I began following Deidra Riggs online way back in 2012; I enjoyed her honesty, her wisdom and her down-to-earth take on spiritual issues. We finally met in person at the 2014 Faith and Culture Writer’s Conference in Oregon and we’ve continued the conversation on and off line since. I so appreciate her voice in the world. Please meet Deidra.
1) You’ve worn many hats in the online Christian community—Managing Editor at the High Calling, TEDx talk speaker, blogger and author now of two books. Tell us about that journey.
I believe strongly in going through the doors that open. It’s an approach that works well for me, because I’m not Type A, and I’m not much of a planner. So, I’ve never really had a “Five Year Plan” or anything like that. I live very much in the moment. For me, trying to chart a particular course is way to stressful. There are too many details to keep track of when I’m charting a course. Instead, I have found that, for me, life turns out best when I truly let God be in control of the details. In each of the life experiences you’ve mentioned — managing editor, doing a TEDx talk, speaking, blogging, and writing books — someone approached me. I never sought out these opportunities. However, they are opportunities that fit well with my strengths, my gifts, and my passions. There are things in life I’d like to do, like live in Manhattan or be a grandmother, but those doors have not opened for me. Maybe they will, at some point in the future, but for now, I have to trust the closed doors just as much as I trust the ones that open.
2) Speaking of journeys, you’ve moved from Detroit to Nebraska and now to Connecticut. What precipitated the moves and what has that been like?
I was actually born in Germany and lived in many different places before we moved to Southfield, a suburb of Detroit. My dad was in the army, and that was the reason for my earlier moves. Later, I married my husband who was in seminary at the time, and so I moved to New York state to be with him. Then, as his ministry was beginning, we moved a few more times before living twelve years in Nebraska. Now, my husband serves as the Executive Minister of the American Baptist Churches of Connecticut, so here we are.
Moving is great for me, the non-planner. I’ve met wonderful people and had fantastic experiences — experiences I never could have had living in one place. But, for a long time, moving also made it difficult for me to “settle down.”
Whenever we moved, I couldn’t bring myself to put pictures on the walls or paint or make any lasting decorating decisions, because I didn’t really know what it meant to “stay.” We lived in Nebraska longer than I’ve lived anywhere. There, I learned how to stay. I learned how to put down roots. I learned how to invest in a place. And then, just when I’d decided I never really wanted to live anyplace else, a door opened for us to move to Connecticut. An entirely new chapter lies ahead of me, and I’m enjoying the experience of discovering what’s in store in the years to come.
3) As a self-described “missionary to white Evangelicals” you’ve put yourself in some tricky situations. Last month when we met at The Festival of Faith and Writing in Michigan, you said, “I have made a lot of rooms cringe, and I will continue to do so. We are all figuring this out together. Let’s not “other” the people who don’t yet see things the way we do. Let’s be patient and kind and give space for the journey, and let’s educate correctly whenever the opportunity arises. And when we get educated, let’s say “thank you” to the teacher. Yes. There will be times when the best option is to walk away, but grace and kindness can go further than we might sometimes imagine.”
Tell us about what led you to that decision.
It wasn’t a decision I made. It was a door that opened to me. I first realized this was my calling about six years ago; a few years after I started blogging. I understand a lot about and have a deep love for white evangelicals. I also am very aware of white evangelicals’ collective “growing edges” because of my life experiences. So, when I first realized this was my call, it made complete sense. My calling is about love, racial justice, and reconciliation (although I only use that word because it’s not very threatening to white people. I don’t think we’re looking for reconciliation, because we’ve never had conciliatory relationships among the races in the U.S.), and John 17:21 is my anchoring scripture.
4) Your two books—“Every Little Thing-Making a Difference Right Where You Are” and “One-Unity in a Divided World” seem to be very different. What were the challenges of writing each one?
They aren’t really that different. ELT is about learning to accept the truth of God’s love for us — just as we are, where we are. It sounds like an easy lesson to grasp, but it’s harder than we understand it to be. We think we get it. We say we get it. But we really don’t. If we did, there wouldn’t be a need for ONE.
Jesus taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves. I know a lot of people feel this means to treat our neighbor the way we want to be treated. But, I believe what Jesus was telling us was that we should love our neighbor as if our neighbor is us. In other words, we are loving ourselves when we love our neighbor. And, when we marginalize, erase, or other our neighbor, it’s a direct reflection on how we believe, in the deepest parts of ourselves, God feels about us. So, ELT is an attempt to help us understand God’s love for us — how God truly sees us — so that we can put into practice the lessons from ONE, which teaches us how to love others, even our so-called “enemies.”
5) Now, tell us about that disco ball…..
Ah! The disco ball! Well. there is more than one. The very first disco ball I received was given to me by my friend, Sheila LaGrand. Then, my friend Michelle DeRusha gave me a disco ball for my birthday. She bought it at a thrift store, and it was the real deal. Sadly, I say “was” because that disco ball didn’t survive the move from NE to CT. When we opened the box, all of the tiny mirrors had fallen off and embedded themselves in the materials the movers had used to wrap the ball. I cried when I discovered the ball was ruined. Then, one afternoon, a gigantic box arrived on my doorstep in CT, and inside was the most gigantic disco ball I have ever laid eyes on! My husband, knowing how much I missed the disco ball Michelle had given me, took it upon himself to order me another one! I was thrilled! It doesn’t replace the disco ball Michelle gave me, but it’s beautiful.
I grew up during disco’s hey-day. We spent every Saturday afternoon in Detroit, at Northland Roller Rink, skating around and around that rink to the tunes of disco and Motown. I watched Soul Train, Tony Orlando and Dawn, Dance Fever, and I saw Grease, Flashdance, and The Wiz more times than I can count without being embarrassed. That music was the soundtrack of my life. The disco ball represents that to me, but it also represents the world — the way we each reflect Light and Love back to the Source, while creating something beautiful in the process.
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You can find more of Deidra’s words online at her website.
Order her books here.