Book Review: Running for Judge — Tim Fall’s “Mental Health Memoir”

Running for Judge is a vividly written and practical book for the 1-in-4 of us who suffer from anxiety and/or depression – to know we’re not so different and that we’re not alone.

It also serves as an accessible introduction for people in our circles of support, to understand and empathize with what we’re going through.

I’ve navigated long periods of depression in my adult life, and have multiple family members and friends who deal with depression, anxiety, and/or panic attacks. So, I read Tim Fall’s book with questions sparked by both an insider/sufferer and outsider/supporter perspective.

  • What are these afflictions, and how do they manifest in our mind, body, and relationships?
  • Why do we who suffer often feel the added weight of combating “impostor syndrome”?
  • What should we do when we identify an episode in ourselves or others?
  • What practical responses can help lessen negative impact and heighten positive possibilities?
  • How do we persevere when things don’t seem to change as quickly as hoped … don’t go as deep as desired?

These are the kinds of real-world questions Tim Fall responds to in Running for Judge: Campaigning on the Trail of Despair, Deliverance, and Overwhelming Success (Resource Publications, 2020). The main time frame for Tim’s self-described “mental health memoir” is the campaign to keep his seat as a Northern California Superior Court Judge. Don’t be put off by thinking it’s about an election – although getting this rare glimpse into the world of the American judiciary is fascinating. That backdrop created a situation of amplified stress that made difficulties caused by anxiety and depression more apparent. And his unusual vocation reinforces that mental health issues can affect anyone.

Tim’s engaging style SHOWS what it looks like to be weighed down by anxiety and depression. The pacing and descriptions of his remarkable writing style had me feeling his racing-pulse angst and his emotional-ambivalence sluggishness right along with him. He is so specific in detailing physical, emotional, mental elements of this that it helped me identify episodes of intense anxiety I’ve had that I hadn’t labeled as such before. He also describes responses by family, friends, and co-workers to his experiences and to his mixed-result attempts to deal with symptoms and sources. I was taking notes or underlining sections on 90% of the pages!

Tim is vulnerable, real, helpful, and hopeful – the same as he is online in social media. That’s why I began following him on Facebook and Twitter a few years ago, and how I found out about his book. And these days, to review a book also involves checking out whether the author treats people with kindness and respect, or not. Tim does, no question. He is a role model of embodying the Golden Rule, and that makes it easy to want to read what he writes.

So, if you’re reaching out for input on mental health concerns, for yourself or to support someone you care about, you’ll find a lot of wisdom from multiple angles in this short (120 pages), easy-to-read book. And through it, may you discover deep wells of refreshing grace along your pathway forward …

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To follow Tim Fall, here are links to his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Click here for the publisher’s webpage for Running for Judge. It includes book information, purchase details for book and eBook versions, author bio, and endorsements.

Here is an earlier blog post I wrote about why I wanted to read and review Tim’s book.

Emerging Gender Identities — Check out the trailer for the book …

I am currently reading an advance copy of Emerging Gender Identities: Understanding the Diverse Experiences of Today’s Youth, by Mark Yarhouse and Julia Sadusky. This book is being published by Brazos Press, and it launches in mid-August 2020. I’ll be posting my review on release day, plus some other background and thoughts between now and then.

When I saw a notice on Twitter about the launch team, I took a few days to consider applying. The topic of gender identity has been something I’ve researched periodically since the 1980s – primarily because my own experiences of gender didn’t match with cultural or Christian norms. I’m also connected with family and friends who deal with gender identity, sexuality, and/or intersexual issues.

I hadn’t read a book by Mark Yarhouse before – only occasional excerpts, or comments in passing by or about him on social media. That material left a positive impression. Dr. Yarhouse especially seemed to be appreciated for his researched and reasoned approach to concerns about gender identity and our current culture.

I watched the book trailer from Brazos, where he describes what he covers in the book and why. One of his main purposes is to equip for ministry that is nuanced, measured, and nimble when it comes to connecting with young people and “emerging gender identities” (for instance, pangender, bi-gender, agender, gender creative/expansive).

Check out the trailer on YouTube. Here’s a quote that reflects his thoughtful, balanced approach.

I think all of us come to this conversation with the language that we’re familiar with around sex and gender, and so when someone uses different language and different categories, rather than react to that, I think it’s better to understand how that language has made sense to that person, why they’re drawn to it. It doesn’t mean that by being conversant, you’re agreeing with all of the language and categories, but you’re a little bit more attuned to how that functions for them and what it means for them as you love them well.

The publisher’s page at Brazos Press has a series of endorsement quotes. I found these particularly intriguing for showing kinds of readers interested in this topic in terms of understanding it, living it out, and walking alongside those with concerns.

It also includes a link for a PDF excerpt of Chapter One – which includes a glossary of “Key Terms and Emerging Gender Identities” that introduces the range of categories and vocabulary younger generations are using in reference to gender.

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Live Aid at 35 — and Me at 65

It’s #LiveAid35 today — memorable for that milestone event, and also as my most important birthday. A friend drove me to my parents’ home so I could go to a diagnostic specialist doctor. I’d gotten progressively more ill over several years, seen 5 different kinds of doctors.

None could figure out what was wrong. Constant fatigue, down to under 130 pounds (not good for being 5’11”), mysterious symptoms. Thankfully, my parents were ready to send me to Mayo Clinic but found a local “House MD” kind of doctor. It took 6 weeks of tests and questionnaires.

I lost track of how many office visits and horrific tests I endured. But the doc came in one time and smiled: “Good news and bad news. The good news is we have a diagnosis. Bad news is, the minute you walk out this door, you’ll probably never be able to get medical insurance.”

He diagnosed the first of what would eventually be five chronic health conditions I’d have. I also had malignant melanoma and clinical depression. This changed the course of my life, after more than a decade of not knowing what was going wrong with my body. In fact, if not for that trip and my diligent parents, I’m certain I wouldn’t be here to celebrate turning 65.

But the whole process began with that trip home, laying on a mattress in the back of my friend’s van, tuning in to bits of the Live Aid broadcast. I’ll eventually write more about both topics — navigating life with multiple chronic health conditions and the Live Aid milestone.

The way I see it, Band Aid/Live Aid events constitute a paradigm shift in philanthropy. People seemed to want to be more directly involved in charitable giving to aid those caught in the 1984 African famine and not leave it all to governments and NGOs. I wrote an overview with thoughts about this significant shift on this page.

This isn’t to say the changes in trajectory were all good, but that we need to acknowledge a culture shift took place. We should try to understand its roots and fruits, and I’m looking forward to doing so in due time. But for today, I’m remembering #LiveAid35 and thankful for still being alive at 65!

Emerging Gender Identities–Launch Team Information and Invitation

I applied for the *EMERGING GENDER IDENTITIES* launch team. If my application is accepted, I will use this as an opportunity to consider again my own complex gender identity, and to review the history and trajectory of gender issues in our society. Both are subjects I’ve researched, written, and spoken on periodically over the past 30 years. This includes gender diversity, gender dysphoria, and intersexual conditions. For instance:

In the late 1980s, I started writing on these topics as I processed questions I had about masculinity and my gender identity. Up until that time, I considered myself “non-gendered” and referred to myself as a person, not as a man. (I’ve since met both men and women who have had a similar internal conflict about their gender.) I got involved in the secular and Christian men’s movements of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In the 1990s, I read multiple books by John Money to see if he identified the conflicting kinds of gender perceptions I experienced myself (he didn’t seem to). John Money is credited as “The Man Who Invented Gender.” (See below for link to books.)

I’ve had friends from across the gender diversity continuum — some conflicted with their internal/external experiences of gender and chose to live congruent with birth gender, some who’ve chosen to live transgendered or in an alternate gender identity, some who reverted from transgender back to birth gender insofar as medically possible. I also know several people with intersexual conditions that have tended to affect their sense of gender identity.

In 2000, I did a futurist presentation on Transgenderism as an Emerging Bio-Ethics Issue in the 20th Century. This was for the Bannockburn Institute’s bio-medical ethics conference. (And, yes, an awkward title, but it was what the hosts assigned.)

In the past 20 years, some gender and sexuality concepts have become more clarified, other social constructs have gotten more murky, and a lot of the related language has changed — especially as to what is and is not considered acceptable, both socially and in ministry.

This book seems to arrive at a providential moment to review the history and trajectory of gender issues in our society. Also, good time to update my knowledge and consider wisdom offered for listening skills and practical ministry in our increasingly gender-diverse cultural landscape.

If you are curious about the author’s perspective and the book’s tone, see this publisher’s page link for the table of contents, author video clip in which he talks about why he wrote this, and endorsements from people with a range of vested interests in gender identity and ministry.

As an FYI, if you’re interested in applying for the launch team, apparently the application period will be closing in a few days, according to this Brazos Press tweet.

Or, on Facebook, see this page for details.

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I am citing two books about John Money’s views on gender for information purposes. It is important to know that the formal construct of “gender” is just 65 years old, even if multiple cultures have had alternatives to male/female and masculine/feminine for centuries.

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The Man Who Invented Gender: Engaging the Ideas of John Money, by Terry Goldie (UBC Press, 2014).

In 1955, the controversial and innovative sexologist John Money first used the term “gender” in a way that we all now take for granted: to describe a human characteristic. Money’s work broke new ground, opening a new field of research in sexual science and giving currency to medical ideas about human sexuality.

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Gendermaps: Social Constructionism, Feminism and Sexosophical History, by John Money (2016, Bloomsbury Academic).

To understand masculine and feminine social and political history in the second half of the 20th century, one must first understand the lexical history of the term gender, which did not become an attribute of human beings until 1955 when John Money introduced the concept of gender role to refer to the masculine or feminine presentation of individuals whose genital organs, by reason of birth defect, were anatomically neither completely male or completely female, but hermaphroditic.

In this book, Money explores the history of gender differentiation and its impact on contemporary, postmodern social constructionist explanations of male and female. He argues that the nature vs nurture dichotomy should be abandoned in favour of a paradigm of nature/critical period/nurture. The book further discusses how some gender differences are phylogenetically shared by all people and others are ontologically unique to an individual.

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Peacemaking and Becoming People of Peace ~ Post 6: The Anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia Decision

Today is June 12, 2020. It is the anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia decision in 1967. This holds special significance because of something my parents did around the same time, as “people of peace.”

“The Supreme Court announced its ruling in Loving v. Virginia on June 12, 1967. In a unanimous decision, the justices found that Virginia’s interracial marriage law violated the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.”

~ Loving v. Virginia, Editors, November 17, 2017; Updated June 10, 2019

The story of the Lovings has become important to me in the last few years, as I reflect on my growing up years. I plan to write more about this, but here is some of the background on why. Continue reading

For Such A Time As This Rally 2020

FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS VIRTUAL RALLY 2020. For 20 years I’ve watched to see what SBC individuals and institutions would do in dealing with issues of systemic abuse. I’ve posted what research I could, sounded the alarm when I felt I should.

SBC systems, leaders, and stewards demonstrate evidence of extensive and historic corrosion by power and complacency about all forms of abuse. Specific situations have been documented for decades by abuse survivors, and the extent of it was also exposed in 2019 by the #AbuseOfFaith series by the Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express investigative reporting team.

Before the #SBC19 annual meeting, I concluded the SBC had only a year left–through June 2020 and #SBC20–to prove any substantive movement institutionally on #SBCToo and abuse. Despite a few steps forward, it did double steps backward. In light of this, I am asking these question:

* Is this the SBC’s “Ichabod moment”?

* Has any glory that was there departed because of refusal to minister to the needs of a large segment of church and community who’ve been traumatized by sexual abuse (1 in 3 women, 1 in 4 men)?

* After decades of systemic complacency *institutionally* about abuse — regardless of what individuals and particular churches do — why should we trust SBC entities purportedly doing anything about it from here on out?

* What must they do to prove genuine repentance and change on their long-standing abuse situation?

For research documentation, analysis, and resource links, see SBC Abuse Solutions website.


Meanwhile, as an encouragement in the midst of what may seem like immovable odds …

Each of us can contribute something important to the larger picture of being an abuse survivor, advocate, or activist; a trauma-informed counselor, minister, or organizational developer — whether it’s providing pieces of the puzzle, sharing peace in the struggles, even getting pizzas for the huddles! Let’s learn, transform, serve.

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For my most recent reflections on the SBC and abuse, see this thread on Twitter.



Continue reading

The Hunger Games Prequel–The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes–Release Date: May 19, 2020

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – screenshot of Scholastic Press product page


It’s been 10 years since the release of Mockingjay completed The Hunger Games series. As a student of malignant leaders and toxic organizations, I was engrossed by the insightful ways author Suzanne Collins wove truths about social control and trauma throughout the narratives.

Her series gives us a rich source to mine on abuse, resistance, and resilience. I posted an analysis of how those features fit with Robert Jay Lifton’s eight criteria for identifying a “cult” of “totalist psychology” control. This series includes discussion questions for abuse survivors, people in their support network, and organizational developers. My hope is these questions will help build bridges among these audiences.

I also developed a Hunger Games reference fansite for the book and film series. Check it out for links to sources for the books, audiobooks, movies, games, and related materials for study. What have been social impacts of the series? Do you think some fan items may have contributed to over-the-top Capitol-type consumerism?

And now, a prequel novel will be released on Tuesday, May 19th. We can at last return to the nation of Panem, this time to the roots of Districts’ rebellion and The Hunger Games, and the origin story of Panem’s eventual president, Coriolanus Snow. What The Hunger Games did for us in exploring the range of social control tactics, perhaps the prequel(s) will do for us in displaying the route someone takes to complete the searing of their conscience in choosing the pathology of power. Continue reading

Pandemics, Part 1. A Dual Focus for Preparedness: Survivability and Sustainability.

Battle-waging is about survivability; peace-building is about sustainability.

As we shift from dealing with the current Covid-19 pandemic into a longer-term endemic situation, we face a crucial issue in leadership approaches: We need two leadership types simultaneously—crisis management that battles for survivability plus continuity planning that builds for sustainability.

For our society to make the best of it and succeed in both sets of endeavors, we need perspectives from the diverse range of domains affected, and interdisciplinary work teams to develop integrated response practices and preparedness plans.

These teams must collaborate, not compete. Otherwise, we will lose on both fronts if we battle against science and/or each other instead of against this virus, and if we fail to build strategically for our most preferable futures.

Continue reading

Earth Day 50 — and a 2020 Tribute to Captain Planet and the Planeteers

Historian and university professor Helen Haste has said:

In the long run, what counts is how the next generation thinks. How far new ideas permeate culture is not measured just by attitude change during one generation, but by what is taken for granted in the next.

~ Helen Haste, The Sexual Metaphor: Men, Women, and the Thinking that Makes the Difference (Harvard University Press, 1994), page 149.

We find ourselves today at Earth Day 50. How does what Dr. Haste said over 25 years ago apply to where we find ourselves today, in terms of ecological awareness? Continue reading

Running for Judge #1 — New Series to Read/Review Tim Fall’s Book

Running for Judge: Campaigning on the Trail of Despair, Deliverance, and Overwhelming Success, by Tim Fall (2020; Resource Publications). Link to publisher’s webpage.

As of April 4, 2020, there is still a limited time 40% discount if you order the print book directly from the publisher (use the code JUDGE40 at checkout). The eBook edition in still under production, and an audiobook edition — read by Tim Fall himself — is forthcoming.

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[Click on “slides” and images for full-screen view.]

It is not often that I hear about a new book and sense that I should read and review it, perhaps even be on the author’s launch team. But that’s what has happened with Running for Judge by Tim Fall – which makes this review series only the seventh time in over 10 years. Continue reading