Ironic Iconoclasm: Healthy, Holy Humor

Some time ago, I was asked this question: In two words or less, how would you describe your sense of humor? The first two words that came to my mind were - "Ironic Iconoclasm". Then I wondered, "What does that mean?" This post is my effort to answer that question. First, irony comes in various forms.  I like how this on-line dictionary defines one aspect of irony - a pretense of ignorance and of willingness to learn from another assumed in order to make the other's false conceptions conspicuous by adroit questioning —called also Socratic irony. I've learned this form of irony not so much from the classic Greek philosopher Socrates as from my self-proclaimed Kentuckian father Veston.  When Dad wants to catch someone off-guard with a thought provoking question, he begins with - Now, I only have a sixth-grade education, so you'll have to help me understand this... Dad is actually [...]

Ironic Iconoclasm: Healthy, Holy Humor2018-09-03T20:55:08+00:00

Flight Risk

July 9, 2018, 6:30 a.m. Indianapolis airport... I sit in a cafe sipping mediocre coffee to cap off a $20 breakfast. It’s a price I’m willing to pay for the peace of mind to be at the gate several hours early to collect myself. December, 1983 to Kansas City... I become jazzed for Jesus at a New Year's Eve prayer party sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ. I return and discover all my possessions had been taken from my apartment. I spend the night at a local IHOP, witnessing to the waitress. For a tip, I leave two quarters and a tract, all I have left to give. March, 1988 to Boston... I visit a woman I met on a mission farm in Georgia. I spend the days reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X and the nights belittling her for being an upper-class liberal. October, 1992 to San Francisco... I travel [...]

Flight Risk2018-07-10T21:29:30+00:00

Revealing Voices: The First 10 Episodes

One of my social media friends, Cat Lyons, asked me if Revealing Voices is still running. It is. This faith-based, peer-led, story-driven, stigma-breaking podcast is now 10 episodes strong. All these episodes can be accessed through our website: Revealing Voices {dot} com.   Here you will find a diverse collection of voices from people on the front-lines of faith & mental illness. Nurses. Pastors. Writers. Activists. Therapists. Advocates, and others. For a taste, here are the episode titles (with links) and show notes. Episode 1: "Faithful Family": Jen Riddle (Eric's wife) & April Cohen (my sister) discuss what drew them into their spiritual and healing professions. April shares what it is like to care for an adult brother who has bipolar disorder, and Jen reveals how she and Eric navigate a relationship with a mental health diagnosis. Episode 2: "Amy Simpson is Unsatisfied": Amy is an author, speaker, and life & leadership [...]

Revealing Voices: The First 10 Episodes2018-07-09T01:59:09+00:00

A Close Encounter with a Combative Commentator

Some time ago my dad had his 8th vascular surgery in 6 years. I wrote this in my journal that day... The surgeon said it went as well as could be expected.  Dad is now awake and responsive. There is a palpable sense of peace permeating the air in this expansive waiting area. I'm here with other close family members,. We are sitting in solitary solidarity. All is well. All was not well two months prior the last time dad had surgery. We were shoehorned into a cubbyhole with what seemed like hoards of masses of thousands of other families. and clans and troops. Fox News was blaring over the airways. One man in camo jacket, tube socks and scuffed penny loafers did the commentary: On International Affairs: "Who cares if he has personal relations with the Russians? I say keep your friends close and your enemies closer." On Health [...]

A Close Encounter with a Combative Commentator2018-05-13T23:42:10+00:00

I Ain’t Got No Home

{This post was originally posted on May 20, 2017} Lately, I have felt an all-too familiar sense of exile. As a pastor, I moved around a good bit and was encouraged by my ministry supervisors not to put down roots. Now that I'm retired, divorced, and living on my own, it is easy to given in to the temptation to withdraw, to isolate myself, which leads to a vicious depressive cycle from which it's hard to escape. While it does not replace face-to-face contact, I appreciate the community I  have come to know through social media. Often, I read posts that give voice to my unexpressed feelings and help me feel less alone. The post "My Father's House,"  from Mama's Musings is a reflection on how mortality impacts our desire to "come home." Today has been a long and emotion filled day. I have spent time with two people close [...]

I Ain’t Got No Home2018-05-09T18:31:24+00:00

Prayers Answered: Sometimes Yes; Sometimes No; Sometimes Wait and See

At age 55, my father-in-law was diagnosed with an advanced stage of colon cancer. He received an aggressive round of chemotherapy. Inexplicably, he went into a coma. We recruited prayer warriors throughout the country. In just a few weeks, one of his medical interns happened to read a case study that perfectly fit my father-in-laws profile. They adapted his treatment. He returned to full function. He is now 85 and enjoying life to its fullest. Prayers answered, "Yes." Five years ago, my wife and I separated after 20 years of marriage. I desperately wanted to reconcile. I sought intensive counseling for over a year.  I met with church elders and deacons. I prayed. My family prayed. My friends prayed. My church prayed. After 5 years, it became clear marriage reconciliation would not happen and we got a divorce. Prayers answered, "No." I served in pastoral ministry for twenty years while [...]

Prayers Answered: Sometimes Yes; Sometimes No; Sometimes Wait and See2018-04-26T10:42:10+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 Pots2018-04-12T01:20:35+00:00

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 Mission2018-02-22T03:07:20+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 Mission2018-02-08T09:44:15+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 World2018-01-19T16:08:56+00:00