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Self Harm Project Blog

Join us in the journey of discovering truth within the topics of cutting, suicide and the drug culture.  

This is a artistic venture consisting of three parts - a short film, a feature film & theatrical production. They are all centered on the topic of self-harm. Each section of the project is meant to inform and provide a platform for discussion and help for those that need it. 

-The Short Film-

-The Feature Film-

-The Theatrical Production-

We are also  in the process of putting a resource network together whose goal is to connect people that self-harm with someone they can talk to for help. We also are looking for advocates that want to help to put together programs to inform schools, youth groups and other organizations about the truth of self-harm. For more information, please visit our Resource Network page.

The Blog

Along the way of our journey, we began a blog to document the research and interviews. These entries are meant to both inform and encourage, just as we intend with the all the parts of his project. They attempt to capture the pain,  despair and fear of those affected by self-harm, while providing an answer of hope and freedom. 

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posted Mar 13, 2017, 6:33 PM by Susannah Francis

In today’s world, we always want to point out a reason why someone acts a certain way. If they are depressed, we may ask if someone has died recently. If they are stressed, we might ask how their work life is going. Indeed, with people who self-harm, we find most of them hurt themselves to deal with some tragedy in their lives. But when we meet someone…should we assume that? What if we can’t find a tragedy that is the source of their pain…the source of their desire to self-harm? Here are a few examples below based on real life situations of people who self-harm but don’t fit in the “box” of someone who has a very tragic past to deal with.
  • Marcia seemed to have everything going for her. A music prodigy, she was hotly pursued by many prestigious colleges, all offering rich music scholarships. She was also supported by her parents who helped to promote her talents in any way they could. These parents were always at her recitals, clapping loudly. When she turned 10, her parents let her name the baby to prevent jealousy. She seemed to have good, supportive parents as well as lived in a stable home. At the age of 16, she began to cut. 
  • Ginny grew up in a missionary home. At an early age, she moved to Russia. And though her parents were busy doing great work for Campus Crusade for Christ, they always took time out for Ginny. Showing her love…making her feel included in their ministry work…talking to her about what great plans God had for her. But, at the age of 15, she started to drink heavily and burn herself with a cigarette lighter. 
  • John grew up in a loving home. And though he did witness his parents fight a lot, he was always shown attention by his mother. “You can be anything that God calls you to be,” she always told him. She always supported him in every way and yet, at the age of eight…he started punching himself in the face. 
We often think of people who self-harm as coming from tragic environments of abuse, trauma, neglect or control. But what about children who did not come from those environments? Does that mean that there is something traumatic in their past that we don’t know, or could there be something else about them that give them a tendency towards self-harm? It makes sense when a husband finds out their wife is cutting if he also learns that she was sexually abused by her father since the age of five. It makes sense for a counselor to find out someone burns themselves after they hear the neglect that this child experienced. But what if we can’t put it in that box? What if it’s similar to the cases of John, Ginny and Marcia? What do we do with that?

“They obviously have been abused in some way.” Is the simple answer. And that could be the answer, but what if it’s not.

When we have been researching self-harm, we have found many who are emotionally sensitive. Some are so sensitive to their environment that it actually hurts their skin to wear certain types of fabric or can think a room is very noisy when there is a small conversation happening on the other side of the room. We have seen people who are sensitive in the spiritual realm to angels and demons…sensitive in such a way as to sense things that we don’t sense…don’t perceive. Can any of those things be traumatic enough to the point of leading someone to self-harm, even if it doesn’t make sense to us?

What does God want us to do when we encounter someone like this. James 1:19 states, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry”. Too many times we make conclusions about people before we begin to listen about them. “You are a cutter so that means you are x, y, and z?” If we listen to them talk, might we find out their history…their struggles…how they’re feeling…if they are sensitive to their environment…if they have always been this way for no apparent reason. And if we do listen, might that affect how we approach the situation?

Philippians 4:5-6 states, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” What would happen if, instead of coming up with our own conclusions, we seek the Lord in helping someone? Rather than coming up with an answer that we think would help, we stop…begin to pray…petition for them…with no conclusions…saying “Lord, I just found out my friend cuts and I don’t know why…please show me how to help them.” Seeking God first can help so many in these situations. Perhaps the answer is getting our face out of the science book, philosophical text, medical journal and into His book, the Bible, His presence…and asking Him to please help in this unexplainable situation.


posted Jan 13, 2015, 12:33 PM by Susannah Francis   [ updated Jan 13, 2015, 12:41 PM ]

A couple of years ago, we interviewed a girl who used to cut and she told us that she “resents the fact that she can’t cut anymore.”  When I asked why she resents it, she responded by saying, “Other people can drink, do drugs, whatever to cope with their life and no one says anything to them, but I can’t cut.”  It seems in her case, she stopped cutting because her friends and family implied to her that if she didn't stop cutting they would stop seeing her, supporting her.  She was even told by a Christian counselor that “God hates that you cut.”  When asked how that made her feel, she responded with, “God hates me because I cut.”

In John 8:4, the Pharisees saw a woman caught in the act of adultery.  They said to Jesus,

“The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” 

At first Jesus was silent, writing in the sand, but after repeated demands by the teachers of the law Jesus replied,

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

When we hear of someone who cuts to get rid of pain, many will look at that person differently than someone that drinks, does drugs, or even overeats to get rid of pain.  And that is why the girl we talked to resented that; because she didn’t understand why her method of coping was worse than someone else’s.  She was especially confused as to why God would hate her because she chose that particular method of coping.  However, that theology is wrong.  God doesn't hate our methods of coping, whether it’s drugs, cutting, overeating, etc.  Jesus hates the sin and He wants to stop the negative tape inside that causes the sin.

When Jesus said these words, the accusers left one by one.  Finally, the only ones that were left were the woman and Jesus.  Then he said “ Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

 “No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Jesus doesn't condemn our method of coping.  All He wants to do is stop the negative “parasitical” tape that plays inside our head day after day after day.  Jesus knows that if we accept His love that is patient, kind, without envy, or boasting…love that is not proud or rude…love that KEEPS NO RECORD OF WRONGS, that we will be free.  Free from the urge to sin, the urge to self harm, the urge to “cope” because the negative tape will be replaced with a perfect love that can only come from Jesus Himself.


posted Mar 21, 2013, 8:15 AM by Susannah Francis   [ updated Mar 21, 2013, 11:18 PM ]

By Zachary T. Francis

Matthew 28 commands us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” But how do we reach people for Christ? In Haiti, it would be very difficult to preach the gospel as a woman if you were wearing shorts because Christian women in Haiti always wear skirts. In some parts of Africa, many preach the gospel by telling picture stories because that is what resonates with them. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 states the following:

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

So if I am a women going to Haiti, I need to make sure to wear skirts to church so they do not focus on what I am wearing. To the person in Africa that resonates with picture stories, I focus on those instead of reading five chapters of scripture. If I was a musician in America, I wouldn't go to a traditional non-denominational church that is used to hymns and start playing Christian heavy metal music. Not because Christian heavy metal is bad, but because the church would focus more on what I am playing than the words that are focused on Jesus. But what about people who struggle with self-harm? How do we help those people see the power that Jesus can do in their lives?

A few weeks ago, I heard a deeply respected pastor say “No Christian would self mutilate”. At a recent visit to a Christian youth center in Mississippi, I saw 50% of the kids raise their hands saying they have thought of cutting/burning/hitting themselves while none of the adults in the room, many of whom are teachers, had even heard of self-harm. I even have heard a story during my research on self-harm about a Christian counselor who told their patient that “God hates that they cut their body,” citing the Scripture about protecting the temple. Not once did this counselor, as far as I understand it, mention their inner pain.

I believe these kinds of things are happening because we are not following the Scripture in 1 Corinthians 9. To win those who are involved in self-harm, I become like those who self-harm. Now I don’t believe that means we start cutting ourselves, but I do think it means we try to understand what self-harm is; why people do it, what emotional pain they go through. How can we reach someone for Christ if we don’t understand the walls that are guarding their heart? How can we share the gospel if we don’t know how the person we preach to will receive it?

One of our passions with this film project is to form a network where Christians can understand about self-harm.  Because we believe, like the people who live in Haiti or Africa or the traditional non-demo national church, that everyone needs to be understood.  After all, in order to win people to the gospel we must learn what resonates with them. I believe that is what Paul is saying when he states “I become all things to all people so by all possible means I might save some.”


posted Jan 17, 2013, 8:40 AM by Susannah Francis

By Zachary T. Francis

When you think of someone who might cut themselves, who would you think…someone from an abusive home? Someone who is poor, grew up in violence? Here are a few profiles I found of people who self harm. 
  • I hold a high paying job as a lawyer for a pharmaceutical company. 
  • Grew up with wealthy family. 
  • I have a 4.2 GPA. But that doesn't mean that I don’t have pain. I am a varsity cheerleader and have been for four years and before that I was a junior high cheerleader for two years. In junior high I also played volleyball and track. I talk to everyone at school; I talk to the people of the town. There are people at my school that think they want to be me. Basically, I am one of the biggest role models for the younger kids in my town. I hate it. The pressure to do it is something that is so hard to cope with. So I started SI’ing. 
A highly-regarded treatment organization stated that a typical cutter is a white, middle class woman of above average intelligence who began cutting herself in adolescence. Surprised? When I started researching this subject, I was as well. But then again, why should I be?

Why do we assume that the high paid lawyer, the overachieving student, the kid that can afford to go to Harvard without a scholarship doesn't have problems? Don't we see Hollywood stars become drug addicts? Don't we teach that money can't buy happiness? Why then, do we assume that if someone is successful they wouldn't be going through something emotional? Can't someone who is a cheerleader, a football star, or a highly regarded surgeon deal with depression? Can't they have emotional stress that no one knows about?

One of the quotes above from a self-professed cutter, ends with "I am one of the biggest role models for the younger kids in my town. I hate it. The pressure to do it is something that is so hard to cope with."

I had a friend tell me a year ago that a pastor she really cared about is leaving the ministry. When I asked why, she told me it was because she was seeing so many sick people in the hospital, had so many people she was trying to help emotionally, that she started having health problems.

How many times do we feel like successful people are invincible? But those people need our love too! They need our compassion. The pastor at our local church is not just someone we can lay every burden on. He is a human being. The friend who seems to always be the best listener might have something on his/her heart that they need to share. The CEO of an ethical yet successful pharmaceutical company might have some inner pain that no one knows about.

1 Thessalonians 5 says to "encourage one another and build each other up." James 1 tells us that "everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry".

James 3 tells us that "the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark." But is not the reverse also true? Instead of saying negative things, what if our tongue was only "encouraging and building each other up". What if, instead of talking to these "successful" people with our own problems, we were "quick to listen and slow to speak". Perhaps we would then ask how the popular cheerleader, whose "friends" just talked about her looks behind her back, is doing. Maybe we could take dinner over to our local pastor after a week when he visited eight people in the hospital, had countless phone calls, and had to deal with numerous complaints from various members of his church body. We could even ask our friend who gets straight A's and has a scholarship to Harvard if there is anything they need prayer for at the moment.

Why do successful people cut? Perhaps it's because there not as successful as we think they are. And maybe, just maybe, God is calling us to show those individuals what agape love really means.


posted Dec 2, 2012, 1:00 PM by Susannah Francis

By Zachary T. Francis

As I was compiling my notes from previous interviews, online conversations, e-mail etc from the cutting projects, a few messages stuck out to me. 

You pushed me to this God. Where are you in this?

Elizabeth was very confused about God. Is this what he wanted for her? She prayed "God, stop Uncle Phil," but the abuse went on. Didn't God care about her? Was he powerless? Why didn't God answer her prayers?

If there was a god, how could god allow repeated and ongoing rape and abuse and torture of me and other children, murder, etc.

These are hard questions for any of us to answer. When Job lost his family, his income, and was covered with soles all over his body, his friends Eliphaz, Bilidad and Zophar were trying to figure out why bad things were happening to Job. “Who being innocent, has ever perished,” Eliphaz started. “Does God pervert justice?” Bilidad continued. “Surely he recognizes a deceitful man” Zophar added. In other words, the conclusion his friends came up with is that Job deserved this punishment somehow. But the truth is that none of them knew why Job was suffering and they were only coming up with the best conclusion they knew. For Bilidad, Eliphaz and Zophar, they were trying to help Job by giving advice when in reality they were making Job feel worse.

Why does God allow my abuse?

Like Eliphaz, Bilidad, and Zophar with Job, is this a question we can answer effectively? And if not, how can we help?

My father died when I was 12, and one of the things I will always remember is who came to see me after he died. I remember my best friend Eli sitting next to me as we rode in the car towards the cemetery. He never said anything, but he was there. I remember my aunt taking me to see “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” In neither case did I remember words of wisdom. I never heard someone say something that answered questions like, “Why did my dad die so young?” or “Why would God need a carpenter?” (My dad was a carpenter and died in an accident at work).

From time-to-time I  have people come up to me and say, “I don’t know if I should go to ‘so and so’s’ funeral, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to help them.” Like a person being abused that asked tough questions like “how could God allow my abuse?”, they are stumped. And knowing my experience, I tell them “Just go. Being there is enough.”

What words of wisdom can we say when someone asks “How can God allow abuse?” It is true that God can reveal things in prayer…and praying is something super valuable…but there are times when actions will show God in more powerful ways then words.

There is a Casting Crowns song I like that goes along this same line. Here are the lyrics.

The love of her life is drifting away
They're losing the fight for another day
The life that she's known is falling apart
A fatherless home, a child's broken heart
You're holding her hand, you're straining for words
You trying to make - sense of it all
She's desperate for hope, darkness clouding her view
She's looking to you
Just love her like Jesus, carry her to Him
His yoke is easy, His burden is light
You don't need the answers to all of life's questions
Just know that He loves her and stay by her side
Love her like Jesus
Love her like Jesus

1 Corinthians 13 reads, “Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast.” If we sit with someone when they talk, if we ask someone how they are doing, if we are just there, does that not answer more questions about God then trying to give an answer.

When my dad died, I had my Bildad, Elpiaz,and Zophar types try to give answers. One said to my mom, “Well at least it wasn't one of your kids.” Another said, “You should appreciate the time you had with him.” One even told me a very puzzling, “Well, you’re the man of the house now” (I was only 12 years old).  These answers were given by people who meant well. But sometimes…just sitting with them…asking how they’re doing….and maybe giving them a hug might bring more revelation than any of these statements ever would.

This Christmas season try to think of someone in your life that needs to be loved like Jesus. After all, isn't love the reason Jesus came in the first place?


posted Oct 24, 2012, 9:13 PM by Susannah Francis   [ updated Oct 25, 2012, 10:45 AM ]

By Zachary T. Francis

When asked what background someone who self-harms comes from, one might imagine it's someone who is sexually or physically abused. Nightmarish images of late night yelling matches, things being thrown against the wall, and many horrendous things that I will not mention here come to mind. Though this is often the case, what about the family that doesn't show emotion? Consider the families that say things like "You're angry but you just won't admit it.", "You know what you did, stop lying!", "Quit being so sensitive!", and "You're just lazy!"

In James 3:3-6, it says, "when we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. "

In August, we were talking with a researcher from Cornell who stated that emotional abuse sticks much longer in the brain than physical abuse. I know from personal experience, as well as from other friends and family, that much of our lives are spent trying to stop the "tape" that is always playing in our heads. Small "insignificant" words said to us in our childhood, which in this case is our rudder, change the complete course of our lives aka: the ship. And sometimes drugs, sex, cutting, over-exercising are ways to stop that tape from least temporarily.

When my father died, I didn't remember very much, but I do remember who showed up. When my wife calls me during the day, I always remember if she tells me that she loves me. On the same line, I always remember when one of my friends told me that I would never be a good writer, when a classmate told me I was fat, and when a loved one told me that I was a “momma's boy”. These "words" caused me to not write for years, to be self-conscious about my appearance, and to be "careful" about what I told my mother (a momma's boy to me was a son that told his mother everything). Now I believe Christ can remove these strongholds, but I also believe that someone can learn to self punish by being told simple phrases like "cry baby", "fat", "oversensitive", "stupid", "selfish", and "lazy". James goes on to say that the tongue is a "restless evil, full of deadly poison".

There are many thoughts that most people who self harm do it in secret. So how can we help them if we don't know who they are? When Jesus saw a woman who was committing adultery he said "neither do I condemn you" before He stated to "go and sin no more." When we see someone who is so depressed that they stop looking for a job, maybe we can first start by asking how they are doing before we call them lazy. If we see someone who promised to quit drinking sneak another bottle of beer, perhaps we can tell them the truth in love before calling them a "drunk". Or when we see a friend miss another church choir practice, we might first ask "if everything is alright" before we jump to the accusing tone of "Why weren't you there?! Don't you know that we sing in front of the church in two weeks?!" Jesus states in Matthew 15:18 that "the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart."

We need to ask the Lord to give us a forgiving heart. Allow Him to change us so that we can look at people the way Jesus looks at them. To see them as a victim of a sinful world. If we look at people from that perspective, we may be able to combat the issue of self harm without even knowing it.


posted May 31, 2012, 4:52 PM by Susannah Francis   [ updated Mar 5, 2015, 5:56 PM ]

by Zachary T. Francis

I love prisms because they redirect light focusing all the beams in a different direction. Due to a principle called refraction, light slows down as it moves from the outside air into the glass of the prism. As a result, the light changes direction and comes out of the prism in a different spot than where it came in. I believe we struggle with seeing life through our own personal prism, of our emotions, upbringing, and even genetics coloring the way we view conversations, how we "see" the world, and even our behavior. When we see people who self harm, I believe we sometimes struggle at seeing them through a prism of fear. Let me give you some examples. 

  1. A mother is horrified after finding her daughter Sam lying in the kitchen floor after cutting up her arms with a steak knife. Seeing Sam bleeding all over the floor, her mother yells at her. Telling her "What are you trying to do. Kill yourself? You need to promise me you'll never do this again!" After that, her mom check's Sam's arms daily looking for new marks. Two years later, her mother gets a call from her best friend who tells her that she caught Sam in the bathroom taking a knife to her leg. Horrified and distressed, she calls a psychiatrist saying "I don't understand why she's trying to kill herself. I think that she's doing it for attention." Never in the two year span of her checking her daughter’s arms every day did she ask her daughter "How are you feeling?" or "Are you OK?" 

  2. Jack Morris goes out to the car to catch his wife Sarah before she goes to work only to find Sarah burning herself with a hot cigarette lighter. He quickly starts putting the pieces together. Her desire to wear long sleeve shirts in the summer, the strange bruises on her arms that Sarah keeps insisting is because she's clumsy, the scabs that seem to never heal. It hits Jack that he has dismissed these "life threatening" things for years. Realizing this in a flood and upset for her "life", Jack yells at his wife saying "What are you, crazy!?". Never in his rant, however, did Jack ask his wife "Are you feeling alright?" 

  3. Jane follows her best friend Joanne into the bathroom to find her throwing up again. Jane, who has seen Joanne do this before, is angry that Joanne seems to care so little about her life. To Jane, Joanne is already 20 lbs. underweight but still seems to think that "throwing up" is the way to make her look good. Jane has repeatedly tried to tell Joanne that she's skinny and very attractive, but it doesn't seem to have an effect on her best friend. So seeing her today hurting herself AGAIN, Jane tries a different approach. Jane begins to yell at Joanne saying "You're going to die you know. You keep this up, and you're going to die!" And to add affect she says "And don't come crying to me when you end up in the hospital because I won't be there. I've had it!!!" But after every episode, Jane has never asked Joanne "Are you doing okay? How is life at home?" 
What's going on here? Did this mother, husband, or best friend not care or even love the person they were trying to help? Or were their eyes colored by fear? In a prism, light moves in at one point but comes out in a new direction. If we see someone hurting themselves and we fear for their life, we begin to see their situation through that reality and it colors our behavior.

These thoughts came into my mind last week after a former self-injurer told me something profound. She said, “I resent the fact that I can't cut anymore. I resent it." This person goes on to explain that others can drink, eat, do drugs, you name it when they’re upset, but she can't cut because her coping mechanism is too "harmful." In her own words, this person states that "other people drink...why can't I cut? I understand, but I resent it."

If you hear other parts of the story, this woman will tell you that she never wanted to stop cutting on her own. This person only stopped because her family and friends wanted her to. This person is grateful for others wanting her to quit because "she wouldn't have wanted to stop on her own." That said, this woman kept repeating that same phrase, "I resent it. I still resent it."

If we tell an alcoholic, "If you don't stop drinking, I'm going to divorce you." will they stop drinking? If we communicate to our child, "If you don't stop doing heroin, I'm going to kick you out of the house" will that be enough motivation to quit? Even though our motivation is driven by a desire to see them safe, will that be enough to change their behavior?

There is a danger that many addicts have. When we stop one bad habit, we replace it with another. For instance, we quit smoking but we start overeating. We quit drinking and we take up over exercising. We stop cutting and we'll start becoming sexually promiscuous. But why would this happen? Why do addicts transfer one behavior to another? I spoke with a wonderful expert on this subject last week who stated that when you don't fix the cause of why a person is using the drugs, you will never get them to stop. Another words, you can't help someone without dealing with their inner pain.

There was something else that the former cutter said that has stuck with me. She had a Christian counselor tell her that God hates the fact that she cuts. At the time, I didn't know how to process this. But as I began to think about it, I thought, does God want us to cut ourselves? No. It says the body is the temple and we are supposed to take care of it. But 1 John 4:8 states that "Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love." So if "God is love", He would always see things through the prism of love. Furthermore, if God, who always sees things through the prism of love, saw a girl cut herself with a steak knife would he immediately be focused on the cutting and not hurting the "outer temple" or would He think "Boy, you must be going through some really bad stuff to want to cut yourself." Perhaps God might add, "what can I do to carry some of your burdens today?" Jesus even says in Matthew 11:29-30 to "Come to me, all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:30)

Why do we yell at our wife to stop burning herself before we ask if she’s OK? Why do we not hear our friends past when she is throwing up in the bathroom? Is it because we don’t love them? Or is it because we love them SO MUCH that we are afraid for them? 1 John 4:18 states "There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out all fear." I believe that when we force things out of fear, nothing will be solved. A dry alcoholic is still an alcoholic. A person who has switched from cutting to bulimia is still purging out their emotions and harming their body. If the emotions aren't healed, if the pain isn't remedied, if the trauma isn't faced, it doesn't matter how something looks on the outside. In the end, nothing has changed. But when we look at things through a prism of love, real change can happen because we are looking at the why and not the what. Why are they cutting? Why are they burning? Why are they bulimic? We cast out all fear, deal with things through the prism of love….look at the person and not their action. And let the power of grace heal the individual.


posted Apr 27, 2012, 12:51 PM by Susannah Francis   [ updated Apr 27, 2012, 12:51 PM ]

By Zachary T. Francis

This is a summary of a YouTube quote from someone who cuts. But I think this could apply to drugs or anything.

"How long do you have to stay sober?" My initial response is “for the rest of my life.” This causes me to have a panic attack. But if I think about it, though, I correct myself. After I do this, if I am asked "How long do I have to stay sober?" I say, " It’s just for today. All I have to worry about is today. Today I’m doing good.”

Luke 9:23 says, "whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." Why daily? Why shouldn't we say "I can't use heroin for the rest of my life?" Or "today I will stop gambling forever!" Why is it said to make a daily choice? Maybe forever is too overwhelming...too easy to let the accuser in.

When I was angry all the time, my girlfriend (who is now my wife) approached me about it. I told her, "I can't promise that I will be different tomorrow, but I will do everything in my power to improve every day." Improving every day, taking things one day at a time. Is that how we run in a way to seek the prize?

I know someone who went back to prison because he made one mistake on his fifth year of probation. Five years of behaving and he slips. Would God see things that way? And if he does, than why did he send his son to live among us? To be without sin? To die on the cross and cover our sins with his blood? What power is there in grace if we are already righteous? When we make mistakes and look at life as an all nothing process, we will fail.

Take dieting for instance. Say you’re tired of gaining weight. You tell yourself, I will never eat chocolate again! You're good every day, and then one day a friend buys you your favorite candy bar. It wasn't malicious...they may not know or remember you're on a non-sugar diet. But you eat it. And what happens? You go on a chocolate binge, eating every piece of chocolate in sight. You failed. But what happens if you say, “I slipped today, but I'm not a failure. I make mistakes. I will try again tomorrow.” For me, this is why the phrase "there is no one righteous, not even one" is so freeing to me. There is no one who fails to make a mistake. We all slip up. None of us are perfect.

So if that is the case, do we just throw in the towel and forget to abstain for alcohol, cutting, dieting, shoplifting? Of course not. But we do take it one day at a time. We do take up our cross daily. Daily. Every day we get up. And if we slip...if we slice our arms up...if we smoke another joint...if we get wasted and drive our car home....if we steal another CD, have we failed? Yes! But all of us do from time to time. We just need to get up the next day and try again. And before you know it, weeks...months go by and the Lord has delivered us. Day by day...week by week...month by month.; every day getting easier to abstain from hurting ourselves. Every day working through our negative thoughts, working to believe the truth...the way God sees us. When we slip, we get up again. The first year, we may slip 10 times....the next...eight. Five years down the road, we don't remember the last time we slipped. That's how we win the race. That's how we are delivered. That's how the power of grace can work in our lives.


posted Apr 12, 2012, 8:41 AM by Susannah Francis   [ updated Apr 12, 2012, 8:47 AM ]

By Zachary T. Francis

I get so frustrated in our ministry because people I love don't get it sometimes. Some assume that when we perform productions we are not ministering because the "arts are just fun". When we go to other churches, some people assume at our home church that we are not going to church so they'll say phrases like "missed you on church last Sunday." Sometimes people are genuine. They really did miss us. But there are other times when they're concerned for us because they didn't see us in church and assume we are not serving God elsewhere. And sometimes it's not the kind of people you would expect. Sometimes Godly people, people we respect will not support us, ask about our ministry, think we are not going to church, serving the Lord. Why does this happen? And then....I find myself doing it too.

"What?" you said. You find yourself doing it too? Yes. That's what I said. There was an addict of whose family I interviewed for this film project over the last year. And after interviewing them I made some assumptions about the person. Thought they were hypocritical, that they didn't know God very well...that they had turned their back on God because they had slipped a few times after being "healed". I assumed these things because they were trying to help others even though they still struggled with their addiction. (They were still doing the action they told others not to do) I assumed that they were telling others "Don't do this. I was healed from it" and then went off and did what they just told others not to do. I'm thinking to myself “They shouldn't be talking to others about addiction when they are still struggling with that addiction in secret.” Keep in mind I never talked with the addict, only their family. All the same, I'm assuming they're not telling anyone, that they’re keeping their continued addiction a secret while trying to help others become clean.

But then I started looking at things this person has done. I started reading things this person has written; how they have credited God. I also see how they have admitted multiple times they have slipped, that they’re human, that they need the power of Grace. I was moved by the transparency in this person's conversation. Then God tells me in the Spirit “This is the same thing that Godly people think of you when you are not doing ministry. They are drawing conclusions based on limited information.” This is why it says in Matthew 7 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged". God is the ultimate judge because only HE knows everything that is going on. Only HE knows the heart!

I was reading a book of addiction that really challenged my thinking. There is an addiction counselor in this book that destroyed his practice because he went back to Heroin. I think “He should never be an addiction counselor again.” But in this book, he is a counselor again. And I think “That's silly! Why would they ever make someone a counselor again that destroyed his practice because he fell off the wagon!”…forget the fact that many have gotten off of drugs due to his counseling.

And here's the kicker. I believe this is why it also says in James 3, "the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark". When we think something, we need to be very careful what we say. Have you ever gone to someone and said, "We need to pray about this" and then reveal what needs prayer? Why do we need to reveal it? Can't that be gossip? Or slander? What if were wrong with what we say? Scripture says that "fires" can start from the tongue 'giving a small spark'. Can our unknowingly judgmental heart start a fire if we reveal what we are praying about? Sure. And why? Because we don't know the whole story, and we could be judging that situation. Does it need prayer? Absolutely if it's on your heart! But what if what's on our heart is also tainted with judgment. It is said that one sign of forgiveness is not telling other people how a person wronged us. And why? Because it hurts that other person...makes them look bad...and many times we intend for it to make that person look bad. We're trying to say "Isn't that person awful because they did that! And I'm the better person right?!" But none of us are better. We have ALL fallen short of the glory of God. All of us have gone astray. There is no one who is righteous. Not one!

When you can't understand why people accuse you of things when you are doing ministry and people think you are avoiding God, try to look at your own heart. Check your own motives. You can't control them, but you can control yourself. It says further on in Matthew 7 this:

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, "Let me take the speck out of your eye," when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 

We can't control what others think of us, but WE CAN control how we think of others. When we hear stories, be careful what we receive. Listen...but be cautious not to draw conclusions. If someone is addicted to drugs and robs a house, be careful not to think of them as a bad person. When someone cuts themselves repeatedly after treatment, be careful not to believe they haven't changed at all. When someone slips and looks at pornography after having a sex addiction for years, be careful not to call them a hypocrite when you see them trying to help others get out of sex addiction. Like someone I listened to said today: We're human and were all fallible. All we need to do is love. And love is patient, kind, it does not envy or boast. It is not proud or rude. And most importantly IT KEEPS NO RECORD OF WRONGS. It always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. I am going to try to look at people with the glass half full this week, not half empty. And see what they can be, not what they are!


posted Mar 30, 2012, 2:53 PM by Susannah Francis   [ updated Mar 30, 2012, 2:53 PM ]

By Zachary T. Francis

Wealthy people addicted to shoplifting (also known as boosting, five finger discount, or shrinkage within the retail industry) have been documented for over 200 years. Celebrities include Jane Austin's wealthy aunt (arrested in 1799 for stealing a piece of lace) and wealthy New York City philanthropist Elizabeth Phelps (arrested for stealing a small package of candy 70 years later). More recently, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Mike Leake was caught stealing $59 worth of apparel from Macy's. Just $59! And let's not forget the recent Winona Ryder who in 2001 was arrested for stealing $5500 worth of designer clothes.

The other day I read a story where a shoplifting addict was asked why she did it. She responded that it was exciting to see what you can get away with. She was addicted to the rush...the unknown...the fear of getting arrested. Now I'm not talking about people who shoplift to get money for drugs, alcohol, etc. This person was a middle class female who can afford what she is stealing. She is actually addicted to shoplifting. I started thinking, I wonder if people who struggle with shoplifting might also struggle with gambling because it seems like the same type of addiction. Here's how my brain went. Isn't getting 1,000,000 for $10 put in a slot machine done for similar reasons as getting two $50 dresses for the price of one through shoplifting? After all, don't they both involve adrenaline rushes with one being "what if you win" and the other "what if you get caught”? And then I got to thinking, could other adrenaline rush things such as watching sports, a TV show like 24, stock trading, and over-exercising be caused by the same addiction? Of course, not everyone is addicted to those things, but for certain people, could any of those things be addicting? After all, don't all of those cause the same adrenaline rush?

As I was telling you the other day, I was addicted to watching the Pacers for a period of time. This would not be considered an addiction by many, but a passion. "I love sports." "I'm a number 1 fan", etc. etc. etc. People love to say phrases like "my husband is obsessed with football" or "all she wants to do is go to the store and shop, shop, shop". Could that be, for some people, just another form of addiction especially when that "hobby" takes away from God, your marriage and/or your children? If you don't know me, I AM VERY ADDICTED TO GAMBLING. One time I withdrew money from my account that wasn't there. This was because I was on a gambling island (yes an island). They sail you there and then you come back in four hours. All that is there on the island are slot machines, card tables and an ATM) When I ran out of money, I saw the ATM glistening in the sun...calling my name. Even with the $5.00 withdraw fee, it was calling my name. I had already spent the money earlier that weekend, but I suspected that since it was a Sunday the amount wouldn't have gone out of my account yet. So when I withdrew money, it was almost like I was gambling as well. Will I get money out? Will I not get money out? Forget the fact that I will bounce my account tomorrow and receive a $39 late fee, I'm wanting the rush now! And I got money out! Score! And then I went and spent that $20 and won $40! Double score!!! Of course, I gambled that $40 away and came back with nothing. No I didn't come back with nothing, I came back with a $39 deficit. My wife always told me that when I gamble, my pupils get really big! Just like a drug addict!!!

Now let’s go back to what I said about the Pacers. I was mentioning that watching them was an escape. But what was addicting about it? Well I get excited about the score. If they are 20 points down, “will they come back”? If they do, adrenaline rush. Near the end of the game, if it's close, “will we win”? The unknown is an adrenaline rush. Then I start looking online, “if we trade for this player, will we win more” (thinking about the possibilities even now gives me an adrenaline rush). Gambling was addicting because it was the unknown. If I put a quarter in, will I get a million dollars? If I watch Game 4 vs. the Lakers and the Pacers win, the series will be at 2-2 and they have a better chance to get the NBA title. Will they win? Who knows! But when it's close I get an adrenaline rush because it is the unknown! I am addicted to the "what if" game. The unknown, just like shoplifters. "Will I get away with stealing this?" For me, unknown = adrenaline rush.

There are other things I can't do too often. EBay and Priceline. Why? Adrenaline rush. Will I get this hotel if I bid on it? Will I get this item on EBay if I bid on it. Forget the fact that I can afford it or if I even need it. The question is, “will I win? Will I get it? Will my team win? Will I win a million dollars at the casino? Will I get this shirt for free if I purchase two others and hide this one in my bag?” It's all a rush. The shoplifter I spoke about previously gets more excited with more security. Why? Because it's a challenge. If a store says they have increased security and "there is no way you can get away with stealing", this woman responds with "Oh yeah, watch me!" It becomes a even higher adrenaline rush!

So I guess what I'm trying to say is addiction is a lot bigger than I even thought it was. I believe it goes very well into how one sin leads to a second sin which leads to bigger sins. (What I talked about the other day.) I absolutely love the song "Slow Fade" by Casting Crowns. I believe addiction is like a slow fade. It is a slow fade when you give yourself away. It is a slow fade when black and white turn to grey. When thoughts invade and choices are made. Yes, when you move down those slippery slopes where other things get more important than Jesus, it definitely becomes a very slow fade!

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