About tonyroberts

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

A Burning Fire; A Wisp of Smoke

Writing, then, was a substitute for myself: if you don't love me, love my writing & love me for my writing. It is also much more: a way of ordering and reordering the chaos of experience. ― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath I keep a daily journal of happenings in my life. Some of these things emerge in my public writing. Literary quotes. Character sketches. Story outlines. You will also find less assuming material in my journals. Financial profiles. Schedules. Contact information. To call these daily journals is generous at best. Sometimes weeks go by without a single entry. Then I'll go on a binge and nearly fill a book in a week. If my journal could speak in those gaps, it would cry out in anguish, wail in sorrow, moan in despair. But the pages are blank. Like my mind. Unborn words. Aborted sentences. Silent stories. Flannery O'Connor [...]

A Burning Fire; A Wisp of Smoke 2018-04-21T04:29:48+00:00

Good Work; God’s Work

In his book, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Work, Timothy Keller quotes Robert Bellah from Habits of the Heart.  Bellah observes that modern "expressive individualism" eats away at the cohesiveness that ties us together as a people and makes our work meaningful and productive.  Something more is needed.  He writes -  To make a real difference [there would have to be] a reappropriation of the idea of vocation or calling, a return in a new way to the idea of work as a contribution to the good of all and not merely as a means to one's own advancement. Reflecting on this, Keller identifies streams within the Christian Scriptures and particularly in his own Reformed Christian tradition.  One of these streams flows from Martin Luther.  Keller notes - The headwaters of Lutheran theology put special stress on the dignity of all work, observing that God cared for, fed, clothed, [...]

Good Work; God’s Work 2018-04-16T20:54:18+00:00

Cracked Pots

“… the jar he was making did not turn out as he hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.” (Jeremiah 18.4, NLT). Some months after I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I returned to work as a pastor. It was difficult at first, but with much prayerful support, our ministry became fruitful. People who had hidden mental health issues for fear of judgment, now confided in me and together we grew in grace, offering our whole selves in worship and outreach among those who sought healing for body, mind, and spirit. I was asked to serve as a mentor for students preparing for pastoral ministry. One weekend, they brought together mentors throughout the state for training on how to best equip persons for service in what can be a consuming career. Many topics were addressed: spiritual growth, emotional well-being, financial fitness, etc. During [...]

Cracked Pots 2018-04-12T01:20:35+00:00

The Physician Inside: 3 Steps to Better Self-Care

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? (1 Corinthians 6:19) As a competitive athlete, I diligently trained my body and "played through the pain," dismissing wounds I still face. As a student, I fiercely focused my mind on questions and concepts that helped me better understand who I am, but fell short of understanding how I fit in the world. As a pastor, I offered my best (and sometimes more) to meet people's needs, and became so obsessed with this, I ignored my own. Now, nearly 54, launching new vocational paths, I am eager to do so in a healthy manner. The key is not going to be grueling exercise that ignores the needs of my body. Not isolated intellectual pursuits that further remove me from the company of friends and family. Not self-less service [...]

The Physician Inside: 3 Steps to Better Self-Care 2018-04-10T03:07:14+00:00

The Bittersweet Blessing of Bipolar

“Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum. ― Vincent van Gogh; The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh Now that the human genome project can draw the DNA map of our bodies, gene therapy becomes an ever increasing reality. We can restructure our bodies and minds such that debilitating conditions could disappear. The question we now face is what goes and what stays? And, who decides? One of the persons who serves on the human genome project is Kay Redfield Jamison. Jamison has both a professional interest and a personal perspective in genetic mapping. First, she is a psychiatric researcher. She is certainly concerned about the tools medical science can use to alleviate unnecessary suffering. [...]

The Bittersweet Blessing of Bipolar 2018-04-05T03:54:37+00:00

A Dream Revisited

I have a dream. A nightmare, really. It goes something like this. I am at the peak of my pastoral career. In good health. Surrounded by loving family. Comfortable. Confident. Then something happens. I never know just what. Last night it started with a fever. I knew what was coming on, so I took deep breaths, murmured, growled, cried out. I woke up. But not really. Only enough to feel sure I was in a space other than the dream. Not enough to wake up. The dream goes deeper. I am in a hospital bed, bars on every side. Strapped down. An old black-robed woman hovers beside, whispering harsh words into my ears. Speaking to me in a secret tongue. I want to make her go away but I can't move. I breathe deep. Deeper. Until I can make a small sound. A whimper. A moan. Finally, a scream. It [...]

A Dream Revisited 2018-04-02T01:49:40+00:00

World Bipolar Day Meets Good Friday

March 30, 2018.  Good Friday. As a Christian, Good Friday is a day I celebrate the death of my Savior. Strange, huh? Said better, I celebrate the Way Jesus died for me and for the sins of the world. Good Friday reveals humanity at our worst -- betrayal, false arrest, phony trial, mob mentality, torture, execution. Yet Good Friday also demonstrates humanity as we were designed to be -- faithful, sacrificial, loving to the end.     March 30, 2018. World Bipolar Day recognizes the almost 6 million persons who live with this mental illness that can be both animating and debilitating. Persons with bipolar are often counting as some of the most creative, inspired, intellectual people past and present. But the ravages of the brain disease often lead to destructive behavior, even death.   Today I reflect on this special day for my faith and my mental health from [...]

World Bipolar Day Meets Good Friday 2018-03-30T01:47:17+00:00

Granny Told Me His Name: Lee Ann Leach

It was just about two weeks ago that I found out that others didn’t hear noises in their heads like I do. I have had them all my life. Normal sounds. A car door slamming. A bell ringing. A buzzing sound. Someone saying my name. A ping. This is just one symptom of my mental illness. Right from the start the nurses in the nursery in the hospital where I was born immediately noticed that I was the “most nervous baby” they all had ever seen. Alberta Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 1971. There was a great pouring out of the Spirit in the area at the time and there were revivals going on all over town. Embry Williams was preaching at a week night revival at Alberta Baptist Church. I don’t remember the sermon or what really happened that night, but I do know that I walked down and [...]

Granny Told Me His Name: Lee Ann Leach 2018-03-18T16:22:29+00:00

My Sister, My Psych Shepherd

This post was originally published on January 14, 2018; 6 months and 13 days from when I moved away from my self-destructive life alone, into the home of my sister and brother-in-law. I don't pay enough for room & board, so now and then I like to boost them up with a good story. Here is one of those. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. (Psalm 23.1-2 KJV) My family of origin was crazy. I mean crazy. I dealt with the craziness by retreating and became a psych patient myself. My sister responded with an urge to treat the problem and became a psych nurse. But my sister ("Karen") is much more than any psych nurse. Many of my friends who have mental illness have great respect for her. My [...]

My Sister, My Psych Shepherd 2018-03-18T16:15:26+00:00

Examining Medical Science; Observing Faith Practice

{Note: This post was first published in June of 2017. The events described convinced me I could no longer live alone without assistance. I'm publishing this today (March 18, 2018). Later this week, I'll share one that reflects how far I've come.} 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 of losing control. As I told my psychiatrist, I didn’t feel desperate, but [...]

Examining Medical Science; Observing Faith Practice 2018-03-18T16:24:33+00:00