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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Helping Others Through Pain

We have a new winner in our promotion adventure. The person will be notified, and receive the prizes. We move on to yet another promotion where there will be prizes. The next winner will be the person who is our 95,000th subscriber. As you found out here, it goes very fast. We average over 30 new subscribers a day. We will get there pretty fast. We just passed 90,500.  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, PTSD, 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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I need to take time to thank all of you who have been joining me here. It is amazing. I started this blog in 2009 with maybe three new subscribers a week. I learned how to write better, and centered my thoughts on the readers and not worldly things.

The site took off. we are now over 90,000 subscribers, and growing fast. It is all because of your loyalty.  We average over 30 new subscribers everyday.

The main reason we are now growing so fast is that we send out hope. Every day we suggest ways to survive in this not so friendly world.

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I have been slowly getting better with my health. I spent the whole summer in the hospital, or bedridden with a spinal infection. I missed so much during this summer. My family went on camping trips, to vacation homes, to the beach, and I was confined to my bedroom with only a view out my bedroom window. The pain was just too much to endure if I moved around.

Time to have a pity party? Shouldn’t I expect everyone to feel sorry for me?

My view is that God has a plan no matter what we are going through. I went through months of severe pain, to help others. Yes, my pain reached out to many and they wanted to know why I was so cheerful, and praising God? That is when I was able to serve God the most. Through my own pain.

Don’t get me wrong. I still wondered why. I still was upset. I still wished it could have been someone else. But God reminded me:

2 Corinthians 12:9New International Version (NIV)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

So, I can take that thorn in my side. I can endure through the storm.

Whenever I get ready to complain, I think of the pain that Jesus went through for me on the cross. Then my pain seems so minimal.

Remember:

You are never alone.

You are never forsaken.

You are never unloved.

And above all…never, ever, give up!

 

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Too Many Ailments Getting You Down?

We have a winner! We past 83,000. The winner was notified, and we will start a new promotion. The next winner will be the person who is our 86,000th subscriber. As you found out here, it goes fast. We average over 50 new subscribers a day. We just passed 84,850.

If you haven’t already subscribed please do by clicking on the icon right after the title of this post.

______________________________________________________________________

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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Just when it seems you are on a roll and your health seems to be good, boom, something happens.

I have been feeling pretty good for the last month. I had a cardio version (shock) done on my heart and it got my heart back in rhythm. Well, two days ago, I woke up very tired. I thought I had a good nights sleep. I got dressed, but by 10:00am I was too tired to do anything but sit in a chair in the den.

A-Fib seems to have raised it ugly head and is knocking me down again. This means another trip to my cardiologist for another cardio version. My blood pressure is also very low 104/65, which adds to the weakness and fatigue.

I could withstand the low blood pressure if it didn’t make me very dizzy and weak. My doctor likes it to be low, but if I am not functioning well, we may have to adjust some meds.

Why am I whining to you? Why am I crying on your shoulder? It is because there are thousands of people going through the very same things. They also are also battling A-Fib. They too are fatigued, and weak.

We all have to face our storms. We all have to go through trials in our lives. God didn’t promise a rose garden, and besides there are the thorns.

What should we do during these afflictions? It would be easy to want to stay in bed and not face the world. It would be easy to give up and allow depression, to overcome us.

That is where I draw a line. I have faced many more afflictions than most people. I will not list them, but just know I have had six major surgeries.

I refuse to allow those walls to cover me up and swallow me. I will not give in to despair, and anxiety. As a matter of fact, I reach out to others who are going through the same battles, and try to sooth their pain. I want to let them know I am there for them.

I will feel better when I get my next cardio version done. The doctors will find the right level for my meds. I will go on and keep up the fight. I will finish the race. God knows my pain, and He is there to help calm the storm.

Remember:

You are never alone.

You are never forsaken.

You are never unloved.

And above all…never, ever, give up!

 

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