From Ministry through Madness to Mission

In March of 2014, I published my spiritual memoir, Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission. Having served in pastoral ministry and gone mad, it’s now my mission to bridge the gap between faith communities and the mental health world. The vocation I envisioned when I went to seminary hit a large pothole, needed a major adjustment, even an overhaul. But the journey did not end. It had been 25 years since I first became a pastor. I felt passionate about faith, was eager to lead the flock, and saw visions of big things ahead. My church was in a countryside village. The people were kind and generous. They encouraged me for my preaching skills even though I read from a manuscript. They were patient with my counseling even though I was still, “wet behind the ears.” They were particularly enthused about my growing family and expressed hope for evangelism by [...]

From Ministry through Madness to Mission 2018-02-22T03:07:20+00:00

Delight in Disorder: My Story, My Message, My Mission

My Story In 1995, I was a young, ambitious pastor serving a small village church.  One Sunday, I delivered a sermon on human illness and divine healing in which I shared these words: When we become ill, it is important to listen to our bodies and pray that God help us make necessary changes. Our ailments may be blessings in disguise. We may be expecting too much from ourselves, or avoiding things we need to face. As we listen to our bodies, talk and reflect with others, and pray together, we can gain spiritual insight which will help us live healthier, more productive, more abundant lives. The next day, I was in the seclusion room of a psychiatric hospital. I was told I had bipolar disorder, that I would never work as a pastor again, that my marriage would likely end, and that I would spend the rest of [...]

Delight in Disorder: My Story, My Message, My Mission 2018-02-08T09:44:15+00:00

All the Difference in the World

In 2008, my mental illness progressed to the point that I became unable to work in my profession. I had served as a pastor for over 20 years. It was more than just my job. It was my calling. My vocation. I did not work as a pastor; I was a pastor. I delivered God's Word week after week to help people, my people, see their stories in God's story. I led Bible studies at a local addiction treatment center, extending the hope of Christ's forgiveness for those ready for a new path in life. I prayed with wailing women as they sat beside their dying husbands. After I resigned from pastoral ministry, I didn't know what I would do. I tried many things. Weeding. Cleaning furnaces. Roofing. Volunteering at the VA. Building mini-barns. I had no idea what I was doing. I tried to stay busy, but I [...]

All the Difference in the World 2018-01-19T16:08:56+00:00

No One Cares About Crazy People: A Review

I hope you do not "enjoy" this book. I hope you are wounded by it; wounded as I have been in writing it. Ron Powers knows craziness inside and out. His book is part-expose, part-memoir. Not only does he unveil the atrocious way demoniacs/lunatics/maniacs/mentally ill have been abused throughout history, he also shares a very personal story about how mental illness has ravaged his family. Powers primarily examines schizophrenia, the mother of all mental illnesses. The most debilitating. The one most resistant to treatment. This is the illness Powers's sons Kevin & Dean have. But this diagnosis does not define them. They are creative, compassionate young men. Powers describes how his sons were moved by music and this passion for artistic expression gave them direction and purpose. But, as their minds gave way to the mental illness within, they would lose the capacity for anything coherently creative. Only chaos. [...]

No One Cares About Crazy People: A Review 2018-01-19T16:09:36+00:00

Giving Thanks for My Illness

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5.16-18) “While she might not have opted for this illness, neither does she entirely regret it; she prefers, as she writes so movingly, a life of passionate turbulence to one of tedious calm.” ― Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness. This Thanksgiving I am grateful for many things. I'll name five: Food to eat. A roof above my head. Family members who care for me. Faithful friends who make me laugh. And my mental illness. Yes, I am grateful for my mental illness. I have come to prefer the "passionate turbulence" of bipolar disorder to the "tedious calm" of being "normal". This is not to say I enjoy all aspects of my illness. Sometimes it is a pain in the ass. Sometimes [...]

Giving Thanks for My Illness 2017-11-24T14:48:35+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

The Highs and Lows of Homecoming

It's been over 35 years now since I graduated from high school. For the first time, I'm going to the class reunion. Why am I going now? Why haven't I come before? I didn't go for years because I believed there were certain expectations on my life and until I fulfilled them, I would be too ashamed to go back. I'm not sure what these expectations were, but they were more likely self-imposed and largely unattainable. Nothing so easily calculable as monetary success, world travel, beautiful family. I measured my worth by affecting a life-changing difference. Saving the world one hurting soul at a time. It took me 32 years and one "nervous breakdown" before I let this dream die. But, by God's grace, I didn't die with it. My life story doesn't end there. But I wasn't ready to reconcile who I was in high school with who [...]

The Highs and Lows of Homecoming 2017-08-31T23:50:10+00:00

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 Beautiful, Brilliant, Unquiet Mind 2017-06-12T17:29:05+00:00

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 [...]

A Mixed Response to “Mixing Ministry with Mental Illness” 2017-06-12T17:27:57+00:00