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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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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God Calms the Raging Storms We Face

We just started a new promotion. The next winner will be the person who is our 90,000th subscriber. As you found out here, it goes very fast. We average over 50 new subscribers a day. We will get there pretty fast. We just passed 87,600.

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, has written 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, 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.

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“What a difference a day makes. 24 little hours.”

Lyrics from a song rings in my ears right now. In 24 hours I will know the results of testing done on my upper back. The results will be either a serious infection or cancer.

At this point most people might be terrified.  Either diagnoses is not pleasant. Either one could be fatal.

Many people may wonder, “Why me? Why did I have to be the one afflicted?”

I must admit there have been times when I wondered that myself. There have been times when I felt pulled down to the ground by a huge magnate. I felt alone, and abandoned.

However, every time I got that low. Every time I hit bottom. Every time I was sinking in the muck and mire, God was there. He was there to pick me up and give me comfort.

Please understand that you are never alone. You are never on an island by yourself. God is always there for you. You just need to ask. A prayer to Him from the bottom of your heart will reach Him and He listens.

So, as I wait to hear the outcome of the tests tomorrow, I cling to God’s promises. He will never forsake me. He will never turn His back on me. He will always be by my side during my storms and trials.

He will be there for you as well. He loves you. He knows every hair on your head. He made you in His own image. Stay strong in His love, and you will be able to face whatever raging winds come your way.

Remember:

You are never alone.

You are never forsaken.

You are never unloved.

And above all…never, ever, give up!

 

 

 

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Making Peace with a Dangerous God

We are very pleased to have Linda Clare as our guest blogger. Her story is deep with pain and anguish, but she also shares hope, and speaks from the heart. Please let others know about this article that I know will help many.

Doug

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When your life is populated with addicts—of drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, food—like mine is, you tend to go through spells when you’re terrified of God. For decades now, I’ve grappled with the insanity and heartbreak that comes with the fallout of addiction. Anyone who has experienced even a brush with an addict probably understands the crazy thoughts we “loved ones” go through. And addicts surely suffer just as much. For me, God has often seemed either like a disinterested cosmic shopkeeper, or else a blustering and anger-fueled dictator. 

The reasons no doubt reach back into my Calvinistic upbringing, but they also have to do with the desperation I’ve felt at the end of a lot of ropes. And yet, my journey has taken me past belief in a God who lets me dangle over the flames for entertainment to the very embodiment of Love. All that really matters is how I got from one to the other. 

My family makes a solid case for the genetic component of addiction. Both my father and mother’s side are riddled with substance abuse. My half-brother and a brother-in-law both have spent most of their adult lives in the prison system. My husband has more than 25 years of sobriety.  Three out of my four grown children struggle with drugs or alcohol. 

In the middle of all this, I have no idea how addiction skipped me. To be honest, my codependency and enabling haven’t helped the situation. By now I should be living in a padded cell. My addicts have robbed me, lied to me and used me. I’ve aided and abetted them by making things too easy, and by not being willing to take a stand.  I’ve turned my back on my faith, run from God, even shaken my fist at heaven a few times. 

Then, a few years ago, I wrote a short essay about my pain. I was fed up with the whole cycle. My middle son’s meth addiction reached a crisis point. As they say in twelve-step programs, “My life had become unmanageable.” I wrote out all the heartbreak and disappointment I faced, concluding that, “to approach the Holy, you take a chance. To find out if God really loves, you have to step closer and put your hand in His side.” 

The light finally came on. For the first time, I understood that my relationship with the Lord isn’t so much about His granting me relief or getting me out of life’s messes. Instead, it’s about how Love as Jesus taught it, is all about risk and vulnerability and fraught with peril. I called the essay, “Making Peace with a Dangerous God.” 

God, dangerous? How can God be dangerous? 

The more I looked, the more convinced I became that yes, God is dangerous. My friend and wonderful writer Heather Harpham Kopp stated it better than I could. “God is Love,” she once wrote. “Watch out!” So I set out to make peace with this dangerous God. 

I had to help myself before I could help the addicts in my life. With lots of prayer and tears, I mustered the courage to get law enforcement involved. My son was hauled away in the back of a squad car—possibly the most painful moment of my life. Though I had a difficult time seeing it then, in the end I was grateful. My son was able to detox long enough to grow healthy again. He embraced his Christian roots as well as NA and AA. He got a sponsor and began to make up for lost time. All the while, God comforted me. 

The more I investigated, through Scripture and prayer, the more I saw that comfort is a crucial element. I may be a bit slow, but I latched onto the idea that God doesn’t always deliver us out of our situations (although God is able), but He always delivers us through them. By the power of God’s Love, we are not tempted beyond what we are able to bear. This Love is bigger than anything I can imagine. The Apostle Paul gives me a list: love is patient, kind, gentle, and more. Love is willing to comfort any sorrow, because of Jesus. Because of the Cross. 

Several years have passed since I wrote my mournful essay about the dangerous God. Some days, I’m ashamed to admit I forget about the God of all comfort, the Lover of souls, and instead only see a bored deity or else a lightning bolt-hurling God. My son continues to fight to maintain sobriety, but he’s still fighting. And God is as available to comfort my son as He is to comfort me. 

Everyone agrees that substance abuse and addictions in general are harmful and downright dangerous. We who love those battling their demons can at times seem more like brave martyrs than victorious Christians. I know I have felt utter frustration, forgetting that God loves my addict as much as God loves me. Talk about dangerous! Our God, the mighty Lion roaring through the cosmos embodies Love— and it doesn’t get much scarier than that. 

In Making Peace with a Dangerous God (coauthored with Kristen Ingram, Revell 2005), I wrote, “All I know is that the unexpected life of love winds straight through the valley of the shadow of death.” No matter whether you’re the addict or the loved one, don’t be afraid to walk closer to Love. It’ll singe your eyebrows, set your life aflame, and if you stick around, you’ll possess the peace which passes all understanding. 

My debut novel, The Fence My Father Built, (Abingdon 2009) explores themes of substance abuse as well as Native Americans. It features Muri, an unemployed librarian who’s always longed to know her biological father, alcoholic half- Nez Perce Indian, Joseph Pond. But it’s too late. Muri inherits her legacy: a rundown trailer in Central Oregon, surrounded by a fence made from old oven doors. A conniving neighbor, a rebellious teen daughter and Aunt and the Red Rock Tabernacle Ladies converge to help Muri come to know her earthly father and her heavenly Father.

 

BIO:

Linda S. Clare is the award-winning author of four books, including The Fence My Father Built. She teaches creative writing at the college level and lives in Oregon with her family.

The Fence My Father Built, a novel from Abingdon Press
View the Book Trailer: http://bit.ly/3a36t7
Visit my Blog! http://www.godsonggrace.blogspot.com
Making Peace With a Dangerous God
Revealed: Spiritual Reality in a Makeover World
Lost Boys and the Moms Who Love Them
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