Cotton Candy Skies

When I was a kid, around 10, I felt so lost and unloved. Well, except by Uncle George. He was my Auntie Kay’s son. Auntie Kay was my life-saver as a little girl. Just a few years before, when I was 8, she had killed herself. I remember trying to take my own life after that … but that’s another story. Right now I want to tell about this one day with Uncle George.

I was with the family in downtown LA. We had just left China Town. I loved it. I found myself drawn to a group of people, young and old, throwing money into a beautiful fountain. I was shocked. I wanted to jump in and grab the money. “What are they doing?” I asked Uncle George.

He said, “Didn’t you know that you could make a wish and toss a coin into the fountain and your wish will come true” I looked at him with suspicion and grinned. I was already pretty hardened. I didn’t dare to dream about anything, really, or hope in silly wishes. But he looked sure of himself and handed me a quarter. As I walked over to the fountain, I was almost afraid. Do wishes come true for girls like me? Can I hope for anything a cool as this? I hardly dared to throw the coin in, but Uncle George put his hand on my shoulder as if to say it’s ok to hope.

I shut my eyes, threw the quarter and wished for cotton candy skies.

When I opened my eyes nothing was different. The sky was blue with a few wispy white clouds. I felt stupid, really. What was I thinking?

On our way home the sun was starting to set and Uncle George pointed. I looked and couldn’t believe my eyes. The entire sky was splashed with colors – pinks, blues, yellows, and it looked just like cotton candy. For a moment I couldn’t even breathe. Did someone hear me, see me, care about this lost little girl? I eventually took a breath, felt my heart beat, and thought, Yes!

I now look out my back window and frequently see cotton candy skies. I thank God for always loving me, for never giving up on me, even through all those years of pain. He has brought me to healing.

Please trust Him. Throw in your (spiritual) coin. And let Him heal you.

Always remember that God is crazy about you…me too!

Cheri Signature

You are a symphony

symphony4

Recently I was working with a girl who had overdosed on heroin. We ended our time together by going to the symphony. My husband Brad was performing and got us great tickets! 🙂 The pieces were Death and Transfiguration, by Strauss, and Symphony #6, the Pathétique, by Tchaikovsky. The Pathétique was finished 9 days before Tchaikovsky died (some think it was by suicide due to his sexual issues).

While my friend listened to the concert she thought about all the lies she had believed; about her addictions, her bitterness; and most of all, about life and death. Wow. The power of music is incredible. By the end of the concert she made amends with a family member, cried like a baby , and chose life.

Then next morning, I pulled a book from my bookshelf and “randomly” opened it to this devotional:

You are to Me a beautiful song. Your life is a sweet symphony that I Myself am composing note by note.
I take your failures, your tears, and your triumphs, and I turn them into a glorious harmony that will be sung in the heavens for all eternity. All your thoughts and deeds are laid before Me like notes on a page.
Every choice you make is a significant chord in an eternal arrangement. Don’t let the noise of the world destroy your magnificent melody, My beloved. Seek Me in the quiet stillness of the morning, and I will fill your heart with divine music. Stay in rhythm with My Spirit throughout the day, and I will make your life an irresistible medley that will linger like sweet perfume in the hearts of all that journey with you. Walk with Me in absolute surrender, and you will draw others to Me in a rhapsody of praise.
Love, Your King and your Composer
(His Princess Love Letters from Your King, by Sheri Rose Shepherd)

God so obviously meant it for her that I gifted her with the book. I love how He loves us! 🙂

Always remember that God is crazy about you…and He will orchestrate your healing. He delights in us and we are the symphony that He is writing. How cool is that!!!

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It will be ok

I was with a friend not long ago. She was recently separated from her alcoholic husband. He just would not change. He was creating drama and trashing everyone’s lives. Since the separation, she has been working hard to re-establish her life. She’s lost her home, all her furniture, I mean, she’s just lost everything. Now she’s standing up, she’s going to school full-time, she’s got two jobs, she’s living by herself, and she’s trying to fit in and look as normal as she possibly can.

But that day, I got a sense that if I could have just held her, it would have been what she needed more than anything. Her face just said, Today, this is tough.

At any point, she could have chosen another drink and she could have escaped this struggle. But she would have died in her addiction. She chose to stand up and to trust God, but that meant she walked away from everything. Everything. And it’s really tough because when people look at her they don’t know that. They don’t sense the struggle. They don’t see with compassion this woman who gave up all she had. I think if they asked, she would say, “I’m grateful for the change. But today is hard.”

That day, she needed to know she was going to be ok, that she was going to survive. She needed to hear someone say it. We don’t say that often enough to each other. I love what the apostle Paul said, “Be kind and always be gentle with each other…just like God is with us” (Titus 3:2, 4).

Kindness. Gentle encouragement. We all need it, some days more than others.

Always remember that God is crazy about you … me too!

Cheri Signature

No more shame

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Not long ago, I stood in front of 150 or so addicts and told my story. I watched them as they listened, literally with shame on their faces, because they knew the story. My story was their story. It isn’t anything new. Sometimes the church is kind of shocked about some of this stuff, but not this group. While I was sharing, I noticed one girl especially. She could have been anybody’s kid. Beautiful girl. Dressed great. But you could see the shame and the hopelessness on her face as she sat there listening.

But as soon as I started talking about Christ and recovery and how much I’m loved and how faithful He’s been, tears of joy started streaming down her face. She was thinking, “I’ve got to try that! I’ve got to trust that.” She slowly got up from her seat and walked up to the front. I handed her the mic, and sat down. She told us she’d only been doing drugs for three years, and she’d lost everything in that time. She said, “I was out of jail for only two hours before I used again! This is at the threat of going to prison for 20 years. This is at the threat of losing my children for good, of signing over custody. This is at the threat of my mom finally saying ‘I’m done!’ because she’s been hanging in there with me so long. And I go use after two hours!” And she wept. She said, “Now my life is in the hands of the judge.”

I got up and just prayed for her. I asked the pastor to come with me. I just held her while she cried and I said, “You know, we’ve got to go to Psalm 51, because the ultimate judge is God Himself, and He says, ‘I’ll create in you a new heart and change your very desires.’ He is fighting for you, and that’s what you have to hold on to today.” She got it. You could see it on her face and in her eyes. She gave her life, her struggles, and even her drugs to Christ right there, right then.

It was incredible. The ripple went all through those 150 people who were there. When we invited people to raise their hands if they’d had some clean time or to stand up if they wanted to say something, the entire group just responded to the truth of God’s mercy and His grace towards us. Everything changed that night because this girl stood up—honestly stood up—and said, “I had nothing to offer and I’m standing here free today because of Him.”

When she left that night, the shame was gone! There’s hope in that for all of us.

Always remember that God is crazy about you … me too!

Cheri Signature

The infinite game

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Do you know Seth Godin? I love him. A few weeks ago he wrote this powerful little piece about the Infinite Game. I just read it and cried.

The infinite game is the one you keep on playing, not to win or lose, but because the journey is all there is and it’s worth it. It’s the game where you never stop giving. It’s where you throw a slower pitch so the batter can hit the ball.

It’s not about what happens in the long run – you getting the job, or reaching some great goal or whatever. It’s about that daily laughter with your family and friends. It’s that daily sense, when you look in the mirror and you don’t have any of that shame and you don’t have any of that stuff. And you’re looking at yourself with that joy of, “you know what? I am who I am, and that’s enough, and God is crazy about me!”

The cry and desire of my heart is that we do that for each other! That’s what the journey of recovery is about – playing the infinite game. That’s what Step 12 is about: “Having had a spiritual experience as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

At True Step, it’s not about meeting some business objective or making a fundraising goal. Those things only matter for one reason: To keep us in the game. The goal is only ever about helping the next person, the next family, stand up. That’s what we do for each other in recovery.

Thanks for staying in the game!

Always remember that God is crazy about you … me too!

Cheri Signature

Who you can trust

Happy group of people

I just talked with a friend in New Zealand. She’s a leader of a recovery outreach project we are working on together. She told me, “God has raised you up, Cheri, for this time.” I had to say, “We are asked to walk alongside each other in our recovery. At times, when I do that, I do it well and at other times I don’t do it well, but God is faithful.” This is an important warning for all of us – not to take on ourselves the trust that only God deserves. We are raised up to speak to each other. We’re raised up to walk alongside each other. We’re raised up so that – when I’m falling down – somebody who’s more spiritual than I am at the time is going to grab me. Or when they’re falling down, I can grab them. We’re not raised up to stand in the position of God to each other. The only One who is faithful, consistently, is God. So, any praise goes to Him, for sure.

My friend got it. She reminded me of God’s promise to pour out His Spirit on us so we can work alongside Him to help bring each other to Him for healing. Like Peter told the people, “Now you must repent and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, that time after time your souls may know the refreshment that comes from the presence of God” (Acts 3:19, Phillips). In the book, The Great Controversy, it says that as God pours out His Spirit on us and we work with Him, sharing what He says with each other, our faces will be “lighted up and shining” (p. 612). When we walk alongside each other like that, we’ll talk with each other honestly about our stuff, offering God’s healing to each other, and our faces will shine with joy. It literally is because God is doing the work. He’s doing it with the least of us, standing us up, giving us all that kind of cool stuff that comes with standing up for each other.

He takes great joy in healing the least of us, and when He does that He gives us His joy. Like it says in the recovery edition of Steps to Christ, “The more clearly we see that God is crazy about us, the more we’ll trust that He takes deep joy in our recovery and that He can restore us to sanity” (p. 17). The joy of the Holy Spirit is so incredible, we can’t help but say the next thing to encourage each other. No wonder our faces are lighted up!

I say, “Amen! Bring it on! As He uses the least of us, there’s no boasting, only joy.”

Always remember that God is crazy about you…me too!

Cheri Signature

Clearing the road

step notes icon2I want to share something with you. It’s too cool.

I read this in my devotional, “Clearing the Mess,” this morning. I don’t know about you, but I am so ready to do that. Clear the mess. Daily if necessary. This relates to Step 7. “Our shortcomings may seem to clutter our personal road out of the past.” I laughed out loud reading that because sometimes my “road” seems to be covered by a mud slide, not just some “clutter.” The road is buried! I can’t even find it. There are no visible landmarks showing. If you’re like me, it can feel pretty hopeless. But let me go on because there is hope.

God really will come into the mess and lead us out! “God says, ‘Rebuild the road! Clear away the rocks and stones so that my people can return from captivity.’ The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: ‘…I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts…. I have seen what they do, but I will heal them anyway!’” Isaiah 57: 14-15, 18. That is just incredible to me. God is fully aware of our junk but still wants to heal us. He even gifts us with a feeling of repentance, not to make us feel guilty, but so we’ll turn to Him for help. I love that!

God, our Higher Power, is so good at clearing the junk away. He delights in our recovery and will remove all our shortcomings. I want to encourage you to take everything to God. Ask Him for help. Tell him you’re struggling. Be honest with Him. He is crazy about you, and He will clear the way for a better life!

Always remember that God is crazy about you … me too!

Cheri Signature

The biker

BC group

“Were they from Long Beach?” he asked, hesitating. He looked down at me. His eyes, above his heavy gray beard, looked sad and a little tired. “Yes,” I nodded quickly. A pause, then, in his rough, gentle voice, “Did you know M____?” At that moment I realized he had been there! We had both been there. And we had seen the same darkness.

I had just stepped off the stage after telling my story to an audience of prostitutes, workaholics, alcoholics, regular church folks, drug addicts, and troubled families. It was a recovery weekend in British Columbia, Canada, last month. Two groups of bikers, one called the Sabbath Keepers, were up next to share about their ministry. My new friend, one of the bikers, had sat on the edge of his seat, leaning forward, tears in his eyes, as I shared about the motorcycle gang that had kidnapped me as a young girl. I was one of many girls he had seen that gang abuse. Now he held my hand in his thick handshake and we both teared up. It was incredible for both of us to be standing here, both saved by God who had seen our brokenness and had rescued and healed us. I was so proud of God, I wanted to just kiss Him on the face. Since I couldn’t do that, I kissed this guy instead!

Do you realize it’s because of you that moments like that happen? You’re one of those who follow hard after the One who has freed your soul and captured your heart. You know that there’s no one God isn’t seeking to woo and to heal. And you long to help. It’s because of you that other slaves will awaken to the value of their souls.

Now’s the time.

Join the quest.

Cheri Signature

Step 8 – Making the List

step notes icon2
We made a list of all the persons we have harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

This sounds like an over whelming step and I want you to really stay in a place where you know that you’re not doing the work. This step says to make the list and become willing. But it doesn’t say to actually make the amends. What you did in Steps 6 and 7 is really important. You were entirely ready to have God remove all the defects of character that you looked at in Step 4. “I humbly ask God to remove all my short comings.” Now, you’re going to continue that theme. You’re going to make this list. You’re going to look at these resentments. You’re going to look at the things that have happened in your past. But you’re not going to do the work. You’re just going to become willing to allow God to work. It’s really important. Don’t pick it up yourself. You have done a horrible job at this and you will continue to do a horrible job at it, so you’ve got to not take it on.

It’s just like you don’t do your own surgery. I can go in and tell the doctor what’s wrong. I can point to what’s wrong. I can give him some information, but I’m not going to do the surgery. I’m going to turn it over to the surgeon and let him hold the scalpel. Because if I start to do it I’m going to stop when it hurts. Imagine that you get in a motorcycle accident and you skid on the road. You break a few bones and you’ve got gravel stuck everywhere. If you go in and start removing that gravel, it’s going to be painful. It’s the same with this step. When you start to look at some of the stuff in your life, it brings up anxiety and pain. When that happens during this step, back away for a little bit. Go to a peaceful place, because that’s not the intention of this step.

But even making the list can be painful. You will actually make three lists.

The people who have harmed you

Your first list will be all the people who have harmed you. Write down every single person. Think about everyone. I wrote my mom on this list because I don’t believe she ever loved me. She had her own issues, and I know that, but I was never held by her or loved by her. I can walk into a room, even to this day and I can see, sometimes, the hatred and the anger she has for me. That’s really painful. Yours will be too, but put it down. And other relationships, too. Are there spouses that you’ve struggled with? Are there bosses that you’ve struggled with? Siblings that you’ve struggled with? Did someone rip you off at one point? One girl told me she went to jail for seven years because her girlfriend set her up with this drug thing! So put down all that kind of stuff on your list.

Ask God, “God, can you lead me? Where’s are my anger, where’s my shame, where’s my hurt?” Those are the things that keep us in bondage. The things that keep us in bondage are our anger, our bitterness, our shame, and our guilt. That’s the gravel in the wound. And the wound can never heal until I allow someone to take the gravel out. It can’t heal. There’s no way. Even if the skin starts to grow over it you’re going to have some painful issues because there are still rocks in there. There’s still gravel in there. There may be glass still in there, or a broken bone. Emotionally, you’ve got all of this gravel, all this stuff, inside you. So when you start doing your lists, start out with this first list of everybody who has hurt you. Keep at it until you exhaust yourself, until you’ve put down everybody’s name that you can think of. Just remember, this is not about fixing it at this point. This is just being willing for God to fix it – to make amends.

When I looked at my mom and all of her issues, I couldn’t see any fault that I played in the situation. At this point, I couldn’t see where it had damaged me and all of my other intimate relationships. So I really had to just write it out and let God show me the rest. As I started to list all the things that people have done to hurt me, I started to start to see patterns in my life. I started to see patterns in their lives. God showed me how my mom was injured as a kid. He showed me how her injuries caused her inability to love. One time she even gave me an autobiography where she talked about not being able to love me and give me what I needed, and her guilt and shame about that.

As you work on your list, just be ready for God to show you some things. It may not happen at the time you’re doing the list but gradually you will start to become willing and able to receive a different point of view. And that’s incredible! If I’ve got gravel stuck all over me, every time I put my elbow down on the table I’m going to want to scream. And emotionally the same kind of thing. When I’m looking at everything through pain I can’t see it rationally. I can’t see it in a way that brings healing. I can’t see it in a way that brings hope. But as I start to heal, I can start to see it differently.

Here’s an example of what I mean. I love my mom – she’s just amazing – but we don’t have a lot of intimate moments where we talk to each other. I mean, it’s very polite and sometimes things happen that I just take a breath. But one night I was over at her house. It was particularly late at night and I was sitting in front of the computer doing something. My family stays up really late. That’s what we do in our addictions. So it was like 2:30 in the morning and I’m in front of the computer and my sister’s got some friends coming over (I think to buy some meth) and they go into the garage for a little bit.

I’m just on the computer and my mom comes up and sits behind me. And she says to me “Can I tell you something?” And I thought, ok. I felt really impressed not to turn around, not to touch her, not to do anything, not to break that moment. I knew it was going to be kind of an intimate moment. I could tell by her voice and I just felt like God said, “don’t turn around, just listen.” So I listened and she told me a story about when she was a kid. She was given up by her mom when she was five and given to an aunt who really loved her. There was a lot of damage in the relationships in the family, but not with this aunt. She really loved her little niece.

My mom got to have ice skating classes and art lessons and she liked to write. When she was twelve years old she got a scholarship for a high school. She had been advanced a few grades because she’s that bright. And she got a scholarship to an arts academy. She talked about having that scholarship and how it meant everything to her. She said, “At first I thought maybe they just gave it to me because I was twelve and it was a novelty because I was so young.” It took the counselor at the school about three months to convince her that she won the scholarship because she was an incredible writer and artist -because she did really good work. She won it fair and square. But by the time she was accepting this and feeling incredible about it, everything changed.

Her mom, who was alcoholic and in and out of relationships, decided to be in a relationship again. They were going to move from Canada to California. They came over and packed my mom up and moved her to another country. I don’t think anybody said, “what about her school and what about the scholarship and what about the arts academy and maybe this was not a good time to move her.” Nobody said that. Adults often don’t really think about stuff like that or take their kids’ feelings and lives into account. They are just very self focused in that way. Anyway, as she was telling me what happened, I just felt so sad. All of a sudden I had some insight into my mother and why she shut down emotionally, why she felt angry, why she got into the relationships she did.

When they got to California, she got into high school. She was twelve years old in the ninth grade. She met my father, who was older. They have sex and she ends up pregnant and her life just goes from one thing to another. They have five kids, she gives up all her dreams about becoming an artist or a writer and takes her anger and her hatred out on her second child, which is me. At that moment everything kind of made sense to me, and I couldn’t really be angry in the same way.

I think that when we start doing Step 8 – when we write things down – we start to become willing to make amends and allow God to teach us what happened in other people’s lives. That’s not to excuse what happened, not to say it was ok that you weren’t loved as a child. None of that’s ok. It shouldn’t have happened that way. But, man! I need some understanding so I can let go of the bitterness and the anger. So I can let go of the guilt and the shame. And so I can let go of thinking I must have been this huge mistake and there’s something dreadfully wrong with me. Because none of that’s true and I can’t step into recovery if I believe all of that stuff.

I have to be able to look at what happened and start to allow truth and forgiveness to kind of seep in so I can let go of what has kept me in bondage all these years. I believe this step helps with that. As you write the list down, you start to become willing to make amends to all of them.

The people you have harmed

The next list is you’re going to make is those people you have harmed. And that’s horrible! It’s easier to look at people who have harmed you. Sometimes people can’t get to the place of seeing the damage they’ve done. Like for me. I couldn’t get to that place if I kept thinking about the people who had harmed me and kept wanting someone to make amends to me and tell me they were sorry. I had to start with the list of people who had harmed me, but then I needed to move on and make the list of people I had harmed. You will need to do that too.

When I started to list people I have harmed, it got painful. I was on the streets very early, picked up by people who funneled me into the sex trade industry in Los Angeles There are 80,000 kids on the streets there right now. At least 80,000. And I was funneled into that industry. I couldn’t do prostitution because I had been molested my whole life and that was just too much. But I got into dancing in clubs. I remember when I started to work on my list of people I’ve harmed, I thought, “You know that’s something I’ve done but it didn’t hurt anyone. I mean, maybe it hurt me but it didn’t hurt anyone else.” But God allowed me to see that I had fostered the sexual addictions of the men and women that came into the club. I had fueled that and they went home and abused their wives or their children or themselves. I really did harm people. Looking at that more honestly, it was really kind of self-protecting to say I didn’t hurt anybody but myself. I hurt a lot of people.

I think God shows us the damage we’ve done, not because he wants to hurt us or shame us, but because he wants us free. He wants to tell us, “Don’t lie to yourself anymore. Honestly look at what was done to you and also look at the damage you have done. You need to look at all those things and allow Me to start showing you some ways to heal.”

There were other things I had done to hurt someone else, too. I left relationships easily. At most I was in a relationship two or three months, maybe less, and I would leave. I have attachment disorders. I didn’t stay long. I didn’t care what you felt. I was too fearful and I just didn’t stay in relationships. But I had to look at how hurtful that was to the people I left. They would come home and I would just be gone, you know, and I would go on to the next relationship. And so I had to look at that. I lied easily, I manipulated easily, I conned people out of things and money. I was on the streets for ten years, so I did all that kind of stuff. Writing down the things that I have done to hurt people, the things I have said to hurt people … that’s not an easy list to write.

The harm you’ve done to yourself

The next list you might to look at – and for some people this is really tough – but you might want to make amends to yourself. Make a list of the ways you have harmed yourself. We put ourselves into such hurtful relationships and dangerous situations and abusive situations. It’s like we become our own perpetrator. No one else is doing it to us now. We’re doing it to ourselves. We’re allowing people to lie to us, we’re allowing people to abuse us. Neglecting ourselves is wrong. Diminishing our gifts or our worth is wrong. Allowing ourselves to be mistreated and abused is wrong. It’s inappropriate for us to continuously get into relationships that are abusive. So you might need to list the things you have done to yourself that have caused you to feel shame or anger or resentment.

If, at any point, as you work on this list you feel it’s too much, too overwhelming, make sure you do it with someone . Have a friend, a sponsor, a support group, … have people around you. Even if it’s the pastor. Make sure you work with someone of the same gender, though, or you can get into trouble – unless there’s at least a third person with you. You really do not want to set yourself up for trouble in that way. But, for sure, the best way to do this is to do it with someone else.

Every time you feel overwhelmed, every time you feel guilty, every time you feel like this is just too much, like your whole body is tightening up, step away for a while. Take a breath. Do something that is relaxing. I like to do art and I like to journal. I like to take a walk. Walks are great during this time.
And remember, this is not about you doing the work to get those rocks out of the wound. It’s allowing God to start cleaning out that wound, cleaning out your heart. Sometimes if you start looking at the condition of your heart, you’ll see it’s dried up and it’s black and it doesn’t even look like a heart. But when you start looking at these things, you allow God to bring healing to some really deep places and your heart starts to look real and starts to pump and life starts coming in.

Step 8 feels really difficult, but it’s like all of the other steps: there’s a reason for it. I can’t heal if I am walking around in shame. Guilt I can deal with more easily because, if I’ve done something wrong, I can correct it and I can get rid of the guilt. But shame says I don’t think I’m worth anything and that’s deep. This step allows me to really look at those lies and say, “Those are lies!” Yes, I’ve done some things in my life that I am not proud of, but no more. I’m going to look realistically at a lot of things and I’m going to become willing to make amends for all them.

I’m not even going to set up the situation for making amends. I’m going to allow God to do it. I’m going to believe there’s a God who cares about me and who can restore me to sanity. Who can literally bring me into a place of healing. If he can do all this, he can set up the right time where amends happen. I don’t have to set it up. I don’t have to do it. I just have to be aware that he will because I’ve given him permission. I’ve given God – my higher power – permission to do this healing, to arrange for these amends, to create opportunities for this forgiveness to happen.

And they will happen. Like when my mom sat behind me while I was working on the computer and shared with me some of the tragedy of her childhood. When she finished, she asked, “Do you think that affected me?” I wanted to sob. I wanted to hold her and say “I am so sorry.” And all the resentment and all of the anger and all of the times I thought, “you owe me!” all melted away. I just wanted to say to her, “Please forgive me, I had no idea.”

That’s often what we’ll feel when we finally get to Step 9 where we’ll make amends. We’ll start to understand everything that’s happened. We’ll start to understand that, even though we’re angry and abused or feeling depressed or isolated or unloved or walking around with shame or guilt or addictions, that’s not who we are. I can no longer identify this as who I am. I can say this is a behavior that has happened, this is a relationship that went horribly wrong, this is one who I need to forgive. I can do all that kind of stuff, but I can no longer define myself in that way. I’m going to allow God to define me.

And these lists will help you do that. This step is actually such a gift. But please don’t forget the previous steps. You’ve given God permission to do this for you. You’ve given this over to God. You are willing and able to do this because you have a higher power who will restore all things in his time. And man, his time is perfect. It’s perfect.

Good luck with this one.

Cheri Signature

Step 7 – A New Heart

step notes icon2Step 7 still seems incredible to me: “We humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings.”

I have no idea what it would feel like to have had an innocent childhood, but that’s what Step 7 sounds like to me. It sounds like asking God to make me innocent. When God showed up in the drug house where I was trying to kill myself, that’s what He showed me. He gave me a glimpse of what I’d be like the day after resurrection–an innocent child. I told Him, “I’ve never been innocent.” And He told me, “I’ve never seen you any other way.” It was the first time in my life I’d ever felt loved. I just sobbed. I could hardly believe it. Do you know what I mean?

For me, the verse that goes with Step 7 still seems almost too good to be true: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Maybe you’re like me and you find it hard to believe that God can actually make you clean. Or maybe it’s been totally different for you. Maybe you relate to my friend, Fran.

Fran McKain is our Creative Director at True Step Ministries. At first, you might think there’s no way she could understand anything about recovery. I mean, she’s never used drugs or alcohol, never been abused, never had any of the darker addictions. She’s a great Bible student and she does tons of ministry. If anybody was ever an innocent child, she was probably it.

About a year ago, she told me that if she was really honest, she’d have to admit she had a hard time relating to verses in the Bible like this: “You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” (Revelation 3:17). She couldn’t see herself as really wretched. When she looked at her life, it seemed like the cross was a bit overkill in her case. “I mean, really? God poured out all of heaven and gave His Son to die because I’m a bit impatient once in awhile, and sometimes a little defensive and critical?”

Over the last months, God has been gently revealing to her the mess under the innocent appearance And it’s the same junk we all have: wounded by other people, thirsty to be loved and valued, choosing foolish, selfish ways to get those needs met. Whether you choose drugs, sex, or religion (like Fran did), the result is the same: you’re still thirsty and you’re still a mess. Fran says God showed her it’s like she has a bad case of heartworms. You can’t get rid of heartworms. They’ll kill you. You need a new heart. The incredible thing is that God says, “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” (Ezekiel 36:26).

It’s true! He’s not only willing to forgive us, He longs to do it, and He delights to heal us and purify our hearts.

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