Hope of Kindness: The Jesus Place

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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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Do You have Someone You Have Hurt? Tempers Can Cause Scars

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I have been told I have a short fuse at times. I can go “over the deep end,” on occasion. I am much better at that now, but in the past I had real difficulty with it.

Losing our temper is not something we like to do, but it happens. Think on these things:

  • If I lose my temper while driving, how many friendly waves must I do to make up for it?
  • If I stop talking to my brother/sister because of something trivial, how long will it take for me to keep asking for forgiveness before he/she realizes I really love them?
  • If you scream harsh words to your spouse, how long will it take to the heal the wounds?

The tongue is sometimes (often) an evil thing. It says things we regret before they hardly get out.

Do you have someone you have hurt?

Let me give you an example of how words can hurt:

There was a little boy who kept getting in trouble at school for his bad temper and harassing others. He came home one day and told his father he had been suspended from school. His father found out why, and sat his son down for a talk.

” Son, I want you to take a hammer and a bunch of nails out to our back fence after school each day and pound a nail into the fence for each time you lost your temper at school.”

For several days the son came home and pounded many nails into the fence. After a while he got tired of pounding the nails, and he had less incidents of losing his temper at school.

He finally came home one day all excited. He said, ” Dad! Today I didn’t lose my temper once. I don’t need to pound any more nails into the fence.!” His father smiled, and said, “Now go out and pull out every nail from the fence. ”

It took the boy several hours, but he finished and showed the fence to his father. His father said,

Very good son, but look at the holes in the fence. they are there forever. Once you hurt someone with your temper it is there forever as a scar”

What we learn from is that no matter how hard we try to ask for forgiveness the scars may still be there from our mistakes.

Think about how you handle situations. If you have a short fuse like I did at one time, try pounding nails for a few hours.

Remember:

You are never alone.

You are never forsaken.

You are never unloved.

And above all…never, ever, give up!

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Humility and Hope

Micah 6:1-8 
“… what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (v. 8)

 Another passage we must look at if we are to understand the deep meaning of humility is Galatians 6:1 — “If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently” (NIV).

Paul’s advice is that if someone is overtaken in a fault, he must be corrected in a spirit of humility. Correction can be given in a way which discourages or in a way which sets a person on his or her feet with the determination to do better. Humility is the spirit which makes correction a stimulant and not a depressant, a means to hope and not a cause of despair. The third passage is 2 Timothy 2:25: “Those who oppose him he must gently instruct.” Paul is saying here that when we meet up with those who disagree with us, and whom we think to be mistaken, we must not attempt to bludgeon them into changing their minds, but treat them with the utmost gentleness and respect.

Suppose we go into a room on a bitterly cold day and find the windows are frozen on the inside — there are two things we can do. One is to try to rub away the ice on the inside of the window panes, or we may light a fire in the grate and allow the window to clear itself. Heat does quickly what rubbing may take a long time to do. When dealing with those whom you believe to be in error ormistaken, always remember that gentle humility will accomplish what no amount of bludgeoning or battering could ever do. The sun can get a man’s coat off his back much more quickly than a fierce wind.

I had a person, while I was in my active addiction, confront me about it. At all places to confront me, it was at church. Not only was he a fellow church member, he was law enforcement. But he approached me and confronted me in a gentle and humble way, it seemed more out of concern than judgement, and it was the beginning of a new life for me. He questioned alot of things, things I thought about, but was too scared too ask of myself…

“What are you doing?” – ” Your children pray for you every sunday, do you know how much your hurting them?” The questions weren’t confortable but someone needed to be asking them of me, I wasn’t willing to ask them of myself.

It’s been 5 yrs since that day, and I think I blindsided him last week with some questioning of my own. I was having some issues with children, and didnt know quite how to approach it. So while at church on Wednesday, I asked him to tell me what he was thinking and how he really felt, when he was asked to approach me about my addiction and some other issues it had brought into my life. I could see the stun this question brought when asked.

He said he was very angry, he was upset, and he wanted be be very ubrupt with me, “It was like having a family member you trusted in your house, only to do you wrong, I was mad.”

But I never sensed that in his approach, he did what he needed to do, but he did it in love. Following the scriptures at the begginning of this post. He didn’t feel like being gentle, he felt like being a law enforcement officer, and he deals with these type things on a daily basis, so you can imagine, what his first instinct would be. But he came accross more concerned, and worried about me and my children, and the other testimonies at the church that I could be damaging, with my behavior.

I explained to him,the next time I saw him, why I asked the question, because I needed to know what was going through his mind. I never realized how much he held back from being himself, so God could show through Him. He stated it was a bold question, and had kind of caught him by surprise.

I explained, one of my first instincts, in correcting my children, is to be angry and to be abrupt, and needed to know if he had dealt with those feeling and instincts when approaching me. He said he had, but he prayed about it, and decided to let God be in control.

Not only did this man, possibly, save my life, he has provided my children with a father again, and has become, what I would consider a close friend. Since this conversation took place, I try to be more patient with my children, and our converstation comes first in my mind. That’s not how I wanted to handle it, but that is how God has asked me to handle it…So he is still in a since correcting me but now its more as a mentor, by having the courage to confront me then, and by being honest about his emotions, and feeling now concerning that day….

I won’t mention any names, as I’m sure He wants God to get the glory, but I do want to say, especially here at Thankgiving, that I’m thankful God allowed you to cross my path, even in the most disasterious circumstances, to change my life, and to change the live’s of my children.

Thank you for following God’s lead and following scriptural discipline when that was not your first inclination. I probably would not have responded to the scorning or harsh approach, in addiction, where use to hearing how wrong we are, but in love you simply asked me questions that changed my life.

Thank you for all you did then, and for the friend you have become now…

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Those Who Anger You Control You

“A little kingdom I possess,

Where thoughts and feelings dwell,

And very hard the task I find,

Of governing it well.”

Louisa May Alcott

Have you had time when you feel you are out of control? Do you lose your temper when things don’t go your way. You are not alone. I have been there myself. I had a short fuse at times. I thought something should be done a certain way and when it is not. the steam started flowing.,

I was that way I was for many years. Always barking out at people for something that probably was out of their control.

I have learned that the day will still pass, and the next day will still come if I am upset or not. Why waste time on something that can’t be controlled, or may not even happen?

Letting things get to you, is not only foolish, but bad for your health. High blood pressure is a common thing with high strung people. The pain and anguish builds up inside of them and there isn’t any release. It cause you to reach a level that not only causes you health problems, but your friends and family may turn their backs on you.

We certainly don’t want high blood pressure, or people avoiding us.

What can we do?

We can call on God to calm the storm. God allows the storms in our lives. He wants us to face trials and have them strengthen us. He allows them but He will help calm them. He will never let you face something that is more than you can handle, if you have turned it over to Him.

I certainly have been through some trials. I was at the end of my rope and clinging to the last thread from it. That was I realized that the thread I was clinging to was the hem of God’s robe.

He was there all the time just waiting for me to finally come to Him for help. Once I did that He picked me up out of the pits of hell, and carried me the rest of the way.

I pray that you haven’t gone so deep into the pit that you need to cry out to God for help to save you. If you are there….stop right now and kneel before God, and tell Him you can’t travel on this earth alone anymore. Tell Him you need Him to guide you from this minute on.

I know that if you do this you will find peace. Trust me, it may not be over night. You will need to completely clear all the muck and mire out of the flow of your life.

It is like a river when it floods. It is dark and murky. It takes a while for the new fresh water to clear out the murky water, but it does, and everything runs smoothly again.

Take time today to release all your pain and frustrations to God. He is just a prayer away.

 

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