About tonyroberts

I am a man of faith who delights in the One who delights in me.

Enemies Sprouting Like Mushrooms

In The Message, Eugene Peterson calls Psalm 3 – “A David Psalm, when he escaped for his life from Absalom, his Son.” The words that follow reveal a hunted poet king, surrounded and scared. God! Look! Enemies past counting! Enemies sprouting like mushrooms, Mobs of them all around me, roaring their mockery: “Hah! No help for him from God!” (vv. 1-2) David sees no escape from sure defeat, certain death. This does not keep him from crying out to God – in fact, it motivates him all the more to do so. He lifts up to God the torturing taunts of his enemies and then reminds himself just Who it is he’s talking to – But you, God, shield me on all sides; You ground my feet, you lift my head high; With all my might I shout up to God; His answers thunder from the holy mountain. (vv. 3-4) [...]

Examining Medical Science; Observing Faith Practice

Last week, I published an early version of this on Medium, under the title, "Practicing Medicine Observing Faith." This post will be like the two-week check-up I got from the Mobile Crisis Line to see that I am safe and progressing well.  [Note: The italics are from last week's post. The regular print is this week's update]. I spent last weekend in an Emergency Observation Bed (EOB) of a local hospital. I was allowed to wear my sweats and slippers (I came prepared), as well as read my Bible and write in my cloth-bound journal.  Note to self: Get a sturdy pocket sized Bible instead of my 8-inch thick parallel one. One guy on the unit asked me if I was going to beat him up with it. What brought me there? I wasn’t exactly a threat to myself or to others, but I did feel I was on the verge [...]

Running from the bipolar that runs in me.

One of my readers recently  contacted me with a heart-wrenching life story. As much as I wanted her words to be unique to this one family, I was trapped by just how much they applied to me and so many other persons with bipolar disorder: "... my husband was diagnosed with bipolar four years ago, and was on medication. However, he decided to stop last summer (unbeknownst to anyone) and then, in the midst of a manic phase, left me and our family in November. He still professes Christ, but has filed for divorce and has accumulated $40,000 in debt. I have struggled with trusting him and anything he says, as you can imagine. Yet here, I see you are a man of faith, and some of the same issues have taken place in your life. As it stands now, this is in God's hands. God has been good [...]

The Grim Disbelief of Sylvia Plath

 Sylvia Plath doesn't reflect much on God in her early journals, but when she goes to provide child care for a Christian Science family, we see a developing theology which, though unorthodox, she articulates well.  She finds some common ground with Christian Science, in the value placed on the importance of thought (Mind).  But she differs in her perspective on the basis of this Mind. Now that I ponder over it, I do see a sudden neat edifice of logic, and I do agree with some of their generalizations in spite of the fact that I am philosophically at the other end of the pole, - a "matter worshiper". Yet, Plath is certainly more complex than a simple "Material Girl". I believe that there is a realm (abstractly, hypothetically, of course) of absolute fact.  Something IS.  And that, in our poor human lingo, would be the "truth". No sooner [...]

Van Gogh & Me: Pursuing Our Vocations

Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh is not only a fascinating art history, it is also the story of a spiritual quest by two brothers who love each other dearly. Van Gogh originally set out to follow in his father's footsteps as a pastor, but for reasons that are only somewhat revealed, it didn't work out.  During this period of preparation for ministry, Van Gogh describes a foreboding sense - These are really happy days I spend here, but still it is a happiness and quiet which I do not quite trust.  Man is not easily content: now he finds things too easy and then again he is not contented enough. Though not terribly dissatisfied, Van Gogh senses something is missing.  Something is not quite right.  He wonders if this "dis-ease" could have a spiritual basis. There may be a time in life when one is tired of everything [...]

Disturbing Dreams; Delightful Days

Do not be wise in your own eyes;     fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body     and nourishment to your bones. (Proverbs 3:7-8) One night I had a dream. I was a pastor again, this time in a large church. People were praising me. Word was getting out about me. My reputation was spreading. My name and photo had even been placed on a Snickers bar. I was getting full of myself. I was heading for a fall. The dream was not far from the truth (except for the Snickers bar). There was a time when my ministry was celebrated, I was advancing in my career, and my name was recognized. I like to think I gave God the credit, but I fear all too often I didn't. Then, I fell. Hard. In my case, my mental illness got the best of me. This [...]

A Beautiful, Brilliant, Unquiet Mind

         When I first received my bipolar diagnosis, the picture painted for me of my future was rather bleak.  The staff at the psychiatric hospital explained that I would likely not be able to continue in ministry.  I would go on disability, have repeated hospitalizations and the chances of remaining in my marriage were slim to none.           My psychiatrist, however, offered a ray of hope.  He recommended a memoir that had just been published by one of the most world-renowned expert on bipolar disorder - Kay Redfield Jamison.  In Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness, Jamison beautifully describes her own life-long struggle and brilliantly depicts the love-hate relationship many folks with Bipolar have with their illness.  She defines what she prefers to call "Manic-depression" ...a disease that both kills and gives life.  Fire, by its nature, both creates and destroys.  "The force that through the green fuse drives the flower," [...]

A Faithful Response For Falling Soldiers

Attitudes toward military conflict vary widely within the Christian community. Some are strict Pacifists. They take literally the words of Jesus, "Thou shalt not kill.," even in the context of self-defense. I have heard some say, "I will die for my faith, but I won't kill for it." Others are militaristic. They believe it is right, even necessary, to declare and carry out war when there is a just cause, such as fighting "for democracy," or "against terror." Many find themselves somewhere in between, searching for divine answers in an ungodly world. Wherever we find ourselves in the spectrum of beliefs about war, our faithful response is to recognize and honor those who lay down their lives for a cause greater than themselves. ("Sam Stone," by John Prine) Sam Stone came home, To the wife and family After serving in the conflict overseas. And the time that [...]

A Mixed Response to “Mixing Ministry with Mental Illness”

Over this past weekend, I posted a piece ("Mixing Ministry with Mental Illness") on a Facebook page for mental health advocates. I posed the question, "I am a former pastor who has wrestled for over 20 years with bipolar 1. Here is part of my story. I would love to hear from you on how faith has impacted your mental illness, or, how mental illness has impacted your faith." The responses were very thoughtful and uplifting: "The only way I became as stable as I'm proud to say I am today is because of the right meds, a good therapist & learning to have a deep intimate relationship with Jesus. Of these three things I believe my faith is the strongest saving grace for me." "I pray that more people with understanding of mental illness will enter the ministry on their behalf. I watched my son pray for and [...]

Thus Sayeth the Lord: How Can I Hear God’s True Voice?

Sharon Rawlette, one of my regular readers posed a fascinating question that has inspired this post. In essence, she asks, how can we discriminate between “true” voice of God from “false”ones? This question gets to the heart of how God speaks to us as well as how the Enemy tries to keep us from hearing. First, look at what it says in Hebrews: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed to be heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2) Jesus is the Word of God spoken at creation, made flesh in his miraculous birth, demonstrated in his compassionate ministry, redeemed in his sacrificial death, enlivened by his resurrection, and delegated to the Holy Spirit after Christ's ascension. [...]