Monday, September 4, 2017

Women of the Word - Deidra Riggs

I became aware of Diedra through her book One: Unity in a Divided World. I wanted to know who this brave soul was who dared to tackle such a touchy topic and one that's so close to my heart. So I reached out, she responded and I'm so happy she did. May you be encouraged as I was by her heart. Meet this month's Woman of the Word, Deidra Riggs.

Deidra Riggs

1. As someone who studies the Bible, what are your favorite tools and resources?

DR: See note about resources, below.

2. Old Testament, New Testament or both? 
DR: Both.

3. Why do you study the Bible? What was your initial motivation? 
DR: My very first motivation to reading the Bible was fear. I grew up hearing a lot about being “left behind” and also hearing predictions about the end of the world. As a child, those concepts terrified me. I was constantly afraid I’d make God mad enough to stop loving me and so, I was endlessly trying to work my way into God’s good graces. I was always trying to please God. One way I worked to earn God’s love was to read the Bible from cover to cover, and then start over again.
Fear was the wrong motivation for me, and it’s the wrong motivation for anyone. Sadly, however, using fear as a motivator is highly effective, even though the end result is most often so wrong. For example, in the very Bible I was reading from cover-to-cover, out of fear that God would stop loving me and someday leave me behind, God says, “Fear not,” 365 times. But it didn’t register for me. I was plowing my way through the pages, not really understanding what I was reading, and feeling further and further from God (and, therefore, more fearful) as a result.
Finally — thanks be to God! — I made the decision to stop reading/studying the Bible. No more “quiet time.” No more devotions. No more reading from Genesis to Revelation. Of course, it seemed then as if I had the word “sinner” stamped on my forehead in big, bold letters for all the world to see. But over time, I felt myself rising above fear and into grace. It’s a longer story than what I’m sharing here, but for me, part of my freedom was letting go of the Bible and all of the expectations we place on ourselves for how we should relate to it.
All of that happened a very long time ago. In the years that have followed, my relationship with the Bible is one that I understand through the work of the Holy Spirit. In a mysterious way — in other words, in a way that is difficult to describe — the Word of God (which to me, is synonymous with the Son of God) reads and studies and knows me and, through the Holy Spirit (as promised), teaches me and reminds me of everything Jesus taught from beginning to end.
This does not mean I never open my Bible anymore. I do. In fact, it is quite difficult for me to read the Bible aloud without crying. However, the words “study” or “read” when referring to the Bible feel inadequate. I believe the Bible is a living document. When I open it, it consumes me, so I take it in small doses. A sentence or two at a time is sometimes more than I can handle. But that’s not out of fear. It’s something different; something very intimate and alive and full of grace.

4. How does inspiration work for you? How do you know that what you're writing or understanding is as if God is moving the pen and you're just the vehicle? 
DR: To be clear, I should start by saying, I don’t always know. However, I do sometimes have a physiological response in which my heart pounds in my chest — so much so that I can see my shirt moving as a result.

5. How do you handle complex topics that may not align with popular views? Can you give an example? 
DR: Before a radio interview, or a panel discussion, or some other public conversation, I say to myself, “You know what you believe. You know what you believe. You know what you believe.” I am aware that some things I say may be misinterpreted or misunderstood. I also know people may disagree with what I have to say and where I stand at this moment. But, I have to be true to me.
I also know we are all on a journey. In my own story, I can see where I once held a view of some topics that are the complete opposite of my current perspective. And there is no telling how I’ll see things, thirty years from now. I want to keep that in mind about myself and about others. I want to give us all grace for the journey. I want to hope the best for us. There is room at the table for all of our viewpoints. I believe that will all my heart. Instead of being so quick to condemn and judge and blackball those whose viewpoints are different from our own, I pray we learn how to make space for one another and allow the Holy Spirit to work among us, in spite of our differences.

6. When confronted by the truth of scripture, even for difficult topics, how does it re-orient you? 
DR: The most difficult topic of all, in my opinion, is this: “…love your enemies…” That one truth is constantly reorienting me — from the co-worker who gets on my last nerve to the neo-Nazis marching with Tiki torches on a college campus one summer night.
We all have people we would label, “enemy.” But the Truth about that is we only really have one, true enemy, and it is not each other. As long as we look to one another as the enemy, the true Enemy gets off, free and clear. When I focus on loving even those who wish to end my bodily existence, I am re-oriented to the Truth that God loves them the same as God loves me. My prayers for them change. My hopes for them change. My understanding of them changes. My love and compassion for them grows. THAT is the exact opposite of the true Enemy’s plan.

7. Tell us a little bit about yourself, current projects you are working on and where you can be found. 
DR: I released my second book, ONE: Unity in a Divided World, earlier this year. I work full-time in the marketing department of a national insurance company. My husband and I have two adult children, and we live in an empty nest with our two dogs. I am a prolific Instagrammer, and you can follow me at @deidrariggs, or sign up for my newsletter at

8. How do you deal with discouragement and doubt? (Bonus question) 
DR: When I find myself discouraged, it’s often because I’ve become disengaged from the moment I’m in. I’m either thinking back to a time that has passed, or I’m projecting ahead to a time that is yet to come. I can’t change the past, nor can I predict the future and when, in my head, I go back to the past, I go without God. Same with projecting into the future: God isn’t in my made-up ideas of what the future holds for me. This isn’t to say I don’t learn from the mistakes of my past. Nor does it mean I don’t have dreams for the future — I am an expert dreamer! But, when I visit the past or the future and find myself discouraged as a result, I am reminded to return this present moment, where God is with me and I am with God. There are a few ways I find to do this: meditation, running, and yoga.
Doubt is a different animal. As a child, my doubts fed my fears. I doubted God’s love for me. I doubted my ability to please God. I doubted lots of things. My reaction to this was to try to take control of the situation, believing I could manage the results (for example: if I read the Bible from cover-to-cover, I’ll be good enough for God). I held on tightly to this idea that I could control the outcome. But living tight-fisted doesn’t allow much room for God to move. Now, when I’m faced with doubts (and I’ve had some very serious experiences of this, which is a story for a different day), I have learned to trust that God is in my doubting, God will not abandon me in my doubting, and God is on the other side of my doubting. God is not afraid of my doubts. My doubts and fears are no match for God. When I surrender to my doubts — daring to ask unthinkable questions and to entertain unbearable thoughts — I always end up closer to God.

Note: These resources have been helpful in my journey of faith:

1. The Message Bible, by Eugene Peterson

2. On Being podcast

3. This episode of The Liturgists podcast

4. Jesus and the Disinherited, by Howard Thurman

5. Pray as You Go app for Android and iPhone

6. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon

7. Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, by Madeleine L’Engle

8. Writing in a journal


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  1. Wow thank you for sharing this with us! Deidra is awesome and I love that God is using her to be bold. I shared this on Twitter too!

  2. Thanks for sharing this interview. Some great insights here! I especially loved the one about staying in the present moment instead of focussing too much on the past or the future. Visiting from Tell His Story.

  3. Thank you for sharing at Do come back!

  4. Thank you, Deidra, for your honest answers! I, too, love The Message :). And I, too, struggle with loving the coworker that gets on my last nerve...and the people who mistreat my students...and the list goes on. There but by the grace of God go I.

  5. This is such an honest interview! Thanks so much for sharing... stopping by from #momentsofhope :)

  6. I've been a big Deidra fan for years! Thanks for this conversation!

  7. Thanks so much for sharing the interview with Deidra! I had the privilege of meeting her and hearing her speak at Allume a couple of years ago. She's the real deal - humble and true!

    Blessings! I'm a near neighbor at #TuneInThursday.


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