Superbowl Sunday and right now you, like most Americans, are probably getting together with a bunch of junk food to party with friends and family to watch the big game! I love the super bowl for many reasons— but the ultimate reason for me to watch is because I love good competition. After tonight one team will be crowned champion and the other will fall to second place. This level of game elevates the competition because the stakes are so high. Both of these teams have battled over the past year in the weight room, training, and competition to get to this point and now only one can be the champion. The crowning moment is hugely rewarding because of the effort put into a great victory.

Leading up to Super Bowl Sunday one thing has been ringing in my mind on a daily basis— “run in such a way as to win the prize…” It’s the summarizing verse out of 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 where Paul is encouraging the Corinthian people to walk out their faith with the highest level of excellence because at the end of this race there will be an imperishable prize for those who did not give up.  How much are you willing to fight for the prize? Super Bowl Sunday is amazing and the glory at the end of the day will be great, but temporary. All the time, energy, and effort going into only a moment of glory! I have so much respect for the coaches and athletes commitment to train and exert so much energy into becoming the best at what they do. We all have stuff in our lives that we put an exceptional amount of work into— yet at the end of all your endeavors, where will you end up? Where will your reward take you? What will be the prize of your life taken into eternity? 

“Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them; nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:16-17

The conviction on my heart is to follow Jesus with my whole heart. I have pushed all my chips into the middle, and I have found no reward greater than eternal life in the kingdom of heaven with the God who loves me so much that he offered up His life as a sacrifice for mine. Not only did he take away my sin and guilt but he is preparing a place for me in his kingdom. 

I believe Jesus is calling you to himself today, you are the prize he has been fighting for and pursuing— you are never alone, and you are always loved.

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.” 

* New England Patriots won over Atlanta Falcons in overtime 34-28. 

 

Taylor Wilkins
twilkins@fca.org
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There Are Threads of Hope if You Look

Threads of Hope

Linda S. Clare

“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’” –II Corinthians 12:9 NIV

 

I’m acquainted with a wonderful mother who recently posted on Facebook that she’d goofed, big time. A devout Christian, she’d mistakenly outlined her son’s latest substance abuse crisis in a public rather than a private forum, embarrassing all involved. In her apology, she begged those who’d read the post to forget, it or at least refrain from discussing it. I never saw the post in question, but I sensed her humiliation at exposing her not-so-perfect life. This mother’s pain was palpable and familiar. Although I wept with her, it’s shown me again why the strongest hope is often made of the worst weakness.

I know how it feels to show your strong side to the world while some calamity threatens to swallow you whole. For those of us with addiction or mental health issues—our own or those of loved ones—we not only ignore the elephant in the room, we tell ourselves that elephants are overrated. We say, “Stand back! I got this,” even if we’re marching into battle feeling very alone. In our culture, admitting weakness often gets you punched in the nose.

Sometimes God gives us super human strength. That’s grace in action. Other times, we go it alone. We pray for protection, for healing, for blessing even as we present our “game face” to the world. We “battle” cancer, as if willpower can beat the big “C.” We present the perfect picture, even when we’re falling apart.

The poor mom who posted the private info must have worried about looking weak. She’d placed her family in the cross hairs of a judgmental society, inviting strangers to shame, blame or even claim her faith was insufficient. I don’t blame her—it’s happened to me.

I once worked in a Christian bookstore, restocking everything from Bibles to greeting cards. I was grateful for the job—in addition to supporting our family, my left arm’s lifelong paralysis from childhood polio made some simple tasks a little trickier for me. OK, a lot trickier. Still, I never called attention to my disability and always wore an “I got this” face to customers.

One day two women came into the bookstore, where I was straightening greeting cards. After I asked if I could help them find something, one woman leaned closer. She whispered, “God would heal your arm—if you had more faith.” The women left the store while I stood there, waiting for my head to explode.

Later in the breakroom, I cried hot tears of anger and confusion. I railed at God. On the job, I’d never asked for any special treatment. At work, my daily attitude was “I got this.” I had no idea how to make my faith the size it needed to be.

I never saw those women again. But for years after, I couldn’t give myself a break. Then I developed the late effects of polio. Pain and fatigue dogged me, yet I kept overworking my sore muscles. When family members developed substance abuse and mental health problems, I was as determined as that mother on Facebook to show the world how strong I was.

Then one night I dreamed of an abyss, with a single gossamer thread stretched taut across it. The hole was the blackest black, a velvet chasm of despair, while the thread glimmered in the low light. My thread of hope was so fragile, so bare, it would surely break under the weight of the disasters in my life.

Too terrified to say, “I got this,” I stood at the far end of this yawning chasm. I was naked and afraid, all right. Tattered hope stretched out before me but the thread slipped my grasp. The black hole snapped its jaws.

I know better than to put a lot of energy into interpreting dreams. Yet in this one, a hand suddenly appeared, a hand of light and pure love, if that’s possible. Discouraged by broken hope, I stood before this Love-light.

Darkness sneered at me. Fool—all is lost. For proof, just look at your addicted family members or that withered arm. Why bother to hope at all?

I understood that some hard things might never be healed this side of heaven. Why God allows suffering on earth is an age-old mystery. Darkness again whispered, “Abandon hope.” In that moment, I had to choose either my own strength or God’s weakness. The outstretched hand waited.

I chose weakness.

As feeble as I was, I reached for that hand of Light. Something—Someone—transported my failing body across the canyon, fortifying hope as it went. I had the sense I was being carried through the pain and mistakes and dumb moves of my life—and I need not claim any strength of my own.

When I awoke, nothing had changed. My body still ached. My family’s battles with substance abuse and diseases and mental health were as real as they’d ever been. The mother from Facebook no doubt still agonizes over her precious son, and if I were still working at the bookstore, those same women might still scold me for the smallness of my faith.

But everything had changed. Despair can wear hope thin, but God’s grace gives hope its strength—power perfected in weakness. To get past life’s pain, I must stand at the chasm’s edge every day. Learn to let go of the “I got this” mentality that keeps me from recognizing God when He offers me His hand. Threads of hope get stronger as Jesus carries me through, and as I lay aside my strength, He gently allows weakness to prevail.

The trials you face may be far bigger than mine. Maybe you’re much better at surrendering to God than I’ve ever been. But real strength is perfected in weakness. If you need a thread of hope today, put your hand in His hand and He will carry you through. “Trust Me,” He says, “I got this.”

 

Linda Clare

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With the New Year, Comes Hope

We are so  honored to be with you each day sharing hope. Our outreach has grown at a tremendous pace. We just past 93,900 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. 

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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 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.

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We welcome Tyler Wilkins back as a a guest blogger. He always inspires me, and I hope he does the same for you. 

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Today is the start to a new year, and with every new year comes a feeling of a fresh start. It’s not something mystical, it’s more than that. It’s a movement toward change, hope rises up as people dream of creating a better tomorrow. Many are encouraged to lose weight in hopes of a more confident and healthy lifestyle. Others set goals to get out of debt, save money, buy a house, get married, have a child and so on.

Yet others are not so hopeful… This morning I asked the guy at the front desk of the gym I attend what his new years resolution is and he jokingly responded that he set a goal to “survive 2017.” Although his intentions were light hearted I was reminded of the reality that so many people are entering into this new year without a sincere hope that something better is coming.

As for you on this new years day I want to encourage you to set your sights higher than ever before, to believe that the seemingly impossible is possible and that your current situation is not a projection of your future but is a sign that the old is melting away and the new life is coming. 

My goal in writing to you today is not to convince you that the mistakes, devastation, or hurt you faced yesterday has nothing to do with tomorrow. It sounds nice, but I believe it actually takes away from the fullness of joy you would otherwise experience.

As a Christian I have the privilege of living a life free from my past mistakes. It doesn’t mean I didn’t make mistakes, or even that I haven’t made mistakes since I gave my life to Jesus! But the penalty of my past no longer plays a domino affect into my future. Jesus brought into the world “good tidings of great joy.”

In Isaiah 61:1-7 God shows us somethings to expect with the coming of the gospel— “Good news to the poor, healing for the brokenhearted, liberty to the captives, opening of prison doors to those who are bound, the year of the Lords favor, the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn…” The list continues on but I think you can grasp the direction of God’s heart toward you in these verses.

I also want to encourage you to step out and trust God with your baggage. I am speaking to you as someone who lived my whole life in condemnation, guilt and sin. I was a liar, a thief, addicted to pornography, obsessed with the way I looked and filled with pride and a strong desire for money that overshadowed my love for people. I lived in a dark place without God for most of my life, a place without hope, and I thought I would never be completely free.

But it was in that dark place that God met me. Today I am a new creation, I have more joy, peace and love then ever before. I am happily married to my amazing wife Melissa. God removed from me the addiction to pornography, and every desire to sin and get away with it. My life feels squeaky clean, and I can’t help but share this freedom because I know it is for you as well.

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.” 

Tyler Wilkins

Fellowship of Christian Athletes

Salem, Oregon

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