About tonyroberts

I am a man with an unquiet mind who delights in the One who delights in me.

Mental Illness: Explanation or Excuse

This is not something I want to write. It's something I feel compelled to write. First, an explanation. Mental illness is a serious problem, both for those of us who have it and for our loved ones impacted by it. It is a also a major societal issue. How we care for those who are most vulnerable is a reflection of who we are and what we believe. If we let "the least of these" fall through the cracks, we will be judged by our consciences and by our faith convictions. God does not look lightly at those abusing His children. Mental illness is a medical condition stemming from faulty brain chemistry which current medical science can treat, but not cure. My own bipolar disorder is considered a serious mental illness (SMI). SMIs are disabling conditions that are chronic. You can't just take a pill and make them go [...]

Mental Illness: Explanation or Excuse 2017-10-19T14:49:19+00:00

God’s Crazy Love

In "Facing Mental Illness with Faith," (Huffington Post, 4/21/2016), Rob Lee writes this: How odd of God to call a mentally ill person to Christian ministry, but maybe God is a little crazy. Actually, God must be crazy, how odd of God to call humanity to be better and more in tune with God’s self. But God being crazy is precisely what makes God identifiable to some. God is just crazy enough to be real, and frankly some of us need a crazy God to keep us sane. Some of us facing mental health issues need to roll away the stone of mental illness and claim the resurrecting power of vulnerability and authenticity. How crazy is that? Some would say scandalous, maybe even heretical or blasphemous. God? Crazy? Perish the thought! But wait. Let's look deeper. God created ordinary people through whom He could do extraordinary things. Unlike human [...]

God’s Crazy Love 2017-10-12T00:20:24+00:00

How We Talk When We Talk About Faith and Mental Illness

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” ― George Orwell, 1984 "... speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ." (Ephesians 4.13) Language can build up. It can also tear down. Language can reveal truth or it can perpetuate lies. An inspired Word creates the world. A death-dealing sentence can go a long way to destroying it. When I studied for ministry, I became keenly aware of how language impacts people.  It was 1989, the year the  New Revised Standard Version of the Bible came out. This version, among other things, changed the male pronouns referring to humanity to more gender-neutral ones. It was quite awkward for me at first, but I got used to it and the more I studied the original languages and the evolution of the English language, I could appreciate why the changes were made. Yet, there are other [...]

How We Talk When We Talk About Faith and Mental Illness 2017-10-10T12:37:27+00:00

Does Mental Illness Lead to Violence?

I read a news story today about the mass killings in Las Vegas. The report said the killer had no known political or religious affiliation, and there was "no history of a psychological diagnosis." On the one hand, I can appreciate why such a point be made. There have been many high-profile cases of violent events involving persons with mental illness who were not under proper treatment. I know first hand how psychotic episodes can escalate to aggressive behavior. This is one crucial factor contributing to the need for better mental health care. On the other hand, reporting on a condition that has not been confirmed is a misleading, irresponsible practice that perpetuates social stigma toward those who do have a diagnosis. Can you imagine an article that read, "the killer is not known to have diabetes," or "leukemia," or "herpes." Mental illness is a medical condition, not a [...]

Does Mental Illness Lead to Violence? 2017-10-06T14:59:30+00:00

Christians Under Treatment

A couple of weeks ago I spoke to a group of nursing students about my life with faith and mental illness. I shared stories about having episodes, working through mental disorder, receiving support from friends and family. At the end of the session, one student asked a very thoughtful question: "Has your faith influenced your choice of mental health care providers?" I thought, what a great question! One I have given much thought to and never been able to talk about it in a group of this kind. When I talk to many of my Christian friends who are in need of professional mental health care, they are often reluctant to pursue it. In large part, because they want to find providers who share their faith, their worldview. I can appreciate their hesitation. When it comes to something as crucial to our identity as our minds, we don't want [...]

Christians Under Treatment 2017-10-02T20:27:44+00:00

The Spiritual & Emotional Benefits of Forgiveness

In my mental health support group this week, we discussed forgiveness. It was a very intense discussion that was both personal and revealing. I can't stop thinking about it. Who have I forgiven? Who has forgiven me? Who have I yet to forgive? Who has not shared forgiveness with me? I've been doing a lot of self-reflection, which sometimes leads me to excessive self-regret. So, I thought it would be good to turn to a few friends to help me compose this post. I'll fashion this as a dialogue, though it was actually a series of three Facebook message threads. +     +     + Me: Hello, Kim. What do you see as the distinction between forgiving and forgetting? Kim: Forgiving is choosing to let go of a sin/trespass against oneself while forgetting is choosing to never remember again a sin/ trespass against oneself. .. to never [...]

The Spiritual & Emotional Benefits of Forgiveness 2017-09-28T10:30:24+00:00

When the Spirit Breaks Loose

Last night I went to church not knowing what to expect. You never know what to expect with the Holy Spirit. Whenever two or three are gathered together in Christ's name -- WATCH OUT. Something is bound to happen. Last night in the midst of a service performed every Sunday night at the same time, in the same place, with essentially the same people, a miracle broke out. A miracle of understanding and compassion. About four years ago, I began attending the Columbus Reformed Presbyterian Church (CRPC). I was immediately drawn to the Psalm singing. Each of the 150 Psalms are set to simple (and often familiar) tunes and a song leader directs us through them acappella. The service was thoroughly steeped in Scripture, including a sermon that was well researched and thoughtfully presented. The prayers were heart-felt, not so emotional as to be manipulative. As I was leaving the [...]

When the Spirit Breaks Loose 2017-09-25T17:23:00+00:00

Nurse Ratched Now

{from Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest} [Nurse Ratched] reached in the basket for the log book. "Must we go over past history?" That triggered something, some acoustic device in the walls, rigged to turn on at just the sound of those words coming from her mouth. The Acutes stiffened. Their mouths opened in unison. Her sweeping eyes stopped on the first man along the wall. His mouth worked. "I robbed a cash register in a service station." She moved to the next man. "I tried to take my little sister to bed." Her eyes clicked to the next man; each one jumped like a shooting-gallery target. "I—one time—wanted to take my brother to bed." "I killed my cat when I was six. Oh, God forgive me, I stoned her to death and said my neighbor did it." "I lied about trying. I did take my sister!" [...]

Nurse Ratched Now 2017-09-25T17:22:35+00:00

Good Boundaries

{excerpt from Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission} "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;  surely I have a delightful inheritance." (Psalm 16.6) One thing I have experienced in the time I've spent at psychiatric hospitals is that there are many rules. Rules about toiletries, belt buckles, shoes with strings, and other personal effects. Rules about visits and contact with others. Rules about schedules -- time to sleep and meet and eat and rest. Since I am one who generally functions best with good, clear boundaries, these rules haven't bothered me so much. I've benefited quite well from them and have come to appreciate their value. There's a part of us all, though, that constantly tries to get around the rules. Like the man who found a staff person willing to bring him Starbuck's coffee (for a steep tip, no doubt) to replace the lukewarm dishwater [...]

Good Boundaries 2017-09-18T13:15:51+00:00

Mad Intensities: What Makes Us Laugh

“It's not all bad. Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing—they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.” ― Stephen Fry, Moab Is My Washpot Fry here captures the truth that demonic mental spirits can be redeemed and turn into angels. Self-consciousness turns us yet leads us to activities of the mind.. language, literature. Apartness, an inability to join in, leads us to appreciate the absurdity of what is deemed "normal." Shame and self-loathing turn to laughter and mad intensities when we are blessed to not take ourselves so seriously. Many of the best comics who have ever been, are touched with a sort of genius notched up to mad proportions. Robin Williams was the best of my generation. He was never [...]

Mad Intensities: What Makes Us Laugh 2017-09-13T22:07:12+00:00