Featured Guest Post and By My Dearest Friend Tony Roberts Who Shares Mental Health Topics Openly Thru Faith.

Featured Guest Post and By My Dearest Friend Tony Roberts Who Shares Mental Health Topics Openly Thru Faith.

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One of my big “flaws” is not being as open and transparent in sharing about my mental health issues and challenges like my dearest friend Author, Tony Roberts. And is why I enjoy sharing and having him often to eloquently share his experiences with his and how he approaches and moves through the bumps and challenges that many who deal with mental health can have.

The difference is, he is open and transparent, as I am still a bit shy in spilling all I go through with my challenges. However, I, like Tony both relie on a power greater to get us through … GOD and our FAITH.

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Feeling Burdened By or a Burden For?

 

Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

(Matthew 11.28-30)

 

I grew up in a country church where there was much talk of having burdens. Members, ministers, missionaries all spoke of having a burden for youth, drug addicts, Africa. Through their impassioned speech, the sweat on their brows, and the waving of their leather Bibles, they would stir up in us a burden to give — prayer, supplies, money.

What I got from this early spiritual teaching is that a burden is something God gives a person who then transfers this burden to others. It didn’t occur to me at the time that it had anything to do with a passion to work for Christ. Instead, it was more like a moral responsibility we had to meet to appease a god we could never please.

I’ve carried around many burdens in my life. Many have been anything but burdensome. They have been uplifting. Having a burden for basketball kept my body and mind in good shape to ward off physical and emotional attack. Having a burden for learning put me on an educational path that expanded my mind, giving me a greater understanding about the human condition. Having a burden for ministry built compassion in my soul for glorifying God and serving God’s people.

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But it seems that with every uplifting “burdened for..” there came a debilitating “burdened by…” A dreadful fear of defeat. A critical voice of failure. A demonic despair.

How do we let go of the earthly burdens that weigh us down so heavily and receive the load-bearing yoke of Christ?

Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart…”

Jesus invites us to join him in building the kingdom of God. How? Gently. Humbly. Passionately, sure. But not with a heavy burden that it’s all on our shoulders. It isn’t. It never is. If you think you are flying solo on God’s mission trip, you’d better check your flight instructions.

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Before I was diagnosed with bipolar, I was treated for depression. A family doctor tried out a new medication that had only just been FDA approved. It sent me into what my later psychiatrists called a medication-induced psychosis which had to be treated at a psychiatric hospital. But this medical explanation does little to describe what I went through. It was like this…

God had chosen me for a special mission. The signs were all there. Words spoken in prayer. Looks on faces. Sounds in the night. Everything pointed to this place they told me was a psych center but was, in fact, a safe haven. The staff there didn’t listen when I told them this absolutely logical explanation for why I needed a pass to get out and rescue God’s children from pending disaster. They offered me a sugar cookie instead.

Little did they know those sugar cookies were supercharged energy bars that would give me the strength to break through the security doors. Little did I know, they weren’t. And they didn’t.

Christ’s load-bearing yoke may lead us to face what seems like unbearable burdens, but as we move forward in faith, what looks like a weight too difficult to bear, suddenly becomes like. With Him. According to His Word. By His Spirit.

 
The exact opposite of supercharged bars that give us the strength to crash through security doors.

……

You are my strength, I sing praise to you;

you, God, are my fortress

my God on whom I can rely.  (Psalm 59.17)

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Please take some time to visit Tony’s uplifting and Inspirational website of “Delight In Disorder – Tony Roberts” for more amazing articles.


~Catherine Lyon, Author/Advocate 

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Sharing My Friend Tony Roberts and His Inspiring Blog and Website: “Delight In Disorder”…Org

Sharing My Friend Tony Roberts and His Inspiring Blog and Website: “Delight In Disorder”…Org

I always get “Delight” in having and sharing my dear friend, author, and advocate Tony Roberts and his informative blog at  “Delight In Disorder” all about Mental Health.

He shares just how he feels and experiences as he raises awareness about living with mental health challenges. Also, way more than I do. He has such a beautiful heart and is full of faith as well. So I happened to really enjoy a couple of his recent posts and I know many of you will too and benefit from. I am hoping you will take a little time to visit his blog and give both a “Finishing Read.” They both are excellent topics and we all know that reading is being “In The Know and Powerful.”

 

“Fresh Hope for Mental Health Interview” ~By Tony Roberts

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A few weeks back, I received an unexpected message from Pastor Brad Hoefs from Fresh Hope for Mental Health. Fresh Hope is a mental health ministry that reaches out with an uplifting Gospel message for those who are often cast down. Their mission is to “empower individuals to live a full and rich faith-filled life in spite of a mental health diagnosis.” Toward this end, they have developed curriculum for support groups around the country, they are producing webinars on such topics as “What I Wish My Pastor Knew About Mental Health,” and distribute a podcast that is one of the best of its kind.


Pastor Brad reached out to me to be a guest on this podcast. Below is the link to the program and the show notes:

In this edition of Fresh Hope for Mental Health, Pastor Brad interviews Pastor Tony Roberts.

Pastor Tony Roberts was born and raised in the Hoosier heartland just south of Indianapolis. He grew up worshiping high school basketball and once had the honor of playing in a televised “game of the week.”

Tony went to Hanover College. After many detours into sex, drugs, and more folk rock than roll, he wound up at the seminary and became a pastor. It was then that symptoms of depression and mania culminated in a psychotic episode that became pivotal in his life, for better and for worse.

After graduating from Hanover, Tony obtained a Master of Divinity degree from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. While there, he did ministry assignments at a state hospital for persons with developmental disabilities, as well as at a women’s prison, and inner-city hospital.

Tony served two decades as a solo pastor. He then shifted to writing, speaking, and leading small groups. In March of 2014, Tony published his spiritual memoir, Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission. Having served in pastoral ministry and gone mad, it’s now his mission to bridge the gap between faith communities and the mental health world.

Tony now live in Columbus, Indiana, with supportive family and faithful friends who keep me honest and encourage me to be who God created him to be. Tony’s greatest earthly delights are my four children and two grandchildren, with one more on the way.

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In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; 

in the morning I lay my requests before you 

     and wait expectantly. (Psalm 5:3)

 

 

Why I Don’t Go to Church

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46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2.46-47)

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, early Christians were on fire. They worshiped daily, shared meals bountifully, praised God delightfully, and built a reputation for loving each other and others with precious passion and compassion. They were filled with a spiritual fervor that knew no end.

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I have had such spiritual fervor. What has happened to my faith?

I went to church this morning, the first time in a long while. For various reasons, I have been absent from the pews much of the year. I have many excellent explanations, but no good excuses. My faith family has been patient with me. More than this, they persistently care in spite of it.

People still stay in touch, frequently send texts or emails not to badger me about coming to church, but to ask how I am doing, let me know that they are praying for me, and offer to help in any way they can. No pressure. No guilt. Just checking in with a brother in Christ to express love and concern. As one sincerely expressed, “We are more concerned with how you are than where you are on Sunday morning.”

As I sat in the pew today, I thought of brothers in Christ who make a difference in my faith.

Some time ago. I asked a brother, Sam S., to serve as my prayer partner. We meet every two weeks to do a Bible study book. We share casual concerns, deep joys, and requests for discernment. I have shared with Sam specific spiritual concerns and he is intent to pray for me, particularly over the weekend, that I might be motivated to come to worship in the fellowship of saints.

Sam is the song leader at our church. His deep melodious sound rings out and surrounds the sanctuary with ancient Psalms, the songs Jesus sang, set to classic church tunes. When my soul is most troubled, I sometimes remain in my pew as people stand and, instead of singing along, streams of tears will flow down my cheeks as I hide my face in my Psalter.

Then there is Gary M, an elder. When I first visited Columbus Reformed Presbyterian (CRPC), Gary was quick to introduce himself and invite me to a weekly fellowship called the Grub-In. We would meet at Gary and his wife Cynthia’s home for food, study, song, and prayer. It meant so much to me when I was going through a separation and divorce to have another faith family I could depend on to pick me up when I was down and set me straight when I veered off course.

Pastor Andy M. is an unassuming man with an abiding faith and a gentle spirit. I have consulted him on a variety of issues, from marriage and divorce, finances, writing. I consistently find him to have an informed Biblical perspective which he shares humbly in the Spirit of truth and love.

Lately, I’ve come to know and appreciate Roger G. for his quiet support and kind encouragement. This morning he shared with me that he enjoyed my recent post on writing. It is such a blessing to know Roger and other men and women of faith are out there, reading things like this, smiling in recognition as if to say, “I get that.”

So, what has become of my faith?

 

I refuse to believe it is God’s fault. I am not angry at God for letting me down in some way. It is not the fault of the church. By and large, pastors and people in the pews are no more hypocritical than persons in the world who accuse them to be. I can’t blame it on the many distractions or worries; my illness is an inadequate explanation at best; I have no unresolved sin conflict in my life that would prevent me from presenting myself before God with a clear conscience.

 

What is it? Why have I lost my fervor for fellowship? My drive to worship? My passion for praise? What has become of my faith?
Well, I hope you will stop by Tony’s Blog and read WHY and the rest of this post!

Catherine Lyon, Author, and Advocate

 

Why I Don’t Go to Church

 

“Love For The Unlovable” by Delight In Disorder…I Too Have Some Holiday Blues

I am happy to support my dear friend Author, Tony Roberts and his fundraising campaign to begin a new Mental Health Podcast as he needs our support and kindness in the form donations that come with perks! So I hope you will join me as they can be made here:  “Revealing Voices – The Mental Health Podcast”

 

 

And like Tony shares in his new post, this new one about to share, I too have had some “holiday blues and depression” the past few days. Is it because I just turned 55 the other day? It is just another little mental health cycle? I’m not sure, but knowing my buddy has too? makes me feel that I am not alone as Tony shares…

 

Overview of New Podcast Coming and You Can Help Make It Happen!

Several podcasts touch on mental health. Others bring up topics of faith. We offer a unique faith-based, peer-led perspective. This is a project that has been born out of our own need and a recognition of the needs of others. Revealing Voices will dig deep and share honest stories of ways faith and mental health care can work together to promote healing. We also offer humor. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. Like the Apostle Paul on lithium or Sigmund Freud at a weekend revival.  🙂

 

Many people with mental illness feel alienated from faith communities. Many faith communities fail to understand the value of mental health care. We have lived in both worlds and found both to promote healing. Prayer and pills. Worship and therapy. Bible study and support groups. Revealing Voices (the podcast and website) will build a community where people listen to and dialogue with others who have been impacted by mental illness and struggle with faith. We don’t pretend to have the answer, but we will raise your questions and share your prayers.

 

We need your financial support for the equipment needed to produce a quality podcast, including:

* MacBook Pro

* (2) Shure SM-58 microphones

* Cables, stands, accessories

* (2) Headsets

* Equipment for broadcasting phone calls

* Marketing to make a greater impact in a broader area.

* A portion of donations exceeding our goal will go to NAMI-Faith Net.

Studies show that at least 20% of the US population struggles with a mental health issue. Research also suggests that very few pastors and churches are equipped to address the needs of persons with mental illness. Your contribution will foster dialogue that offers hope for people who have troubled minds. Hope.  Compassion. With your gifts, you can invest in this vital mission. 

If you are not in a position to make a financial gift at this time, we get it. There are other valued ways you can support our mission:

* Pray. Prayer is not a magical panacea to manipulate giving. Yet, through prayer, needs are met.

* Share. Tell others about our project. We’d be delighted if you’d put it on your social media.

We want to express our gratitude for your support, so we are offering a wide variety of bonuses, from a “Making of Revealing Voices” audio recording to signed copies of Delight in Disorder and Watershed. Up to an opportunity to dialogue with us on the show. 

Our Revealing Voices campaign is going well. We have raised $700 towards our goal of $3,000 for pre-production equipment to launch our podcast in March. Based on our research and personal contacts, we firmly believe such a program will meet a great need in a unique way.

We will be perhaps the only faith-based, peer-led, story-driven mental health podcast on the net. On this Giving Tuesday, we hope that many who value our mission will contribute — through praying, sharing, and giving. Your support is much appreciated.  🙂

“LOVE 4 THE UNLOVABLE”

“I have been mired in a holiday depression. I texted a friend about it and we had this exchange”

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Friend: What do you think started the decline. Let’s break it down.

Me: Nostalgia over past holidays. They were not likely as good as I remember them. But my loss still seems palpable.

Friend: In Hebrews, the author talks about hearing God’s voice. and entering God’s rest. He ends up talking about the power of God’s Word. That has helped me. The idea we can enter God’s rest here — today.

Me: I’m not really connecting with the “rest” part. It’s more like I sleep and lie in bed to escape.

Friend: Would you say that nostalgia over past holidays is fundamentally a belief that there was a time when God was with you, and now God is not?

Me: I have always believed God is with me, even now. But now I feel God’s anger.

Friend: Can God be angry with his beloved child?

Me: No. I mean it’s different after Christ’s sacrifice. I know this, but I don’t feel it.

Friend: You may not, but it doesn’t change the Truth. So, first, you feel unloved.

Me: Maybe. It’s more that I feel unworthy of love and I’m not accepting grace.

Friend: Do you believe that thought was the seed for the decline? Unworthy and not accepting grace.

Me: Yes.

Friend: Do the holidays increase feelings of unworthiness and lack of grace?

Me: You’re right. I just feel numb. And my gut is wrenching.

Friend: I know. Do you have to write tonight?

Me: I don’t have to write, but I could write about something less personal, like a book review.

Friend: What feels most loving to you?

Me: The question I raise is what would be most helpful for my readers? Holiday depression is a real struggle for many of us with mental illness. If I could make some sense of it, I think that would help me and others. Doing at least one thing each day to engage others helps me feel better about myself. At the same time, I need to be careful that what I put out doesn’t bring other people down with me. I want to uplift.

Friend: Unlovable would be a good topic.

Me: Good. “Loving the Unlovable.”

Friend: I like that idea.

Me: Okay. Do you mind if I work something up and send it for your review? I don’t trust myself when I am off.

Friend: Good idea!

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But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

 

I don’t feel lovable, but I know that in Christ God has loved me. This knowledge gives me a reason to get out of bed each day. Even if it is 4 pm. Even if the voices inside my head are telling me God wants no part of me. Even if I feel like shit and don’t want to do anything. Even if the thought of going for a walk, making my bed, or taking a shower seems like running a 3-minute mile.

God does not compare me to my previous self. God does not measure my goodness according to any standard others set for me. By the grace of Jesus Christ, God loves me even when I feel unlovable.

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Help us bring the message of faith to those struggling with mental illness. Pray for that we meet our Indiegogo campaign goal. Share our page on your social media. Give according to what you have received and how much you value our ministry. (To give, click on the title below. It will direct you to our Indiegogo page where there will be a button that says, “Back it.”)

Revealing Voices: The mental health podcast raising unanswered questions, sharing unanswered prayers. 

 

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A Special “Uplifting” For Those Like Me and Many Who Struggle With Depression By My Dear Friend Author, Tony Roberts of “Delight In Disorder”…

How Does God Feel About Mental Illness?

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last week, Tony began a subscriber survey that has thus far proven very fruitful. He learned more about who his readers are and what they are looking for when they visit Delight In Disorder… 

“Some of the most revealing content came from the comments provided in the “other” category. When asked what sort of posts would be most helpful, one reader replied: ”

“… how God feels about mental illness and why He allows it. I know cancer patients, for example, feel the same way, but you won’t hear anyone abandoning them. Instead they receive love, prayers, and casseroles. Living alone with a debilitating illness is so hard.”

This thoughtful response raises many profound questions. I want to carefully and prayerfully respond. Yet, please understand that I am not an expert theologian or a mental health professional. Instead, I am a believer in Christ who has lived with a mental illness for over 30 years. This doesn’t give me all the answers but helps me better understand the questions.

How does God feel about mental illness? Why does He allow it?

I feel much more confident answering the former question than the latter. The depth of God’s love for us surpasses any love we could have for each other. When we look to Jesus Christ and his feelings for us, God’s emotions are revealed. Jesus became furious at religious leaders who were excluding “imperfect” (sinners) from full participation in worship. Jesus went to outer regions to reach out to those dismissed as “demon possessed” and freed them from the captivity that caused them to be separated from the faith community. Like the Samaritan lifting the bleeding man out of the ditch and caring for him, Jesus cares for those who are hurting, both physically and emotionally.

So, why? I want to approach this more as a prayer than an accusation. Like when the prophets called on God, “How long, Lord. Will you forget me forever?” In my prayer life, I have come to understand God’s mysterious role in human suffering as something beyond my ability to understand, yet something I can fully trust. I believe God has a plan for me much greater than my mental illness in this life. As the Apostle Paul says, “for this slight momentary affliction is not worth comparing to the greater glory to come.” ( 2 Corinthians 4.17). Like a woman in the midst of agonizing labor, it is next to impossible to believe this in the moment, but when her child is born…. AMAZING!

Why don’t people respond to mental illness with love, prayers, and casseroles?

Image result for copyfree image quote about mental illness and faith

I hear this from many both within the church and beyond. Mental illness can be a life-threatening illness, given the number of deaths by suicide. It is, however, viewed by many as an annoying condition that could be overcome with self-willed faith, maybe a few extra push-ups, and good old-fashioned elbow grease. I have heard people comment that they grow weary of caring for family members and friends with chronic mental illness. It never goes away.

It doesn’t have to be this way. When I was first diagnosed, I was serving as a pastor of a small congregation in Northeast PA. I spent over six weeks in the hospital, while my wife cared for our children at home, ages 3 & 1. The church rallied to provide child care, meals, rides. It was wonderful. I was given leave for recovery time and welcomed back when I was ready. Churches can be havens of refuge, but too often we are not.

Living alone with a debilitating illness is so hard.

Amen! Damn, right it is! And, one of the debilitating factors is that our mental illness coerces us to do the very things that do us the most harm and fail to do the things that could most help. It does us no good to lie in bed for hours on end, but there are days the thought of getting up seems to us like running a 3-minute mile. It would be helpful to go out and spend some time with other people, but there are days where the fear of doing something inappropriate is just too strong.

This past year, for various reasons, I tried to live alone in an attic apartment in an unfamiliar city. On Saturdays, I visited my children. Sundays I went to church. The rest of the week I was on my own. I was not able to make new friends. I tried support groups, meet-ups, readings, dating sites. People scared me or I scared them. In this climate, I had 7 episodes that required intervention. In just 18 months.

Thanks be to God and the loving support of my family, I now have an apartment in my sister’s basement. It provides me a wonderful living space of my own yet I am not alone.

I know such spaces are hard to come by for persons with mental illness.

I pray you find yours.

Tony R.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

My name is Tony Roberts. I am a Christian and I have a serious mental illness. Many of my friends who also have troubled minds wonder how it is I would hold onto faith after such an agonizing spiritual struggle with insanity.

Many of my brothers and sisters in Christ wonder how my mind can be so disturbed if I am a believer. I believe faith and medicine, prayer and pills, worship and therapy are God’s essential graces to promote healing.

So, I’m telling my story in the hope of sharing Good News with those who have unquiet minds and shattering stigma about mental illness within and beyond the faith community.

I hope you’ll join the conversation.

Tony Roberts, Author
Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission is on Amazon & Amazon Kindle


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