Not Tough Love, just Love

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 101,335 in followers. That’s because people are searching for hope and we provide it.

We are starting a new promotion. The person who is our 105,000 will wins some nice prizes. 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 details about the new book. Look for updates here.

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


Welcome back Linda Clare. Her posts have us crying. They want us to reach out to help. They are inspiring.


Not Tough Love—Just Love

That Sunday in church, tears slid down my face. I was so close to hopelessness, I didn’t care if my mascara ran. The night before, two of my grown sons, fueled by alcohol and drugs, had argued and nearly come to blows. Again.

The son who was supposed to be getting sober had relapsed. His brother was tweaking on meth. Around three AM, old grudges and rivalry reignited as their shouts woke my husband and me. We’d managed to break up the late-night fracas, but nothing was resolved. I felt trapped in a cycle: hope’s birth, followed by hope’s death, hope’s rebirth and back to death again. Now, even as Deacon Ron (not his real name) read aloud the Gospel, I wondered if I had strength enough to ever hope again.

My heart was heavy. Any hope of escaping the cycle seemed impossible. I was not only discouraged and sad, I was angry. Angry at my sons for their behavior and their choices. Angry at myself for my failure to enforce Tough Love. Angry at. . .well, just mad.

Bad enough that I felt hopeless. Recently, someone had remarked that I also appeared helpless. Tough Love sounded like a logical solution to a thorny problem, but I couldn’t make it work. That made me seem like a toothless T. Rex, my mini-arms clawing nothing but air.  Why couldn’t I do what so many friends, relatives, counselors and clergy had suggested over the years? Why couldn’t I detach myself from the alcoholics and addicts in my life? After services, I avoided eye contact as I slouched along in the handshake line.

The problem for me, lay in the popular meaning of the term Tough Love. Whenever people advise me to use Tough Love, they usually mean, “kick out your addicted loved ones.” In twenty-plus years of dealing with their substance abuse, I’ve ordered my loved ones into treatment, set rules and drawn up code of conduct contracts. I’ve called police, obtained restraining orders and separated from my alcoholic husband for a time. But what I could never do was kick them out—especially if it meant, “Don’t come back until you’ve licked this problem.”

After services, instead of slinking off, I knelt at the prayer bench where Deacon Ron waits to pray for those who ask him. Ron’s also a Jail Chaplain, and has led a prison ministry for at least twenty years. He knows my family’s situation well. “Please pray for me.” I hung my head but he placed his hands on my shoulders. I glanced up and confessed. “I’m a terrible failure at Tough Love.”

What he said next made my jaw drop. “I don’t believe in Tough Love.”

I’d never heard anyone say that.  I thought Tough Love was the only way I’d ever convince my sons to go into recovery. The reason they were still using their drugs of choice was that I sucked at Tough Love. Unwittingly, I’d chained them to a life of self-destructive misery by not “kicking them out.”

I own a battered copy of the 1982 book, ToughLove, by family therapists and drug and alcohol counselors Phyllis and David York. After the tumultuous sixties and seventies, more and more teens were using tobacco and alcohol, and the crack cocaine epidemic was hitting youth hard. TOUGHLOVE was touted as the solution to restore parents’ control over their wayward youths. The book was a bestseller and changed many lives.

Somewhere along the way, though, TOUGHLOVE became Tough Love. While counseling professionals may still use the phrase to reference the Yorks’ program to establish control over wayward teens, most people today tend to think of Tough Love as, “kicking him/her out,” cutting off contact and withholding resources.

The idea works some of the time. I know several parents whose adult and teenage sons recovered after a Tough Love ultimatum. One friend’s son, in his forties, was a meth addict who recovered after his family said he wasn’t welcome at the family Christmas gathering. My own husband of forty years gave up drinking after we separated, and I’m thankful.

But not every family’s so lucky.  Sadly, addiction and mental illness are often tangled together. Too unstable to hold a job, find housing or pay for treatment, those with both mental conditions and substance abuse problems often self-medicate. Some are like my middle son, whose drug use and mental illness give him an emotional and social age of about ten years old.

Many alcoholics and addicts either cannot or will not get the help they need. Sometimes addicts are stubborn, but more often they’re destitute, physically sick, mentally ill or all three.  After the closure of most mental hospitals in the eighties, individuals once committed to institutions are now forced to live in the streets.  And what’s left for these people is more tough than loving.

My knees hurt as I knelt before Deacon Ron, but my mind raced. Why didn’t he believe in Tough Love? I remembered our own attempts to use Tough Love—we really did try. When our meth addict was not even sixteen, we “kicked him out.” Surely our son would feel the cold and wet from an Oregon winter night and beg to go to rehab. I packed my son’s belongings into a black trash bag, sobbing as I placed it outside the front door. We stood firm as he tried to talk his way back inside. We locked all the doors, only to find him asleep in his bed the next morning. This went on for days.

We finally gave up trying to kick him out, fearing he’d die if he had to live on the street.

Deacon Ron’s gaze drilled through me as I knelt. “Did you know that I lost a son to drugs?”

My eyes must have widened. Ron may have sensed I needed to know he wasn’t just opinionated—he’d already made the ultimate sacrifice. “No,” I mumbled. “I’m sorry for your loss.” I took a breath. “See, that’s why I fail at Tough Love— if I turn my back on them, I’m scared my sons will die.”

Ron smiled a little. “What does Jesus command us to do?”

“Ah. Love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul. And love your neighbor as yourself.”

“That’s right.” Ron bowed his head and asked God to give me wisdom, courage, to help me love not only my sons, but to forgive those who judge me if I can’t do what they suggest. My soggy heart felt lighter as I began to I understand that talking about difficult problems like substance abuse and mental illness makes people uncomfortable. People naturally want to do something—anything—to make the pain stop. Tough Love sounds easy—just remove the addict from your midst and the problem is solved. In our culture, hard problems like addiction, sickness and death aren’t discussed much, let alone embraced.

I’m as squeamish as the next person—I still can’t watch the part of the movie where the Romans flog Jesus. But God has provided me with the grace and enough hope to keep encouraging and yes, often nudging my sons to get clean.

As Ron prayed, I also felt more compassion for those who can’t tolerate the idea of suffering, those whose story must turn away from the Passion and always be tuned to the glory of Easter. I forgave myself for being so sucky at Tough Love. Slowly, anger was replaced by love.

That day, I arrived home to the sound of our lawn mower. One son had transformed our yard from a mess after the harsh winter storms to an emerald-jeweled landscape. Besides mowing, he’d hauled fallen branches, edged the planters, raked leaves and swept the driveway. He’d even mowed the neighbor’s yard. He beamed as I thanked him for his efforts. Inside, his brother had cooked a Sunday dinner fit for royalty, and the house had been tidied too. A bouquet of fresh daffodils sat on the dining table. Both my sons demonstrated their love by doing, without being asked, chores that for me are difficult. I hugged each of them, hard, whispering that I loved them to the moon and back.

By the end of the day, I had sore knees, a singing heart and a stronger hope than ever. I’ll keep pushing them (and myself) to lay down demons and hold them accountable if they fight those demons with T. Rex arms. More than anything, I will keep on loving without conditions. That’s the toughest kind of love there is.

Linda Clare


You are never alone.

You are never forsaken. 

You are never unloved.

And above all….never ever give up!

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This Year Will be a Hard Year for Some

We are so  honored to be with you each day sharing hope. Our outreach has grown at a tremendous pace. We just past 94,225 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 rises 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. 


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.


It is nice to see Dennis Booth back as a guest blogger. He has been out for health reason for himself and his wife. Glad you are back my friend!



This new year is going to be hard on a lot of people, hard on those who are sick, hard on those with labouring relationships, hard on those in financial difficulty but even harder on those who keep wanting to make it harder without realising it.

What do I mean by that?

Well some people want to not only control others but also situations as if they have the answer (s) and that sadly no one is listening to them.

And I think one of the biggest reasons we have so many emotional upsets these days is because we try to take on situations in our mind that really we cannot control because we do not have the knowledge nor the facility to do so.

Let me instance this.

A very well known U.S public speaker tells the story of how he was on a plane trip from LA to New York and for almost the entire journey two men in the seats in front of him were talking with concern about the oil crisis at that time, whose fault it was and what should be done about it.

As the plane was descending for arrival, the public speaker leant over and said “I could not help but overhear you talking about the oil crisis so do I assume you are both involved in the industry?”

“Oh no,” they replied…”we are just concerned about it”.

The public speaker then said this: “Well that is all well and good but if you cannot fix it why spend four to five hours getting worked up about something you have no control over. Couldn’t you have spent the time more wisely?”

There is a lot of wisdom in that because four to five hours of stressful conversation can ignite into more so we need to be careful of what we are thinking about and solutions that we cannot bring about.

It does not mean we cannot think about it but let it be from a point of if it is making me unhappy and I cannot do anything about it then quickly move on to things you do have control over and can fix.

Today too many are resorting to ways to forget situations that make them stressed and the way they resort is to go somewhere where their health is endangered and therefore also their thinking.

Look for the good, look for what makes you happy, do not look for flaws in others or situations all the time because we are not without flaws too.

And try and go to bed at night not thinking of one hundred and one things…if it must be one hundred and one make them sheep!

Dennis Booth

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Seeking Christ During Darkest Trials

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Seeking Christ during the darkest trials

You may have read this before– “If God is for us who can be against us?”

It is a phrase often used in Christian circles and is quoted many times throughout the bible. It is a great question to keep close to your heart, though for many of us if we respond honestly to this question during the darkest times, it wouldn’t be whether or not God is able to be protect us, but rather we ask the question; “why would God allow this?”

All of us go through trials when we feel like God is nowhere to be found. It may be the world is weighing down on you with immense pressure, and you can’t help but feel depressed. It is possible that you are mourning a loved one, maybe you are fighting cancer, dealing with a life threatening disease, or even dealing with an unwanted divorce. These are real life problems we all have to deal with on a daily basis and they remind us that we are all desperately in need of a place to find hope.

This morning God reminded me of the beautiful hope He gives us when we are sick and brokenhearted. Jesus did not come to earth and die for the people who have it all together, he came to save those who need saving. In Luke 5:31-32 Jesus says; “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

The testimony of God’s elect ought not to be a story about how sad our earthly lives are. Although persecution, pain, sickness and death will come to all of us in this fallen world, that is not the final word for the believer. A true testimony is about the redemption and hope you have through the divine grace of Jesus Christ. It means in the midst of suffering you find peace in Jesus Christ. God is always willing to fill you with His love. All He asks us to do is seek Him. During trials when we break down, seek Him in prayer and begin listening for that still small voice, I believe we can all hear those final words Jesus Christ spoke from the cross in John 19:30, “It is finished.”

Taylor Wilkins

Fellowship of Christian Athletes

Taylor Wilkins earned his BS degree in Human Performance at Corban University, including a minor in Biblical Studies and certification with American Center of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Currently Taylor is a representative for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Salem, Oregon serving local coaches and athletic teams. He and his wife Melissa also serve as part time youth directors at Fruitland Community Church.

+ You can support Taylor as he goes into the high schools and reaches out to young people who are seeking hope. Just click on the link below to read more about his mission and donate to his cause.

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Think you Don’t Need to go to Church?


Are You Wrinkled with Burden?

Come to Church and Get a Faith Lift.


Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:10


Do we need to go to church to be Christians? Not in the thinking of a many people. Do we need to go to church to grow and be strong Christians? In my thinking, yes—it is a must.

I find this second thought important in my own life. Where else can I sit and share my beliefs in God more than in God’s house. Those people who think the same way need me there to support them—and I need them to support me.

There are many times when we face sickness, sorrow or tragedy. People will pray for us, and we will pray for them. Jesus calls His children to a community where they gather and share together.

We know that we need to be with brothers and sisters in Christ if we are to grow in the Spirit. When we are with other Christians, we begin to feel more like loving one another, and feel free to share without fear. Christians who gather together learn that each member is a special present from God—someone with whom we can share and grow spiritually.


As the bumper sticker suggests: We can get a faith lift every time we come to church and share with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Spending each Sunday with people who love us and want to help us grow is one way to have many close encounters with God.

I have developed some close friendships with Christians from my home church and we keep in touch during the week. It helps me to stay on level with God and to be strong.

We can stay strong another way—as part of a Bible study during the week. Most churches have study groups that are a comfortable place to share and grow.

There is also an international Bible study group (Bible Study Fellowship—BSF) that I attend during the week. There are groups for just men and groups for just women. Some women’s groups meet during the day. Many meet on the same weeknight evening so both spouses can attend at the same time while their children are part of program geared to their age group.

There is a different study in each term of the seven-year cycle and you eventually get a great overview of the entire Bible. I have been blessed each year I’ve gone and have developed close friendships there. After the lecture over the passage we study during the week on our own, my small group of ten to twelve men meets. We share our hurts and needs at the end of each session. Some men would not open up in other settings, but they feel safe at BSF.


And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and the he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:6


Further adventures

  1. Visit your neighbors and talk to them about coming to church. I realize this may be a difficult assignment. It may be uncomfortable to speak up for the Lord, but just think if everyone in your neighborhood was a strong Christian. What if they all went to churches where they were growing in the Lord? What a glorious place to live. What a boost that would be. Isn’t it worth trying to tell your neighbors about your church, and more importantly about your Savior?
  2. Call a fellow Christian from your church and thank him or her for being there for you. Although they may not understand what you mean, they will be grateful for your thoughtfulness and glad they have contributed to your life. Your friendship may even grow stronger.


Something to ponder

Isn’t it funny that even every hair on your head is counted by God?

* Excerpt from: Signs of Hope: Ways to Survive in an Unfriendly World.

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