Tag Archives: character defects

What To Do With Step 6 & Step 7 In Celebrate Recovery?

28 Oct

The men at First Baptist Dallas Celebrate Recovery are currently working Steps 6 and 7.

Step 6: We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Step 7: We humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings.

Principle 5: Voluntarily submit to every change God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects.

I’ve worked the 12 Steps seven times now, and I must admit, after writing my inventory and sharing it with my sponsor, these two steps seemed like “blow-off steps” to me, leading up to the big showdown called “Amends.” But, after so many times through the program, I have now come to see sweet rewards in these two steps. I like to think of them as the “prayer” steps.

My root causes for entering C.R. were pornography and racism. I am blessed to be sober from these since 2008. But in each step study I’ve completed, God has shown me new areas for renewal, including critical spirit, low self-worth, idolatry (placing my own comfort, control, convenience and approval over God), selfishness and now, trusting God and others instead of attempting to control the situation on my own.

I wrote specifics on this case in my inventory – reasons not to trust God, my wife, my sons and others – and how my distrust has caused stress in my life. I shared this with my sponsor. And now, as I work steps 6 and 7, I am bringing this “shortcoming,” this “character defect,” to God in prayer. Before I go to make my amends with others, I am asking the only person I know who can fix this in me to truly fix it. I am pleading with God to remove this from my heart, to cover over it with His grace, and replace it with pure trust. On my own, I am powerless to do so. Steps 6 and 7 instruct me to prepare my heart for God’s blessing and to “ask” Him to complete the process.

Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

The key words for me in that verse are “take delight in the Lord.” I used to think it meant that if I prayed, for anything, God would give it to me because I desire it. No. I desire comfort. I desire approval. I desire vengeance. I desire a lot of things God does not intend for me and mostly hates. But if I delight in Him, if I want to make Him happy, not me, guess what? He gives me the desires of my heart. So, I am spending time in prayer during steps 6 and 7 to prepare my heart for Him, and asking Him to purify me from these things that make Him sad.

I journal every morning a question to God, and then I write His answer back to me in the space beneath my question. This method of journaling is called “two-way prayer.” It’s a 12-step tool designed to “improve our conscious contact with God.” I’ve been doing this for more than a year now and have been blessed by the exercise.

In my morning’s journal a few days ago, I asked God specifically how I could remove my distrust of Him and others “starting today.” He told me in my written answer to the question to recognize a flaw in my thinking. He told me to “stop cowering against blows that never come.” He told me that I am a “slave to my own imagination,” and then He challenged me with His own question: “Are you so full of pride that you believe you can actually control people and outcomes?” He finished His answer by assuring me that His “record of success is flawless,” and that He “loves me so much” He would never allow anything but “the best” for me, and that even if I “perceived a flaw in the plan,” I was to “take comfort” knowing that He has the “full picture” and “works all things out” to my good.

What peace I experienced that morning! Do not blow off Steps 6 and 7. Pray through them in earnest. By the time you reach Amends, you will be ready for His complete healing.



Help! I need a Sponsor!

24 Apr
I was born and raised on the US West Coast.  Both of my parents were only children, my mother a red-headed, ​hot-tempered Irish women​, my father an ​independent, self-­made Scotsman​, who was in business for himself and very successful. The pair made for a fiery childhood for five children.
My mother, with all good intentions, insisted we be raised Catholic, where I was taught early on that in order to make it to heaven, the work was all on my shoulders; I had to be perfect. I was taught there was an unforgiving, angry Father in Heaven that only took the best. From a child’s point of view, that was frightening.
At school, the nuns and priests reinforced the expectation of perfection, ironically with punishment, intimidation, indoctrination and fear. My parents, both independent and strong willed, taught the five of us the value of hard work, extreme resiliency, independence and the importance of self-­determination. The motto in our house was: “You are in charge of where you end up; if you get knocked down, get over it and pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” With that as my “parenting,”‘ I ventured off into life semi­-prepared for what lay ahead.
Needless to say, I was not walking with the Lord when I set off from home, although I fully thought I was ‘IN’ the church. My early life set in motion a perfect storm in molding a self­-serving, co­dependent, people-pleasing perfectionist with a thread of self­-hatred holding it all together. What a mess!
Without a Biblical foundation (I was taught only priests could interpret scripture; it wasn’t for feeble-minded people like you and me) I was fully engaged in pursuing a secular life, and the scariest part was, I was driving the ship by myself. I was the captain. I made the decisions, I charted the course, I decided what was right. And then, I suffered the consequences: a broken marriage, single parenthood, dishonoring the temple of the Holy Spirit, severed family relationships, a deep loneliness and the terrifying reality that I might not make it to heaven.
The Lord saved my life, and the days of my captaincy came to an end. Praise be to Jesus. I didn’t know how to walk closely with Him and I needed help. The Lord led me to Celebrate Recovery at First Baptist Dallas nearly three years ago, and continues to show me how to walk closely with Him – and it begins with others. In Celebrate Recovery terms, I needed a sponsor, a coach to help guide me along the intended journey. I had spent a lifetime trying unsuccessfully to find my own way. This is not what God intended for his daughter, or any of His children. We are meant to join one another along the way.
I can now thankfully say that having a sponsor is a gift, a blessing, and a necessary part of a successful recovery program.
Here is the purpose of a sponsor. Last month, we learned about the importance of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, which you found when you made the decision to turn your life and your will over to the care of God. If you haven’t made this step yet in your journey, do so. It is critical to your recovery. As you work your way through the 12 Steps to Step 4, making a personal inventory, you’ll see that having veteran of the 12 steps to join you on the journey provides help, support, encouragement and love.
We actually need at least three relationships to make it through the process, the most important being a relationship with Jesus Christ. In addition, we also need a sponsor and accountability partners. Identifying a sponsor is especially important before you begin Principles 4 through 6, in which you work on getting right with God, yourself and others. Check out a Wednesday night meeting to get to know some fellow travelers, and find a sponsor. And remember, there are many benefits to having a Sponsor and fellow believers traveling the same path, but your recovery depends on a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ first. A godly sponsor will understand this and is therefore essential to a solid recovery program. You are worth it!

The True Meaning of Action

26 Mar

Action. Sounds so innocuous. But what is it? As I prepare to talk about taking ACTION at Celebrate Recovery this week at First Baptist Church in downtown Dallas, I have been thinking a lot about this word. Dictionary.com defines action as “the process or state of acting or of being active” or “something done or performed; act; deed.” Clearly, actions are something we DO. Another definition describes actions as a physical or mental act that we consciously will. In other words, we cannot “act” against our own will. Our actions are chosen, not passive. Our actions can feel huge – say changing jobs – yet, make no more than a small impact on our lives in the long run. Or, they can seem teeny-tiny – say eating right one meal at a time – and make a lasting, positive impact on our health and longevity. We don’t always know what our actions will bring about before we take them. But, often times, we do have at least a rough idea.

So why then do we so regularly fail to take an action when we know it will help us? For example, I am always thinking or talking about going to the gym, but I almost never take the action to actually get there. I spent years saying I should take a class, go back to school to finally get that degree, and get a better job, but then I’d watch “just one more” episode of whatever on Netflix instead. We know beyond a doubt that actions like these will only help improve us, yet we do not act, we do not will. We say things to ourselves like “I’ll do it later” or “Yeah, I really need to do that”. But, we don’t. Or, we say we are waiting to decide. I can spend months wasting my gym membership, trying to decide which class fits my schedule. Just like I spent years in an unfulfilling career because I did not register in school. These choices, what seemed like inaction, were actually actions, too, though. Choosing to watch TV or continue unhealthy behavior is an active choice.

What about the actions we take that we know full well we should not? I wasted so much time doing what I knew I should not. Enabling my former husband’s addiction because I did not want to face and deal with my co-dependency. Or eating terrible foods, knowing that they will have a negative effect on my health. These were actions, too. Enabling, eating, avoiding school, avoiding the gym – all actions.

As the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 17:9, “I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” I was “stuck” in this place for most of my young adult life, thinking that I “could not” do anything to change things. I thought my actions did not matter or make any difference. But that was a lie! The truth, that I learned when I began attending Celebrate Recovery, was that there was a particular action – a crucial shift – that I needed to make in order to gain the power I needed to improve all of my actions.

You see, as Principle 3 states, I must “Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control.” This is an action! It requires will; it is a physical and mental act. It fits every definition of the word – ACTION. Until I did this, I felt powerless, and always chose the wrong action. But, once I finally got this through my head, and I surrendered completely to God – took the action of committing my whole life and will to Him – everything changed! Each little choice became easier, as I was empowered by the Holy Spirit to take more and more action. Philippians 2:13 expresses it perfectly, “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and power to do what pleases Him.” After this crucial action was taken, all of the others took on new meaning and significance.

So I encourage you today. If you have not ever taken the ACTION of accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, please do so today! If you have wandered from your faith and are struggling to choose the right actions, take the step today to recommit yourself, your will, all of you – to Him. I promise, you won’t regret it. It’s time to get up and take ACTION!


How Can I Not Forgive?

12 Mar
I was recently wounded by a blind-sided betrayal from someone close to me. Someone I never expected would hurt me in this way, but it happened. In fact, it happened long before the truth came out, and all the while, I had been interacting with this person on a warm and friendly basis. When the truth was finally on the table, I was doubly hurt by the fact that this person was able to carry on in such a warm and friendly way, while knowing all the while what they had done to breach our relationship so willingly.
But, because so much time had elapsed, and so many warm and friendly moments had been exchanged in between…and, because the offending party showed deep remorse, asked forgiveness and displayed an earnest desire to reconcile, I was compelled to forgive (and enter the process of forgetting).
After being so deeply offended, what turned my heart more than anything was not so much the apology and desire to reconcile, although that meant everything to me in mending the breach. What turned my heart once and for all was the picture of Jesus’s “Sacred Heart,” wrapped in thorns and plunged with a dagger.
I had grown up seeing this picture hanging in my grandparents’ living room. I couldn’t walk past it without Jesus’ eyes following me across the room. I didn’t understand the meaning of that “Sacred Heart,” until this incident came up. Then, it all became clear.
 Heart Jesus015
My heart felt wrapped in thorns and plunged with a dagger. My heart was aching over the betrayal, and I lost sleep over the pain. I came across the picture of Jesus’ “Sacred Heart,” almost immediately after the truth came out, as if Jesus Himself were reminding me what I had done to Him. The thorns in that picture represented my sins. My selfish, willful decisions plunged the dagger in. I had hurt Him deeply, and He gently reminded me with this image, that in spite of that, He still loved me.
He reminded me that His response was to offer grace. His response was to forgive me, not just in words, but by carrying my sin to the cross to die for my transgressions. To release me from any guilt or shame, and to restore my relationship with Him in love for all eternity.
Friends, if you have suffered a deep hurt in your life that is causing you pain, creating wrong behaviors or thoughts in you that ruin your peace, cripple relationships or keep you up at night, remember the grace of our precious Savior. Recall the pains you put on His heart, and extend His forgiveness to your offender. Jesus is the one, true Higher Power who can heal your hurt. In fact, He already has. Remember that, and join us at First Baptist Dallas on Wednesday nights for Celebrate Recovery. Come hear the testimonies of those who have experienced His unfathomable grace first hand, and be healed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Ready or Not?

17 Jul

In Step 6, we take another important step in our recovery: we begin actively submitting to the changes we know need to happen. By this time in the 12 steps, one has written out his/her inventory and been honest about not only the offenses of others, but one’s own wrongs toward others (and self). And, confession and forgiveness supposedly followed. But, before we experience victory over our compulsive and/or addictive behavior(s), we have to voluntarily submit to a new way of living. This does NOT happen overnight! And yet, there does have to be a starting point. Sometimes people say they stopped doing substance abuse overnight, or they stopped cheating on a spouse. Even when behaviors are stopped, we will be vulnerable to other ways of escaping, if we do not replace the unhealthy behaviors (sinful, problem behaviors) with righteous patterns. This calls for honesty before God and renewing our minds – setting our minds to embrace and stand on the Truth in Scripture.

An important part of practicing this step is having humility. In my own life, codependency has been an issue for which I sought help, both in counseling years ago, and, in an ongoing way, in groups and accountability relationships. The slippery slope for me is thinking I’ve got this, that I now can handle it on my own and without having to daily confess to God how much I need His help, that I am dependent on Him, and telling God that I want to keep turning things over to His control, especially those things I want to fix or control in others’ lives. Christ’s humility is such a model and example for us! When the Bible tells us that He learned obedience from the things He suffered, I am reminded (and, still somewhat mystified) that even Jesus learned obedience! He willingly humbled Himself to take on our human limitations. How much more I need to humble myself before my Lord!

When I get to the core of why I don’t experience victory and freedom from my issues, I go back to asking what is keeping me from surrendering totally to God’s will and control in my life? A barrier for me is that I do not (at times) truly believe that God can take care of some things without my help, or that He won’t or might not do what is best. How prideful! How ridiculous! But, if I’m really honest, that’s a core sin – pride, lack of trust. While in my head, I know a right concept of God, in my heart of hearts and in my everyday life, I fall back into failure to practice what I say I believe. I allow unbelief and doubt to go unchecked right alongside my faith. Scripture warns us about this and says we will be double-minded in all our affairs. I don’t want to be like that! Thank God for His Word of Truth and for the Holy Spirit who convicts me when I willingly go against what God tells me to do. Confession, forgiveness received, and committing anew to submit – yield – to God’s Sovereignty is what I have learned is my only way to the victory. With His help!

I have experienced victory, yet it is not 100% constant. I am thankful for his promise in Philippians 1:6, that He is faithful to complete the good work He began in me (our sanctification and glorification)!



13 Jun

Principle 4
Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust.
Happy are the pure in heart. Matthew 5:8

Step 5
We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16

I heard someone say one time that as Christians, we are quick to say we are all sinners….but we are reluctant to admit that we actually do sin.  This step requires us to admit that we sin not only to ourselves and God but to another person!!!

The God part was not as hard for me when I came to this step…..I know He knows my heart, my motives, my thoughts and my actions…..so I knew that I wasn’t telling Him anything that He didn’t already know.  Although I was pretty deep in denial in the beginning, I did come to a point where I recognized my shortcomings and character defects after working through the first 4 steps.  I had to come face to face with my weakness and sin if I was truly going to do an open and honest inventory.

BUT to tell another person….now that was an entirely different story.  I am in recovery from co-dependency with people pleasing being one of the specific areas where I struggle.  I was concerned how ‘telling another human being the exact nature of my wrongs’ might change how I was perceived by this other person……this person might not like me anymore….and being accepted and liked is the ultimate need of a people pleaser.

God encouraged me, however, to move forward with this step.  In Proverbs 28:13 He tells us, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”  In James 5:16, He says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

What I experienced when I was finally obedient and shared my inventory with another person, was not rejection but love and acceptance in spite of all the awful things I shared plus total freedom from the burden and weight of those sins.  I no longer had to work at maintaining a façade of being the perfect person I thought everyone expected me to be trying to hide the dark side of my sinful nature….but I could relax and be who I really was – an imperfect person with a sinful nature who actually does sin!! Only through loving the Lord and leaning on Him can I overcome my hurts, habits and hang-ups and live the abundant life He has promised.

This was a real turning point in my recovery… I began to see trying to please people brought only anxiety, pain and a lack of self worth……focusing on pleasing God, however, brought peace, joy and contentment.  John Baker sums up this step and principle this way: “In confession, we open our lives to the healing, reconciling, restoring, uplifting grace of Jesus Christ who loves us in spite of ourselves.”

Don’t let pride, shame or fear prevent you from experiencing the freedom that comes from confessing your sins to God, to yourself and to another human being.  Recovery requires honesty.  Psalm 32:3-5 says, “There was a time when I wouldn’t admit what a sinner I was. But my dishonesty made me miserable and filled my days with frustration…My strength evaporated like water on a sunny day until I finally admitted all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them.  I said to myself, ‘I will confess them to the Lord.’ And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.”