Recovery Room: The Path Through Fear (And a Giveaway)

Welcome to the Recovery Room.

On the occasional Thursday, I invite guest writers, pastors, therapists, and practitioners to step in and discuss their process of recovery–recovery from any old thing. Today, welcome Deidra Riggs, writer, speaker, and author of the new book Every Little Thing. Deira is powerful voice, a beautiful soul, and an all-around good person. When she’s not skydiving solo, you can find her Jumping Tandem (her blog). Follow her on Twitter. You’ll be glad you did.

And if you’d like to win a copy of Every Little Thing, leave a comment below. We’ll choose two lucky winners on Friday!

Without any further adieux, welcome Deidra to the Recovery Room.


Finding the Pathway Through Fear

A note before beginning: I still get tripped up by fear. I don’t share these words with you as a fear-conquering expert. I am far from that. In truth, I envision myself sitting right in the trenches with the rest of my brothers and sisters who sometimes get startled when things go bump in the night. Sometimes, fear gets the best of us, doesn’t it? And sometimes, we find our way through it, to the other side.

The best way to get through fear (and I say “through” on purpose, because I suspect many of us will never really get over or even out of it; fear will always rise up to meet us as we make our way on the journey) is to press yourself right up to the very edge of the drop-off and then go one very small step further—right out into what looks like absolute nothingness from your current vantage point.

Trust is the pathway through fear.

If trust is the pathway through fear, what is the pathway to trust? Trust is not a passive activity. It is not a spectator sport.

We build up our trust in God over days and weeks and months and years, by following him through one small event after another, after another. We have done this trust-building thing with family members and with friendships and with our spouses and our bosses and employees. Over time, in all of these relationships, the trustworthiness of each of the significant people in our lives has been tested, through different situations and circumstances.

It happens quite naturally. We get sick and we learn that we can trust our spouse to care for us in the darkest hours of the night, without complaint and with hands that offer tender consolation. We are assigned a new project at work, and we learn that we can trust our employer to provide the needed resources and to mentor us through the parts of the project that lead us into uncovered territory. We purchase a new house, and we learn that we can trust our friends to show up with their strong backs and their pickup trucks and their extraordinary packing and organizing skills.

Our friendships and our marriage and the confidence with which we navigate our roles in the workplace are built, over time and through various experiences together, on the trust we find in one another. One small exchange after another helps us know where we can find our footing. We craft a history together, and it tells a tale of faithfulness and love and trustworthiness.

However, in these relationships with other human beings, the reverse is also true. Not every relationship is strong on trust. We learn where we can lean the heaviest, and we learn where to back off or step up to fill in the gap. We figure out exactly where we need to take the lead, and we discover when we need to look for help in other places. Sometimes, we even realize it’s time to walk away.

It’s easy to look at God and navigate your relationship with him in the same way you navigate those relationships where trust is hard to find: bracing against disappointment, keeping track of who did what to whom, or feeling like the only person you can really trust in this relationship is you.

One year, in the midst of a particularly dark season of life, I felt compelled to somehow commemorate each occasion where it was clear to me that God was at work in my life or in the world around me. Through a series of events I no longer remember, a small garden planter filled with stones appeared on our front porch. When I decided to mark the moments where God had come through for me, I thought I would take one of the stones from that planter and place it on a tree stump just outside our back door. I didn’t have high hopes for this particular project. I thought the moments of God’s goodness in my life were nonexistent, so I had no aspirations of any noteworthy results taking place from this particular project. In retrospect, I can tell you I was underestimating things. Indeed, I was underestimating God.

Before the sun went down that day, I’d made two or three trips from the front porch to retrieve a stone and then through the house and out the back door to deposit that stone on the tree stump, marking a specific moment in time where it had been made clear to me that God was at work in the world, and that God is at work in the world, and that God will be at work in the world, and that I can trust him. Over days and weeks and months and seasons, I continued to mark the moments of God’s faithfulness, and before I knew it, I had a growing pile of stones on the tree trunk. Visitors to our home began to ask about the pile of stones because they were clearly there for a reason. And when I washed the dishes or walked out the back door to water the tomato plants, there it was: proof to me that God can be trusted. God is at work, even when all seems lost and hope is hanging on by a thread.

We build trust in God by putting matters back into his hands, one small moment at a time. We build trust in God by taking one small step in his direction and finding out he will always be there to catch us.

One step is all that’s needed, and you can trust God to take it with you. Before you know it, you’ll have your own pile of smooth stones, piled up in remembrance and inviting you to trust that God goes with you into all things, and the waters will not pass over you.*


*Don’t forget to leave a comment below for your chance to win a copy of Deidra’s book, Every Little Thing.



Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 5.36.01 AMDeidra Riggs is the author of Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are (Baker Books). She is managing editor at The High Calling, and a monthly contributor to (in)courage. As founder of JumpingTandem, an online community providing grace for the journey, Deidra inspires individuals to join God in the adventure he has uniquely designed for them. Deidra and her husband live in Lincoln, Nebraska. They are the proud parents of two adult children, and happy inhabitants of an empty nest.


Cover.FrancisThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. In my most recent edition, I’m discussing the discovery of “The Quiet Sober.” Sign up and receive access to my serial eBook, Dear Little Brothers.

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That Time I Rearranged An Airport Bookstore (I’m a Rebel, see)

I traveled last week to Story Nashville, a conference hosted by Crosspoint Church in Nashville, Tennessee. I enjoy traveling more than most, in no small part because of the solitary nature of any given excursion. To those who know me, this should come as no surprise—I am an extreme introvert by nature, though a well-practiced extrovert. It’s the introvert that needs the travel, the blending into the airport crowd, the whir of the airplane engine drowning out most conversations, the headphones drowning the rest.

More than the solitude, though—and brace yourself for this bold statement—I adore an airport bookstore. I am a book junkie, and if I could mainline words, I’d probably ask you to pass the elastic band and syringe; I’d freebase them from a spoon. (Was that a touch crass? I suppose sometimes the truth is.) So last week, on the way to share stories at Story, I made a beeline to Potomac Books and began perusing the shelves. (The name of the bookstore has been changed to protect the innocent–namely, me.)

I picked new releases from the shelves, read bits and pieces. I snatched a copy of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See–a book that nearly stole my will to write–and fawned over a few of my favorite pages. I flipped through the words and photographs of a World War II history book, devoured the captions under the photos of Rommel churning up dust in North Africa. Mindy Kaling’s new book was on the shelves, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns), and I read a few pages, laughed till I choked on my Jamba Juice. Books, books, everywhere. It was Valhalla, I say.

I moved to the Religion and Spirituality section of the Potomac and scanned the titles. Here, my bookish aura greened, bile rising, as I noted the smiling, Photoshopped heads floating against muted backdrops, the titles promising me my best life now or some version of it. They were there with their pearl white teeth offering reward from work or faith, depending upon the flavor of the author. They were the salesmen of promise. What was the promise? Happiness. Wealth. Status. Perhaps a good sex life. Hopefully a good sex life. (Who wouldn’t buy a book promising a good sex life?)

Joel Osteen was smiling next to Dave, who was smiling next to T.D., who was smiling next to Ben, who was smiling next to some buxom woman in a deep-V blouse promising a good sex life. (Again I ask: who wouldn’t buy a self-help book promising a good sex life?) The people–they’re all smiling on their book covers these days. Frowns and ash don’t move print, I suppose.

And this is where the story shifts, and why the bookstore name must be changed for my protection. There, among those very pretty floating heads all awash in smiles was a little book by Emily Freeman, Simply Tuesday:Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World. In contrast to its companions, it was simple. It was the unassuming fish swimming in the pond of assuming largemouths. I picked it up, flipped the pages and read as she wrote of living a deeply connected life in the hustle and flow of the everyday. I flipped, flipped, flipped, and was moved by the honesty of Freeman’s work. It was, at it’s root, true.

And this is the part of the story wherein I might have crossed the line. There was her book, a shining pearl among the fool’s gold (dangit if they’re not profiting off so much pyrite these days) and the spirit (mine or the spirit of God, who can know) said Freeman needed more shelf space. I didn’t cover Ben, or Dave, or T.D., or the Buxom woman wearing the deep-V (doesn’t everyone need a book promising a good sex life?). In a moment of weakness, though, I grabbed a few copies of Simply Tuesday, and faced them out, covering Mr. Osteen’s smiling face. I’m not sure the legality of the move, though I’m quite sure it was untoward and uncivil. I didn’t raise the ire of the T.S.A., little act of resistance that it was. I’m also quite positive that the shelving snafu was quickly noted by the pimple-faced teen at gum counter, and the issue was rectified once I turned my back on the shelf. Even still, the act felt good.

Sometimes it feels good to be a rebel.

I walked from the Potomac to my gate, whispered a quick Lord Have Mercy over the folks who entered the Potomac. And by Lord Have Mercy, I meant this: “Lord, let a few more copies of Simply Tuesday find their way into the hands of all these fast paced travelers.”



Cover.FrancisThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. In my most recent edition, I’m discussing the discovery of “The Quiet Sober.” Sign up and receive access to my serial eBook, Dear Little Brothers.

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For John

For John*

The windows of the world are milked over
with the handprints of small men’s delights,
of jelly, peanut butter, religion, government,
money, misery, desire,

Where sun once sliced through clear panes,
the morning knives cut rays to stones,
ours is an autumn of only dull, diffused days,
all leaf lines

Where are the men among the people,
yes, the people
coming a’washing with human poems,
with prophetic baptismal flannel rags,
wiping smears clean with elbow grease,

The men among the people,
yes, the people
they are here, alive, fleshy, and
quiet as an Aspen’s turning,
cleaning the doorway

to God.


*Thanks for cleaning the windows, John.


Cover.FrancisThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. In my most recent edition, I’m discussing the discovery of “The Quiet Sober.” Sign up and receive access to my serial eBook, Dear Little Brothers.

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

On Pain and Creativity (A Story Nashville Post)

This week, I’m traveling to the beautiful state of Tennessee to lead a breakout session at Story Nashville. I’ll be speaking about the intersection of pain and creativity. It was my pleasure to the below preview piece for the folks at Story.


There are less awkward ways to introduce oneself, but for the sake of brevity, indulge me: I am a Christian drunk. Yes, there’s nuance to unpack, as everyone is so prone to say these days, and yes, I’ve been sober for some time. The truth is the truth, though, and the truth put another way is this: Gin and I are not good dance partners.

For a spell, I enjoyed the thought of writing the Great American Novel, and I gave it the old college try. I wrote in the evenings, always under the influence of gin or whiskey. The liquor loosened the voice of the muse—the Siren?—who distracted me from some very real pains in a very heavy season of life. At some point, the distractions became more more frequent, my lack of presence more pronounced. Alcohol replaces things, see. Replaces responsibility. Replaces creativity. Replaces family, perhaps.

Continue reading at the Story Nashville blog.


Cover.FrancisThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. In my most recent edition, I’m discussing the discovery of “The Quiet Sober.” Sign up and receive access to my serial eBook, Dear Little Brothers.

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

The Weekend Review: Midnight Jesus and Walking With Ghosts

It’s been a while since I’ve popped in with an edition of The Weekend Review, and that’s been the product of a lack of disposable time. It’s been a busy season around here, what with the move to the new place. But it’s late September now, and we’ve managed to unpack most of the boxes before the leaves started turning, which was my secret goal. (Truth be told, Amber did most of the work; I try to give credit where credit is due.)

There’s still a lot to do at this house, but time has slowed a bit. In fact, it’s slowed enough for me to bring you a few good links for your weekend reading pleasure. So let’s slow down together. Shall we?

Here’s the good stuff, a few good links and videos to watch, or ponder, or read while you’re altering your own pace. See? I have you covered. Enjoy.


I may have discovered the Christian publishing industry’s sleeper book of the year. Midnight Jesus is a candid, compelling, and well-written account of Jamie Blaine’s work in the mental health care industry. Blaine is a character (a pinball-playing metalhead of a Character to be exact) and he’s written a book that rings true. At times tender and gentle, at other times witty and sardonic, Midnight Jesus is a certain page burner.

This book isn’t available until October 13, but you should pre-order your copy immediately. Trust me. You won’t regret it.


Speaking of books you won’t regret, have you read Amber’s book Wild in the Hollow? Perhaps I’m biased, but it’s beautiful, vulnerable, and intimate. The book reads well if you can conjure a southern drawl, but if you can’t have no fear. Amber’s book is available on Audible, and she is the reader! Audible listeners follow this link and use your credits to download Wild in the Hollow. You’ll love hearing Amber read in her own voice.


1. The Book of Common Prayer Lectionary–A Simple Daily Reading Plan.

A few folks have asked whether I have a daily plan for reading scripture. I do. It’s my practice to follow the daily lectionary from the Book of Common Prayer, which leads you through the majority of the Bible over a two year cycle. Don’t have a copy of the BCP? Thanks to the good folks at Crossway, the ESV website contains a link to the BCP readings of the day. Bookmark this link; everyday, the reading plan is updated.

2. Winn Collier and his Good Ol’ Words.

I’ve been following Winn Collier’s “Good Ol’ Words” series, and let me tell you, it’s good. This week he unpacked the word “preach.” Don’t miss it.

“In its truest sense, to preach means to announce (to declare) good news. To preach is not to blast wild, thoughtless words or to pretend to own a private hotline for divine truth. Rather, to preach is to refuse to stay silent when a soul is weary or a body undone.”

3. Shawn Smucker Sees Dead People.

Shawn Smucker does nostalgia well. He does ghosts well, too. “Does he really see dead people,” you ask?Maybe. You tell me.

“Then there is the ghost of my grandfather. I see him in everything here: the tables he built that we still use, the old pieces of equipment he patched and fixed and tinkered with. I see him in every $5 bill, because those are the ones he slipped to me straight from the cash box with a gleam of mischief in his eye. I remember him when his old friend John stops by every year. John, a friend of my grandfather, and whenever he visits I look over my shoulder because surely my grandpa must be around here somewhere?”

4. Tanya Marlow and Social Media Addiction.

Are you addicted to social media? Click, like; click, like; click, like. This is the experience of Tanya Marlow, and she entered the Recovery Room this week to share her story. Take a gander and ask yourself: do I need to come clean from social media addiction?

5. A Tiny Letter on The Quiet Sober.

Have you signed up for my Tiny Letter newsletter? In my most recent edition, I’m discussing “The Quiet Sober,” how the slower pace of life can lead us into a deeper sort of inner sobriety. Sign up and follow along!


By now you’ve heard–my first book, Coming Clean, is available for pre-order (available October 27). Here’s what you may not have heard, if you pre-order Coming Clean (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Givingtons)drop me an email to confirm, and I’ll send you a copy of my FREE eBook Coming Clean|Austin Outtakes. In the Outtakes you’ll read the backstory of the weekend I walked into sobriety, as told by the likes of Kristen Howerton, Preston Yancey, Heather King, and others.


I like the Muppets. I like imagination. This seems like a no-brainer for your Saturday.


Cover.FrancisThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. In my most recent edition, I’m discussing the discovery of “The Quiet Sober.” Sign up and receive access to my serial eBook, Dear Little Brothers.

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.