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. 

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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.  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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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. 

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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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God’s Listening to Your Cries for Help

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Help us to keep growing by subscribing yourself if you haven’t already. You can do this by clicking on the icon right after the title to do that.

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Mercy Triumphs over Judgement

Have you ever walked into a church and felt unwanted?

It could even be around your “religious” relatives, or possibly a man or women holding a sign on the side of the road.

I’ve often heard people talk about judgement in religious circles. Some people believe that ultimately everyone ends up in heaven while others believe everyone outside their church theology is going to Hell. So what is truth according to the Bible? Millions of people are reading the same book and coming to hundreds of different conclusions! It’s the strangest thing, but it’s the reality of where the world is at.

What is the truth?

What is the real truth and how can I apply the truth to my own life to ensure that when I die I will be going to the right place!?

I’ve been given advice from several religious people telling me what I need to do to get right with God– “keep on the straight and narrow, don’t lust, don’t steal, don’t covet… etc.” Those are all great things to apply to your life but is that really the good new about following Jesus Christ? Not exactly.

If the good news of following Jesus Christ was that we had to accomplish good things to be saved that wouldn’t be good news at all, in fact that would just be the same news as the old testament.

Throughout this past week, two things have been heavy on my heart:

During Jesus ministry on earth he spent His time the people who were broken, not the religious leaders.
Love is the only thing Jesus commands from those who follow Him. The only debt you owe when you follow Christ, is the debt of love.

So here I am going through life claiming to be a follower of Jesus… I have been evaluating myself and the way I walk as a “professional minister.” If I pretend to have things figured out I guess I would be no better then the pharisee’s during the time of Jesus, and that is not at all what I want. If I try to walk according to regulations then I will also be missing the point of the Jesus. Jesus came to fulfill the law for me, and because He was perfect and died in my place, the only thing I need to do is believe in Him. The proof of whether or not I love and believe in Jesus is the way I love other people.

God is real, He is listening to your cries for help, and He will answer you when you call on His name.

I hope you are encouraged, and remember:

Everything in this world will someday fade away, but Love never ends.

Taylor Wilkins
Fellowship of Christian Athletes
Area Representative Salem Oregon

+ Support Taylor Wilkins, who is now a minister through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. (FCA) His dedication to young people is being a true servant of God.You can help him reach out to young people by going to the below link and donating to his mission:

 

 

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Many of Us Struggle With Addictions

Thank all of you who have been subscribing to our site. It has been overwhelming the last two years. We have averaged over 100 new subscribers a day at times. The exciting news is that we have just past 64,000.

Why is this happening? We provide daily quality words of encouragement and hope to those suffering with anxiety, fear, depression, addictions, hopelessness, self-doubt, and the many other usual suspects.

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One of the most common struggles today is with addiction.

Addiction is like a sneaker wave in the ocean, one moment you are enjoying the beautiful sunshine at the beach and the next you are swept out to sea, or carried under the current by the ripping force of the tide.

We usually don’t set out to become addicted to something. Some have a genetic disposition to addiction; others are carried away by a hobby. I don’t think anyone is free from developing an addiction either. Due to our sinful nature, we all desire to do the things that are contrary to the Spirit of God.

Here is a list of some of the most common addictions today:

Social Media
Internet
Tobacco
Alcohol
Work
Drugs
Pornography
Gambling
Eating disorders
Online Gaming

I know for myself I have struggled with many of these issues, and know how difficult it is to change an addictive habit once it has developed. When it comes to dealing with addiction I have heard many ways of breaking free from the habit, but when it comes to my own personal experience I can say that only one thing has been effective. I have to turn my back and run.

When I see habits developing that will prove to be harmful to my future, my marriage, my job, and especially my walk with Christ, I know that those things must be removed at all costs!

If you are struggling in an addiction I want you to know that you have hope, and you are not in it alone! The brokenness you are have comes from a compilation of things built up in your past.

The past is extremely powerful because it defines your present.

In passage of scripture defining love we find this verse”…love keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:5 NIV)

God is the perfect love, and I find hope in this because if God is erasing my sins, then I have freedom to change my future!

God is constantly erasing sin, and addiction! People are constantly breaking strongholds of addiction because of God’s great mercy and grace. Although it may seem hopeless, God is always waiting for the opportunity to erase your past and write your future.

I hope you are encouraged, and remember:

Everything in this world will someday fade away, but Love never ends.

Taylor Wilkins

Fellowship of Christians Athletes

FCA

 

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Support Taylor Wilkins, who is now a minister through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. (FCA) His dedication to young people is being a true servant of God.

You can help him reach out to young people by going to the below link and donating to his mission:

 

 

http://willvallfca.org/taylor-wilkins

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