Amy Simpson’s “Troubled Minds” and “Anxiety” and other books on mental illness. ON SALE NOW

What a great privilege it was to join with the Central Pennsylvania Faith-Based Health Ministries Network  – including groups such as No Longer Alone Ministries – for a day long workshop on mental health issues and how churches can be more intentionally inclusive with those with painful emotional needs and mental health issues and other illnesses, disorders and disabilities.  We were thrilled to be able to hear author Amy Simpson, whose very informative book Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission (IVP; $17.00) is perhaps the best book we know as an introduction to the topic and how the church might respond. Her second good book is called Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry (IVP; $16.00) and is very nicely done — honest and clever and good and useful. We have mentioned both books here at our BookNotes newsletter and recommend them. How good it was to connect with her.

amy simpson.jpgAmy profoundly touched us all as she told her own story,  one of her own mother’s psychosis, and their family’s long journey into the world of mental health  treatment (and, to be painfully honest, mistreatment, in the church, in public, and even within the health care systems.) Any of us who have had hard experiences with chronic illness or unhelpful insurance companies or judgmental church folk or who have cried out to God in pain and confusion certainly understood. There were moments in her talk when there was this communal sigh and room full of nods in agreement. At other times you could hear a pin drop.

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Simpson tells about this in Troubled Minds and it is a book we’ve been glad to promote before, but having heard her teach from the book we are vividly reminded of why we must push for honest and healthy conversation about  these things.  Some of us – ahem, I am speaking to myself, here – who like to think of ourselves as fairly well informed and aware of the hurts others bear may be surprised at just how pervasive our mental health crisis is. The statistics are stunning: everyone reading this probably been touched by someone stricken with some sort of mental illness.

(And, as should be obvious, there is an astonishing connection between the homeless population and the incarcerated. The three largest “mental health clinics” In the US (that is, places that do some feeble mental health management and dispense drugs for those with mental illness are Cook Count Jail, Los Angeles County Jail, and Rikers Island in New York. Sad, outrageously so.)

We had ten tables packed with resources on the integration of faith and psychology, books on Christian views of counseling, and all kinds of titles to help those with all kinds of human foibles.  We brought just some of the many books we have here at the shop on things like drug and alcohol recovery, domestic violence, guilt and shame and forgiveness, co-dependency, eating disorders, sexual struggles, depression, and the like.  We had maybe a dozen books on faith and neuroscience. We had a few academic ones, a few memoirs, a few clearly designed to help Christian caregivers serve the broken and hurting.

called to care.jpgtransforming care.jpgAlthough the focus of the workshop was mental illness, and built around Ms. Simpson’s good books,  many of the participants were parish nurses so we had some stellar books on parish nursing (there are a number of them) as well as bunches of good books on faith and health care such as the classics Called to Care: A Christian Worldview for Nursing by Judith Shelly Allen & Arlene B. Miller (IVP; $30.00) and Transforming Care: A Christian Vision of Nursing Practice by Mary Molewhk Doornbos, Ruth E. Groenhout, and Kendra Hotz — each sharp professors at Calvin College (Eerdmans; $25.00) and Commitment and Responsibility in Nursing: A Faith-Based Approach by Bart Cusveller, Agneta Sutton and Dsnal O’Mathzna (Dordt College Press; $16.00.)

being there.jpgOf course every church worker needs resources to help them serve those coping with the anguish and stress of hard health struggles that parishioners carry; most churches haven’t hired parish nurses. So you might want to know that we had selections from our bookstore what grieving people wish you knew.pngcategories of coping with cancer and other chronic illnesses, books on death and dying, and titles on bereavement and loss and grief. We have so many helpful books that are for those living with loss and into their grief and we have books for caregivers, helping solve the big concern about how to minister to and walk alongside those in bereavement, including children! (It is interesting that we even sell books about pet loss, for adults and children.)

These parish nurses and pastors and Christian educators were eager to see these kind of resources and it makes us glad to know we can be of service, helping people know which are most useful for what kind of situation. Why not give us a call the next time you need resources  to work with folks with such needs? Or, better, why not order some resources now, before you urgently need them.  We really think it is wise for church leaders to be proactive in this stuff, and we can help.

By the way, I hope to write more, soon, about several very good recent releases about medicine and faith-based views of health and wellness (such as the brand new and must-read Pursing Health in an Anxious Age by Bob Cutillo, MD just published by Crossway.)  Watch for that.

Here are Simpson’s two books and a few others we featured prominently at the conference.  Perhaps you or your congregation needs to have some of them.  Order from us, please:  help keep this conversation alive and help equip people to take steps towards serving those who are often so needy and so stigmatized.  These books can help. They will inform you, touch your heart, provide plenty of captivating reading, and serve as yet more tools in your tool-belt,  tools needed to serve well in this big old sad, sorrowful, complicated, wonderful world.

troubled mind good.jpgTroubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission Amy Simpson (IVP) $17.00  Here she tells her story of her mother’s oddness which moved to profound brokenness and an eventual full on break with reality.  Her father used to be a country preacher and in the new city where they lived they found little support and there are tragic stories of how they were (shall we say) not served well. It is a call to the church to be more aware of mental health issues, she profiles several congregations that are doing good work with those who have special emotional and mental health needs, and inspires us all trust God as we move into some rough waters.  What a book!

anxious.jpgAnxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry Amy Simpson (IVP) $16.00 This is also a book very much worth having even though it is less the big picture of faith-based insights into our mental health crisis and more of a personal story.  Perhaps it is fair to call it a bit more of a self-help/personal growth book, although it is informed not only by her own journey, but by the best data and social science regarding this remarkably prevalent spectrum of disorders.  For what it is worth, don’t be put off by the subtitle, as if we can do away with illness by  just having more faith: Simpson clearly opposes such bad theology; in both the Troubled Minds and Anxious books she is vibrantly evangelical and deeply spiritual but offers no simplistic clichés or false promises.  I am sure you know somebody who will benefit from this story, who needs this insight, who will benefit from learning to faithfully live while coping with anxiety, stress, fear and the like. 

Darkness is my Only Companion.jpgDarkness is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness  Kathryn Greene-McCreight (Brazos) $18.99  As you noticed above, I am a big fan of Simpson’s two books, and the first, Troubled Minds, is the best to read if you’ve never read anything along these lines. It outlines (in part through personal narrative) her families struggles with psychosis and homelessness and loss; she tells what churches should and shouldn’t do. I commend it.  But, having so commended it, I think I want to say that this one, Darkness Is My Only Companion,  is my favorite book, on the subject – at least for those who want a slightly deeper and more reflective read. Green-McCreight is a trained theologian and a powerfully, elegant writer. She bravely takes us into the darkness that often accompanies depression and anxiety disorders and brings the awe-full situation onto the page in and into our own imaginations so beautifully. She draws on the Psalms (including the Psalms of lament) which have served her as her own lifeline. As we might expect from Brazos Press, the book is mature, theologically ecumenical (Greene-McCreight  is associate chaplain at The Yale Episcopal Church at Yale and priest affiliate at Christ Church in New Haven) and simply deserves to be read. It is out in a revised and expanded edition. It is a book that is at times troubling, at times remarkably hopeful, always insightful, and you will be glad you read it.

Here are two extraordinary blurbs on the back which might help you appreciate its importance:

“I am often asked by people who have read Hannah’s Child, my
memoir wherein I tell the story of what it meant to live with someone
suffering with bipolar disorder, how to go on in the face of such an
illness. I simply recommend Greene-McCreight’s Darkness Is My Only Companion.
I do so because the story she tells is shaped by her profound
Christological commitments and wisdom, making this a book that we simply
cannot live without.”

–Stanley Hauerwas, Duke Divinity School

Greene-McCreight takes the reader on her private journey through the
hidden world of mental illness. Personal, painful, and informative, this
experience is shared so that others may be healed. This book is a must
read for every person struggling with a mental health problem, every
pastor that ministers to those in distress, and every family member
whose loved one has been taken away from them by a mental disorder.”

–Matthew S. Stanford, author of Grace for the Afflicted

Grace for the Afflicted.jpgGrace for the Afflicted: A Clinical and Biblical Perspective on Mental Illness  Matthew Stanford (IVP) $20.00  Both Simpson and Greene-McCreight draw on this book and see Dr. Stanford as an important friend and colleague, and it is, along with those listed above, an essential volume for anyone wanting to start a library on this topic.  I cannot say enough about how clear and wise and thoughtful and sound all this is.  If the previous books drew on the author’s own stories, Grace for the Afflicted brings a clinician’s expertise and training to bear.  It is a remarkably good and thorough handbook, offering detailed information about various sorts of disorders.  He nicely weaves together his medical/scientific training and his Biblical faith.  It is so good to see this natural and wise use of the Bible even in a book that offers such clinical professionalism. The author has a PhD in neuroscience (from Baylor University) and is a nationally recognized researcher in the area of aggressive and impulsive behaviors. (He has done some pretty significant investigation of those with post-traumatic stress syndrome as well as brain injuries.) Amy Simpson told me that he’s a really great guy, too, as she has shared the stage with him and worked well together.  This is a major contribution and a wonderfully informed and faithful work.  You should know it.

Ministry with Persons with Mental Illness and Their Families.jpgMinistry with Persons with Mental Illness and Their Families Robert Albers, William Meller, Steven Thurber (Fortress) $29.00 This is a very helpful resource and we highly recommend it, too.  I think what makes this particularly helpful is how it draws on such a variety of authors from such a diversity of backgrounds, faith traditions and experience in mental health stuff.  As you might expect from Fortress Press (a publishing house affiliated with the ELCA) this is perhaps aimed at those who are situated in mainline denominational parishes; the author includes pastors within the United Methodist, Lutheran and Episcopalian tradition. Several of the chapters are by respected researchers and psychiatrists who are published in their own specialty area.  It is about doing ministry, of course, by which they mean congregational ministry, so it is certainly useful for pastors, Christian educators, deacons, Stephen’s Ministers and the like.  Even though Fortress is known for doing academic titles, this blends some rigorous, dispassionate medical and theological studies with narrative and testimony, making it at times lively and eye-opening. Besides the expected chapters on bi-polar disease and personality disorders and depression and such there are chapters on autism, brain injury, dementia, addictions… it is a fine, serious handbook covering a lot of ground.

Bipolar Faith- A Black Woman's Journey with Depression and Faith.jpgBipolar Faith: A Black Woman’s Journey with Depression and Faith Monica A. Coleman (Fortress) $26.99  Wow. I just started this a few weeks ago and it is passionately written, eloquent and bold, as this woman shares her own anguishing story. This is a major work, released as part of the cutting edge People’s Theology series edited by Doug Pagitt and serves as a fine example of the old adage about theology emerging from autobiography.  Coleman has very bravely here shared her own experiences as a black woman, with the issues and anguish one might expect. There is not only some account of racism but also a vivid account of sexual violence – what we might now call date rape – and more. As the book develops the tension deepens and we seem to know what is happening.  Kudos to all involved in allowing this kind of story to be told.  Take heed.

soul of shame.jpganatomy of a soul.jpgAnatomy of a Soul: Surprising Connections Between Neuroscience and Spiritual Practices That Can Transform Your Life and Relationships Curt Thompson (Salt River/Tyndale) $15.99

The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe about Ourselves Curt Thompson (IVP) $22.00  

We were especially glad to feature a nice stack of these at the event, hoping folks would realize how we value the great work of this very good author and H&M friend.  Anatomy of a Soul is, in our view, one of the best books about neurology for ordinary folks; it offers basic Christian growth and spiritual formation guidance in light of how God has wired the brain to work. Knowing a bit about brain studies as he does, Dr. Thompson – a very fine psychiatrist with a healthy counseling practice – helps us learn about personal growth and healthy relationships and more. AoaS is a wonderfully useful, really interesting book and we recommend it heartily.

His second release, by the way, The Soul of Shame is without a doubt one of the best books in this genre I’ve ever read and very highly recommend it to anyone who struggles with issues of lack of worth or guilt or shame; it will bring insight and wise counsel – no easy answers, but solid hope. We also recommend it for anyone who wants a fresh take on the unfolding Biblical drama of restoration and wholeness within the framework of God’s redemptive work, establishing Christ’s healing Kingdom; Curt’s Biblical insight is really, really generative!  Finally, we recommend both books to anyone who does ministry with others – pastors or campus ministries or youth workers or counselors or health care workers or  parents or Christian educators  or college teachers who mentor others ; you will be more wise and sensitive to others with this material under your belt. By the way, interestingly, Curt has a chapter in SoS about how our shame may effect our vocations and even the tone of the workplace.  So important.  Neuro-science is hot right now, and there are some marvelous books out there.  Start here.


Counseling and Christianity- Five Approaches .jpgCounseling and Christianity: Five Approaches Stephen P. Greggo and Timothy A. Sisemore (IVP Academic) $25.00  I suppose you recall our rant from time to time about how – if we have a high and holy view of calling and careers – we must therefore “think Christianly” about the theories and assumptions that guide our practices and work in each and every vocation.  We want to think through what that rhetoric means and allow God to shape our ideas and practices in our work. For those in counseling, this is pretty obvious: good Christian folks disagree (sometimes adamantly) just what it looks like to integrate faith and counseling. What model do we use? How does the faithful counselor use the Scriptures? What is a faithful perspective on what might be called “Christian” counseling? What does that even mean?  This book offers a forum to explore these varying approaches with their distinctive “takes” on what it means to do counseling in a faithful, healthy manner. What a great discussion, illuminating the issues and offering the “best cases” for different perspectives.  

Psychology and Christianity- Five Views edited by Eric L. jpgThere is a more academic title that is even more foundational – Psychology and Christianity: Five Views edited by Eric L. Johnson (IVP Academic; $25.00) that we also really recommend. It is arranged the same way, with five different views and each view responding to the chapter authors by each representative perspective. I suspect that, for whatever reason, most professionals involved in Christian counseling don’t want to take the time and energy to work through that one (even though it would be valuable. I would think that Christians in this field would be snapping this up and starting book clubs within their church or clinic.) At least, though, they should grapple afresh with this debate by reading the more obviously practical Greggo and Sisemore one.  Check ’em out!

preventing suicide.jpgPreventing Suicide: A Handbook for Pastors, Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors Karen Mason (IVP) $18.00 I don’t need to say much about this–we have a small section of good books that tell about the grieve of losing a love one to suicide. (One of the most beautifully written and wise is by our friend Albert Hsu who writes of the loss of his father who took his own life, entitled Grieving a Suicide: A Loved One’s Search for Comfort, Answers Hope.) I do not know of a better book on prevention that  equips us all to be more proactive in doing this kind of work.  I hate to be heavy handed but look: if you lose someone in your parish to suicide, you may regret it for the rest of your life, wondering what you could have done, what you might have seen or known or done. This book could help you save a life.  

Recovery-Minded-Church.jpgThe Recovery-Minded Church: Loving and Ministering to People with Addiction Jonathan Benz and Kristina Robb-Dover (IVP) $16.00  Several decades ago we became known as a store that had one of the best selections of recovery resources around.  Eventually, 12-step stores opened, recovery work became a cottage industry and went mainstream. It peaked and we don’t have – for whatever reason – as many requests for this kind of stuff as we used to.  From drug and alcohol abuse to eating and sex and relationship addictions, from multiple personality disorders to post-traumatic stress to garden variety co-dependencies and the baggage from being raised in dysfunctional families, we have resources that can help.  This new book, published earlier this year, is a great title that helps congregations see themselves as part of this movement. It is very, very good and a useful thing to think about as congregations are discerning new missions and new identities and new paradigms.  Get this on your radar, part of your vocabulary, part of your vision. Benz, by the way, is a certified addictions professional out of an evangelical background; Robb-Cover is a PC(USA) pastor who went to seminary at Princeton.

Jesus Wept- When Faith and Depression .jpgJesus Wept: When Faith and Depression Meet Barbara C. Crafton (Jossey Bass) $19.95  Again, I don’t have to say much about this – we have an entire shelf of books about depression; it is such a commonly experienced disorder that I’m surprised we don’t sell more of these sorts of books.  We have some that are very profound, some that are a bit too simplistic for my tastes.  They come from a variety of perspectives and offer a variety of angles.  From Gerald May’s Dark Night of the Soul to the moving recent memoir by Gillian Marchenko, Sill Life: A Memoir of Living Fully with Depression, we have a lot. Jesus Wept, we think, is one of the best short reflections that offers not only a glimpse into the experience of those struggling with depression but also a multi-layered and thoughtful vision of God’s presence through it all. Rev. Crafton is a great writer and beloved as an Episcopalian priest and author and spiritual director.

healing the wounded heart.jpgHealing the Wounded Heart: The Heartache of Sexual Abuse and the Hope of Transformation Dan Allender (Baker Books) $16.99  Again, we have bunches of books on this topic and, sadly, they are needed, widely so.  We have a few we most heartily recommend (depending on the emotional needs and writing style and religious tone preferred by the person reading it.) But near the very top of our list has for years has been the classic The wounded heart.jpgWounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse by the very, very reliable, insightful, and caring author Dan Allender (NavPress; $16.99.) Do you know him? He’s written bunch of stuff, often with his friend  Tremper Longman, the renowned Old Testament scholar.  Allender spoke on the main-stage of the CCOs Jubilee conference a few years ago, and you could watch him, here.

Published earlier this year, Healing the Wounded Heart is the long-awaited follow-up to the best-selling Wounded Heart — written twenty-five years after the first one. We sell the new Healing the Wounded Heart Workbook, too, for $14.99. I am not usually the biggest fan of ancillary product, workbooks and such, but in this case, it is essential to do everything one can to process, absorb, apply and live into this life-changing (maybe life-saving) content.  Buy the first book, the new sequel, and the workbooks for both, too. They are good to have on hand, vital to share with those who need their support and wise, deep, faith-filled counsel.  Frankly, I think it is worth reading this new one even for those who haven’t experienced the horror of sexual abuse.  We all need to be made more wisely aware of this dark side of our broken human community.  I recommend it.

if you feel to much.jpgIf You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For Jamie Tworkowski (Tarcher) sale price $15.00 while supplies last  This collection of stories, memoiristic impressions, rants and epiphanies about some sort of grace that can be experienced even in hard times remains a very popular, much-discussed book among young adults who are often hurting, bewildered, feeling alone, disconnected, unappreciated. As we’ve explained before, this edgy book tells of Jamie’s passionate and hopeful episode writing “love” on the arm of a woman who was cutting herself and how a group of late-night, music-loving rock fans surrounded this despairing friend.  Can we come alongside the lost and hurting? Can those who feel a lack of love find new hope? Does God’s love somehow leak out onto the cool kids anguished by their alienation as well as the run-aways and underground?  This book reaches so many folks and we are glad to keep telling people about TWLOHA mission and Jamie’s moving tribute to this way of loving others no matter what.  Called “hauntingly beautiful” it reminds us that it is okay to admit that things are right for us and it is okay to ask for help.

DEAL: Here’s the deal with Don’t Feel Too Much – we have some of the first edition left, the cool hardback sans dust jacket, which usually sells for $18.00 which we have on sale for $15.00.  We also have the brand new expanded edition with a bit of new content, for $18.00  We’ll do the discount off of either edition… just let us know which you prefer. While supplies last, of course.

Wholeheartedness- Busyness, Exhaustion, and Healing the Divided Self .jpgWholeheartedness: Busyness, Exhaustion, and Healing the Divided Self Chuck DeGroat (Eerdmans) $15.00  I absolutely loved his first book Leaving Egypt: Finding God in Wilderness Places publish by Faith Alive. His second was excellent, but perhaps not of interest to everyone – The Toughest People to Love: How to Understand, Lead, and Love the Difficult People in Your Life — Including Yourself. But, really, who doesn’t need some help here?

This newest one, though, Wholeheartedness, is spectacular, just so well written and so interesting and so wise in helping us all cope with the sense of being worn out and exhausted; torn.This, of course, is walking in territory covered by other books about rest and Sabbath. (See, of instance, the lovely An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest by Alan Fadling and the new The Radical Pursuit of Rest: Escaping the Productivity Trap by John Koessler, both beautifully published by InterVarsity Press, alongside classics on Sabbath like Abraham Joshua Heschel, Marva Dawn, Robert Mueller Dan Allender, Mark Buchanan, and the like.) But this Wholeheartedness is more than just reminding us to entered into the rhythms of good time management. It is asking large and generative questions about our sense of worth, about the divided heart, and out aches and foibles and hopes and experience of God’s presence. Why do we work ourselves to exhaustion? What are we trying to prove? Is ambition a bad thing?  We took this to the conference to display with other books on professional development as it seems that many leaders, pastors, care-givers and others who work with people are particularly tempted to ways of life that lead to burn out.  But this is not just for professionals or leaders. I bet that you have this concern, you’ve got this problem, or you know somebody who does. This book can provide answers, help, deep wisdom for real life. Very highly recommended.

Listen to what preacher, pastor, theologian, author, and radio host Steve Brown says:

His other books have made a difference in my life; this one came just in
time to salvage this old cynical preacher from almost giving up on ever
finding healing in this busy world. It will do the same for you. Read
it and rejoice! 

The God Who Heals- Words of Hope for Times of Sickness.jpgThe God Who Heals: Words of Hope for Times of Sickness curated and edited by Johann Christoph Blumhardt and Christoph Blumhardt (Plough Publishing) $18.00  This. This is one of the most beautiful collections of great readings that we’ve seen this year!  You may know the Plough classics that were put out for Advent and for Lent compiling quotes from writers, theologians, mystics, poets. This looks like and is shaped like those beloved treasures, a handsome hand-sized hardback that offers small excerpts and pieces. These mature reflections are all from the older Blumhardt (who lived in the 19th century) and the son Christoph, who was a contemporary of Karl Barth and Bonhoeffer. Pastors and hospital chaplains and those who do home visitation – Stephen Ministers or local church deacons or visiting nurses, say – should have this for their own deepening of how to think about illness, healing and wholeness, but also to share with the sick or bereaved.  Here you have 60 pieces (each linked to a Biblical text) and gentle, encouraging, insightful words of blessing. Highly recommended. By the way, you may recall that Saddleback pastor Rick Warren lost an adult son to suicide and he and his wife have written and spoken bravely and helpfully about that tragedy. Warren has a very moving forward to this Blumhardt book. Kudos to Plough for making old, rich writing seem handsome and new.



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