Episode 11- Tony Roberts on Writing

Tony Roberts discusses his book “Delight in Disorder”. We go deeper into Tony’s writing process and how writing has impacted his ministry.

It is summer and we decided to record 2 unedited sessions. Enjoy a few more “umms” and “ahhs” and perhaps a few awkward silences.

Next episode will focus on how Eric’s ministry has developed since a major flood impacted Columbus, IN in 2008.

Thank you to all our listeners.  We look forward to bringing you more interviews starting with episode 13!

Episode 3 – Tony E. Roberts Revealed

On this episode, Eric interviews co-host, Tony E. Roberts.  As an avid blogger and author, Tony is comfortable revealing his journey with mental illness.  In this podcast, we learn how Tony developed the confidence and calling to share the difficult intimate details that are part of his experience.

Tony shares the personal meaning of Psalm 37:4 – “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Some of the questions include:

How was Tony’s pastoral career affected after being diagnosed at age 30?

What is a manic episode like?

What inspired Tony to write Delight in Disorder?

How has stigma impacted Tony’s ministry?

What does healing mean to you?

Contact Tony:





Tony Roberts is Delighting in Disorder

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 my life in and out of psychiatric hospitals.

By the grace of God and with much help from many others, I served another dozen years of fruitful ministry, was married “for better and for worse” for twenty three years and have mostly progressed in treatment to enjoy what my psychiatrist calls “maintenance remission.”

My Message

Having served over twenty years in ministry while wrestling with a serious mental illness, I have a message of Good News to share. This is not just positive affirmation meant to cover up feelings and shame and fear.  It is not something I’ve picked up from one of the countless self-help books on the ABCs of analysis and treatment. It is certainly not that I have attained victory over bipolar through divine intervention alone and I no longer need medication or therapy.

The Good News we have to share is instead the hope that, with Christ’s saving grace, the hellish impact of mental illness will be bearable. God is with me even in the darkest valleys of despair. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. Our hope, the Good News is that God has a purpose for our lives. And when we carry this hope, we find fellowship with others who struggle; we are emboldened to fight the stigma that often leads to dangerous silence; we find a measure of peace even during the worst moment that things will get better. We don’t know when, or how. Maybe not even in this life. But things will get better.

My Mission

Many people with mental illness are angry at God, at believers and at faith communities.  People within churches struggle to understand mental illness to connect what medical advances about brain chemistry with Truth revealed in Scripture.  I have lived in both worlds and wrestle daily with my dual identity as a Christian who has a serious mental illness.

My mission is to bridge the distance between faith and mental illness — fostering faith among those with disorders and diagnoses and promoting compassion within the faith community.  Sharing my spiritual memoir is the first step towards this mission.

Won’t you join me on this mission? Pray for those impacted by mental illness. Recruit them to share their stories within your sanctuaries. If you have a mental illness, set aside your assumptions and walk into a church one Sunday or ask to go with a Christian you know.

When we do these things, we reclaim our godly mission through the madness of the world.

Blessed are the Unsatisfied by Amy Simpson: A Review

God is blessing our podcast Revealing Voices in so many ways and we are confident  it will only get better. For one, we’ve managed to score an interview with Amy Simpson, one of the leading Christian voices on the subject of mental illness.
I was first introduced to Simpson’s work through her book Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission. As a pastor who has battled bipolar disorder, I felt liberated reading her passionate and compassionate call to open our pulpits and our pews to the voices and services of persons with mental illness. As the child of a father who served as a pastor and a mother who struggled with schizophrenia, Simpson speaks as one who knows inside and out both the failings and the blessings of the body of Christ responding to persons who too often fall through the cracks.

Read More

A Long, Strange Trip and We’ve Only Just Begun

Thursday, March 1, 2018;    6:00 p.m. ;    The Riddle household.  ; Columbus, Indiana.

We posted episode 1 while recording on Facebook Live. Half an hour later, we were celebrating with 15 of our closest friends in our mental health ministry!

It’s been a long, strange trip since we first stepped out onto that country road that crosses the Columbus Reformed Presbyterian church.  How did we move from the germ of an idea to the uploading on iTunes? Much of the journey is shared and will continued to be shared here in this “Behind the Scenes” Revealog. Today, I want to go behind the “Behind the Scenes,” and dig into some of the hustle and tussle, the push and pull, the punch and counterpunch, that makes every creative collaboration produce a work that is greater than the sum of its parts.

1,   It’s all about the length, man!

From the beginning, Eric and I held strong and vastly different ideas of how long our podcast would be. Eric referred Inglorious Pasterds: Three guys from the Midwest talking about spirituality, the news, and all the things. It clocks in at 2+ hours. I preferred Mike Rowe’s The Way I Heard It : short mysteries for curious minds with short attention spans. It runs a consistent 10 minutes. We knew we would have some compromising to do in the editing process and, quite frankly, that was none too fun. It required much prayer to come to a common mind even on the opening episode. But we did it. And early feedback tells me we did it well.

2. Lynda, Lynda, wherefore art thou?

Along the way, there have been many technical challenges that required many calls and emails. Then, Eric found Lynda, shimmering in the glow of a midnight moon. Lynda is a training website for everything from computer programming to website hosting to podcast development. Eric fell madly in love and tried desperately to share her affections with me, even setting us up on a date Valentines Day. But there was one big problem. Lynda shows you her ways through video tutorials. I am not a visual learner. More than this, I still belong to the old school that says videos are for entertainment, not education. So Lynda and I were doomed from the outset. I will now need to learn the podcast dance from Eric.

3. Podcasts that have inspired us.

We knew from the outset that it would be foolish to reinvent the wheel. We spent much time researching podcasts that dealt with the topics of faith and/or mental illness. We contacted some hosts who have responded very graciously. We hope to develop mutually beneficial relationships with persons sowing some of the same seed in God’s kingdom garden.

Two shows of particular note —  CXMH a podcast at the intersection of Christianity & mental health, with Robert Vore. And, Fresh Hope for Mental Health, with Pastor Brad Hoefs. These shows are more than podcasts; they are ministries blessing folks like us and many others.

4. One down, how many to go?

When deciding on how we would list our episodes, we noted that some podcasts name theirs with three digits, like 001, 002, 003, etc… This numbering system is both ambitious and limiting. What if you end the show at 003? You’ve left people hanging. Then again, what if you come to 999 and there is nowhere else to go, like Y2K? We opted to modestly and accurately number ours conventionally 1, 2, 3, etc… We hope this doesn’t disrupt some Podcast Dewey Decimal System, but it seemed the spiritually humble thing to do.

5. Where do we go from here?

God only knows. By God’s grace, we have met or exceeded our original goals. Fundraising figure. Equipment purchases. Four interviews on the computer before opening episode. World premiere March 1. Now what?

We have some idea of what lies ahead, but we are also open to where the Spirit leads. And one way the Spirit leads is through the work of the body of Christ, believers with passion for God’s kingdom ministry.

We’ve had a lot of help along the way and we trust God will continue to provide. What can you do?

a.  Pray, pray, pray.  Prayer won’t get us all we want, but it will give us just what we need.

b.  Listen, share. Mental health ministry is not to exist in a vacuum. Care enough to share.

c.  Subscribe, so you will get the latest episodes the moment that appear.

d. Review and rate with 5 stars. This will help us reach more with Good News for mental health.

Yes, what a long, strange trip it’s been. And we’ve only just begin.

Faithful Family

April Roberts Cohen was born, um, er, well, two years before I was. Her name was going to be Karen, but when she was born April 9, our parents were divinely inspired to name her April. From a human perspective, this helped them remember her birthday.

As mentioned, I came along two years later. From an early age, April assumed the role of surrogate mother. She was exceptionally caring. At three she was found to have taken me off the bed and was cuddling me with her blanket. It can’t be proven, but I think she dropped me on my head in the transition. That would explain a lot, anyway.
Our lives followed distinct paths, but merged when I was diagnosed with a mental illness and she became a psychiatric nurse. Now, in addition to being my sister-friend, she helps me monitor my moods and meds, advocates for me in the often complex world of mental health care, and encourages me in my walk with Christ.
Perhaps the greatest thing I can say about April is I have made her my medical power of attorney. I literally trust her with my life and death.

Jen Anne (Johnston) Riddle and I met in April 2009 while I was visiting my sister in Boston.  Jen was my sister’s roommate.  I was there to see my sister run in the Boston Marathon.  They were part of an intentional Christian community and I was the lucky man who had brother privileges. I stayed in an empty room next to Jen’s room. About a year later, we struck up daily phone conversations that led me to two more Boston trips for long weekends of dating around the city. Our first kiss was in a public park in Salem, Massachusetts. You may say I was bewitched.

She had courageously left Boston to live close to me in Columbus, IN in August 2010.  She was able to transfer Masters of Divinity credits to Christian Theological Seminary and continue her career working with children with autism.

In 2012, I proposed to Jen in a labyrinth in Bloomington, IN.  My youngest sister secretly hid behind bushes about 100 feet away and took pictures. Jen left the labyrinth with a ring on her finger.
The picture above was taken in October 2017 during our 5 year wedding anniversary trip.  The labyrinth is carved into a gentle sloping hill at Kent University in Canterbury, England.  In the background is the Canterbury Cathedral.
Jen is now an elder at The Living Room church in Columbus, IN.  She continues to serve children with autism. She is very good at what she does, including being an incredible wife.