Mixing Ministry with Mental Illness

How could I serve in ministry with a serious mental illness? How could someone riding manic highs dipping to deadly lows promote stable growth for a congregation? How could I faithfully hear God's voice in the midst of competing voices within and around me? These questions stir my mind and stab my heart.   My mind says yes -- I served as a minister with bipolar for almost two decades, a good dozen of which were quite fruitful. My heart grieves that my illness progressed such that, in 2009, I stepped away from pastoral ministry for health reasons. The story I want to share here is not what led to my decline but what, by the grace of God and with the help of the church, has allowed me to serve in ministry with a serious mental illness.   Persistent Prayer Partners I fell into the pit of psychological despair [...]

Mixing Ministry with Mental Illness2019-03-10T21:18:29-04:00

Readers Write: Testimonies to Delight in Disorder

My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. (Psalm 119:50) "Easy reading is damn hard writing." ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne. Someone once said, "I don't enjoy writing. I enjoy having written." My experience is far from this. I delight in writing. Many times in my life it has been the sole thing to keep me sane. As I write, the voices within and around me are orchestrated through my fingers, inspired by the Spirit, and guided by the Scriptures. My writing is by no means God's Word. It is one saintly sinner's attempt to say something that gives glory to God and uplifts God's people. I've been struggling to write this week. Daily devotions. Encouraging emails. Blog posts. Nothing is coming to me and it is terribly frustrating. Often when I have struggled in the past, I draw from current experience. What have I found joyful? What [...]

Readers Write: Testimonies to Delight in Disorder2019-03-03T20:09:31-04:00

Meet Rev. Tony Roberts, Faith & Mental Health Advocate

On January 7, 2019, I was introduced to the staff at St. Peter's Lutheran (Columbus, IN) as their new Faith & Mental Health Advocate. This position is both an extension of what I do with Delight in Disorder ministries, and a big step forward for St. Peter's. I believe God will bless us both and others as we work together. Why is such a position needed? In spite of perceived improvements in the mental health care system, we still have a long way to go. St. Peter's already has a staff of quality, trained counselors responding with Christian care to the needs of many with emotional, relational, and behavioral issues. Pastors, principals, teachers, a social worker, support staff, and volunteers work hard to better understand those impacted by a mental illness. My role will not be to replace any of them, but to enhance what they are already doing with insights [...]

Meet Rev. Tony Roberts, Faith & Mental Health Advocate2019-01-09T20:47:33-04:00

12 Blessings in 2018: Featured Posts to Encourage and Inspire

2018 began with modest expectations. It is ending with endless possibilities. Along the way, God has blessed me with new new opportunities, new friends, a new life partner. I still experience chaotic mood swings that require diligent treatment such as medication and therapy; but with a caring network of family and friends and a strong connection to Christ's body, my sanity is maintained and I can contribute to the common good. Most particularly I offer friendly counsel to those like me who have troubled minds by sharing the inspiration of God's word and the encouraging Way of Christ. Now that the year is winding down, I thought it would be good to look back at the journey. Below I have 12 featured posts (one/month) with a brief excerpt. The titles contain a link to the posts. I hope you will review these and enjoy reading through the blessings of 2018. [...]

12 Blessings in 2018: Featured Posts to Encourage and Inspire2018-12-30T15:38:54-04:00

Honoring God by Loving Others

One of my faithful readers sent me some thoughtful questions. First -- How does one differentiate between experiencing emotional turmoil in their life, and experiencing mental health issues that may require additional aid? (Medicine, Therapy, etc) This points to a very difficult and sometimes controversial distinction in mental health care. Some people are sad by virtue of their circumstances. Time, while it may not remove the sadness, helps to heal. Others, however, have chronic depression that can incapacitate them for weeks, months, even years at a time. Some become anxious in social situations. With the help of proper relaxation techniques, they can face their fears and persist. Others have acute panic attacks that are often confused with heart conditions. Some persons are moody, experiencing highs and lows that seem beyond what is normal. Others have debilitating lows and dangerous highs. How can we determine who is in emotional turmoil and [...]

Honoring God by Loving Others2018-11-15T18:30:24-04:00

What If My Pastor Has a Mental Illness?

Last week, I invited readers to submit questions about faith and mental illness. My intent is not so much to give advice, as to share portions of my own story that could be helpful. One reader sent me a question about what to do when your pastor is displaying symptoms that could indicate a mental illness. After praying about it a good bit and revising draft after draft to sift out personal opinion, this is what I wrote: I began to exhibit symptoms of mania and depression when I entered pastoral ministry at the age of 26. I would thrust myself into work for hours upon hours, sometimes days and days. Then I would crash and get out of bed only for the bare essentials. I don't know precisely how this impacted my congregants because no one talked with me about it. I suspected they talked about me instead of [...]

What If My Pastor Has a Mental Illness?2018-10-28T15:23:10-04:00

Growing Delight in Disorder

One thing I have learned in my spiritual life is not only is it more blessed to give than to receive, but it is more rewarding. As a pastor, I observed many who came to church sporadically, made no effort to participate in service, and gave only a few small bills whenever the mood struck them. One common feature I consistently noticed in these folks is that their spiritual growth was stunted.  I saw first hand that those who withhold their time, talent, and money from kingdom work, isolated themselves from God's abundant grace experienced in generous community. I am no longer in pastoral ministry, but I see the same principle apply to my mission here at Delight in Disorder. Over the course of the last five years, I am reaching a growing number of persons impacted by mental illness. These folks need encouragement, support, and spiritual counsel. I have [...]

Growing Delight in Disorder2018-10-17T23:19:36-04:00

Get Your Personal Delight in Disorder

Since publishing my spiritual memoir, I have been blessed to see the many ways God has used it to reach the lives of those impacted by mental illness. At a library book signing the night it was released, over 100 were in attendance. As I shared some of my story and read portions of the book, expressions of recognition came over the faces in the crowd. In the Q & A section, one man said, I have lived with schizo-affective disorder for over 50 years and I've tried to keep it a secret. Thank you for showing me the value of sharing my story. Also at that gathering was a young Eric Riddle who, like me, has bipolar. Eric had recently been hospitalized and was looking for a way to put his life back together. We agreed to meet weekly for prayer and discernment and from this was conceived our [...]

Get Your Personal Delight in Disorder2018-10-15T15:21:42-04:00

Prophet for People with Mental Illness

True prophets speak the truth no matter what the cost. The Word of God burns inside them until they have no choice but to speak and to act. Through stories, dreams, visions, God speaks through prophets that others may hear and hold onto the promise or heed the warning. In the Bible, true prophets are a mixed breed. Some are royal advisers. Some are outlaws, opposing unjust rule. Some are simple farmers, or shepherds, like the prophet Amos. The credential for becoming a prophet is not wealth or intelligence or popularity. For each prophetic occasion, God hand-picks the prophet who will deliver the authentic message from God to the people. At times this was a message of hope, reminding the exiled community of God's covenant promise. This message was encouraging, uplifting words like: "Keep moving forward. God is with you." Other times it was a word of warning: "Change [...]

Prophet for People with Mental Illness2018-08-22T23:48:00-04:00

Careless or Carefree Speech?

With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. (James 3.9) Each time I sit down before a keyboard and stare at a blank screen, I say a quiet prayer that my words glorify God and encourage God's people. There is so much hate speech in the world today. I count it my ministry to say something not only truthful, but uplifting. Speak the truth in love, as Paul writes in Ephesians. When we do, we make a tremendous impact on those who hear us, many of whom have been beaten down for years with messages that they are no good, that what they do is not worthy, that they will never measure up, that they are not loved. I had a high school tennis coach who knew the power of encouraging speech. He knew next to [...]

Careless or Carefree Speech?2018-08-19T16:25:13-04:00