Weekend Review: Spies, Gamblers, and Coming Clean

It's a muggy weekend here in the Ozarks. There's a low, gray mist hanging over everything, and the temperature has spiked on the front-end of a coming cold front. It's December, and if you were to ask me today, the answer would be yes, I do believe in global warming. It's not beginning to look a lot like Christmas outside, which is just fine, I suppose. We have a couple of weeks to go, after all, and there's time for Santa to bring the frigid frosty stuff. Today, the low gray has chased me inside. I'm holing up in the old office, recharging the batteries (the next work week is coming, you know), and waiting for weather to catch up to Christmas. And while I wait, why not catch up on a few good links, perhaps a great book or a solid album?

Need some recommendations? I'm here to help.


Shawn Smucker is giving away 7 books. With titles by Rachel Held Evans, Jeremy Courtney, Erika Morrison, and others, you'll want to enter this giveaway.

I'm giving away 10 copies of Coming Clean to the first 10 people who order a copy before Christmas. Would you like to start a conversation with a friend or family member about walking out of addiction and into sobriety? This is a great way to get a conversational copy for free!


The New York Times ran a fascinating piece on the ruinous path of fantasy sports. Gambling addictions aren't all about bookies and Vegas sports bars. This piece proves it.

C.S. Lewis was a spy for the British government? That's the claim this Christianity Today article makes. It is, hands down, my favorite read of the week.

Check out Aaron Smith's review of Coming Clean. In it, he writes: "The thing about this book is that I found myself going with Seth into his hurts, facing those fears, finding the beginning of healing for the pain." (Thanks, Aaron.)


My friend, Esther Emery, is an off-grid, homesteading marvel. She and her husband, Nick, are building their mountain dream home, and you should check it out. They're getting close.

Make sure to subscribe to Esther Emery's YouTube channel.


The Oh Hellos new album is a great big, swirling, forceful, lyric, melodic sonic wall of an album. And if you like literary allusion and C.S. Lewis, this is your jam. I'm leaving you with a track from it this weekend. Enjoy.

Thanks for reading along, this week. Have an incredible weekend!


Coming Clean: A Story of Faith, is available. You can order online wherever good books are sold, or visit your local Barnes & Noble and pick up your copy!


CC Austin OuttakesThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. If you sign up, you'll receive my free eBook, Coming Clean|Austin Outtakes. The Outtakes share the story behind my latest release from Zondervan, Coming Clean|A Story of Faith.

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Good Links (The Enneagram Edition)

Do you like personality test? The good gent who counseled me through the early days of sobriety detests them. "Scientifically speaking," he says, marshaling his  best clinical tone, "they're a load of crap." (Crass? Maybe. Just one more reason I love him.) In any event, I rather enjoy a good personality test (avert your eyes, Dr. Ryan), in no small part because I find test-taking enjoyable. (I'm a nerd by nature.) In fact, I never missed an opportunity to take practice tests in school, and on occasion was known to create exams for my friends as a study exercise. I digress...

To the point, this week I decided to take a personality test because (a) I stumbled across a twittersation between Tsh Oxenreider and Leigh Kramer about the Enneagram personality test, (b) I was bored at the time, and (c) I adore tests and had not taken one in some time. I promptly downloaded an iPhone app, and was sucked into the questions of the Enneagram.

I was not surprised by the results. As it turns out, I'm a 5, which means that I'm an "investigator." Investigators, so it is said, tend to retreat into their own thoughts, sometimes hold the good folks around them at arms-length, and can be a touch aloof. DING, DING, DING, DING! Investigators sometimes find their own imaginations more interesting that the real world, which allows them to view things from different, sometimes awkward angles. DING, DING, DING, DING! Investigators hope that others see them as intellectual. DING, DING, DING, DING! Well-known investigators might include Stephen Hawking, Vincent van Gogh, Bill Gates, Kurt Cobain, and Dr. Gregory "House." (I'm not saying... I'm just saying...)

Were the test results terribly surprising? No. It was a heck-of-a-lot of fun, though, and perhaps it explains why I've been reexamining the the world these days, and have been writing on issues like the Christian marketplace, and addiction. Yup, things have been heavy around here; haven't they?

Let's lighten it up.


Leigh Kramer has been a fan of the Enneagram test for some time. She is one of those rare personalities who is passionate about... well... personalities. If you're a fan of a good test, or if you're addicted to all things personality-related, follow this link to her place to learn more about the Enneagram.

Want more? Tsh Oxenreider recently interviewed Kramer on the Enneagram. Take a listen.

Don't miss these hilarious Enneagram cartoons. I don't believe in paint by the numbers, but these cartoons will peg you by the number. I promise.

"Lean into the pain." I reckon 5s are good at this sort of thing, but this isn't about personality. I've been writing in a quieter space about walking into the pain, about the ways in which I'm finding resolution. Want to know what I mean? Check out this video at Sarah Bessey's place, where she chats with Travis Reed of The Work of the People.

In the June edition of Christianity Today, D.L. Mayfield writes this beautiful piece on the case for Christian temperance. As one in the recovery process, I appreciate her fresh take on alcohol and liberty. She seats the conversation in love, justice, and homogeneity. She writes:

If you wear an 'I heart bacon' T-shirt, I will have to assume you don't have many Muslim or Jewish friends. Likewise, if you are posting about how 'Mommy needs her wine,' I will assume you don't know anyone struggling with alcoholism.

You'll have to subscribe to Christianity Today to read this article, but it's worth the price of admission.


I've been digging into Marva J. Dawn's book, Powers, Weakness, and the Tabernacling of God. She's dropping dimes, like:

"If we are to be faithful to our position in weakness, we will know that we offer truth best not by pontificating pronouncements or political maneuverings, but by simply speaking and living truly."

For those of you considering modern American structures and their effect on the Christianity, you'll want to snag a copy of this book.


I'm finding my ways back to the old wells. Depth over distance every time.


These are my favorite links of the week. What are yours?

Good Links (The Found Edition)

Here in the Boston Mountains, spring has come to thaw the good earth and the weeds have begun their sprouting. They grow fast, the weeds, the first green things of the season. There are daffodil shoots by my front door, too, a foreshadowing of something beautiful breaking. Weeds are not the only things shooting up here. The boys are shooting up, and up, and up, and it's not a far stretch to imagine them all as seven foot tall bottomless grocery pits. Ian, our third boy, has a stomach that empties into his hollow leg. I swear it. He's always asking for more to eat. On Tuesday Taco Night ("Everything is Awesome"), he ate four tacos, an apple, an orange, a handful of chips, and another taco. He's only six.

Lord, save us from the teenage appetites.

My appetites have shifted over the years, of course, have been turned more to art, music, and words. This week, I've found a few good works to slake my thirst. Enjoy.


I've been digging into Micha Boyett's book (check out her new site!), Found, and let me tell you something: it is good. In it, Micha writes of her struggle to add-up, deals with the subtleties of a quiet works based righteousness. She explores the way of Saint Benedict, a way marked by less striving, by a kind of restful labor.

Micha writes of her long, broken prayers, how they never seemed to add up or amount to much. Having left a successful ministry position for full-time motherhood, she struggled with core identity issues. Would God love her enough? Would she be a worthy saint without some grand God-task? What if she never changed the world?

Is this a book that deals with motherhood? Sure. But deeper, this is a book that deals with the endless striving of modern Christian culture; this is a book for men and women alike. (We all suffer from our own identity crises, don't we?) Grab a copy. Better, grab three copies and give two to a friend.


This week, the music segment ties in with geopolitics. "How," you ask? Good question.

Yesterday, in an bold move to bring back the Cold War era, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a declaration formalizing Matthew Wilder's 1983 hit, "Nobody Gonna Break My Stride," as Russia's alternative national anthem. Taking the stage with Crimean Solid Gold dancers, Putin declared, "Nobody gonna hold me down! Oh no! I've got to keep on moving!"

According to credible reports, state run television has been playing this video for the last twenty-four hours.


The Malaysian Flight 370 debacle just keeps getting stranger. One day, they're searching a stretch of ocean the size of the state of Pennsylvania, and the next day, they expand the search "to include a several-hundred-square-mile zone in the Indian Ocean as well as each of the seven or 22 additional spatial dimensions posited by string theory." Follow The Onion for the most recent updates (sort of).

I love it when a fella writes good words about his wife, and Nathan Elmore has penned some of the best. He writes, "[h]ow can I say this? I suppose Amie is as good at nurturing smaller human beings as I am at putting fish sticks and crinkle fries on a tray and placing them into an oven..." Classic. Go check out Nathan's space.

I've followed Ann Kroeker for years. She has killer editorial skills, is wicked-sharp with a pen, and is kind to boot. This week she writes about forming writing habits. "Don't break the chain," she says. Any aspiring writer (or recovering addict, for that matter) will want to read this. If you're looking for a writing coach, or just some good advice on keeping the pen ink flowing, Jump over to Anne's site.

John Blase: "we live haunted by the remains of a paradise half-seen in dreams." Go read this.


For those of you who don't know Nish Weiseth, you should. She's an extraordinary doer, a wonderful thought-leader, and a connoisseur of good music. Last week she set the hook and reeled me in with Twin Forks.

Oh, my.

Thanks for stopping in this week! And if you've run across any good links of your own, let us know in the comments.

Good Links (The Blacklist Edition)

I've started a scavenger hunt of sorts. I've taken it as a personal challenge to find one good photograph a week. And here's how good photos are found--they are hunted down and captured. This week, I snagged the above image of Titus and Jude. I had taken the boys to the park, and while Isaac was playing basketball and Ian was playing who-knows-what in the fort under the slide, Titus asked Jude to push him in the swing. Jude is a good big brother, the always accommodating sort, especially when it comes to Titus.

Ah, Titus! (For the latest news, click here.)

We've been in the throws of packing another house for another move, only this time we did it with trepidation. It looks like we're in house limbo again because, as it turns out, when you build your house upon Ozark stone, things have a tendency to shift. That's how our lives seem to be, lately. Always shifting.

Want to shift with me this weekend? Let's jump ship here, visit a few good links.


1.  I'm a sucker for a good writing tip. This week, the Atlantic shares an Uncomfortable Trick for Honest Writing: Staring at Strangers. The trick is exactly as it sounds. Writers, pay attention.

"I stare at people all the time, because I like to imagine their lives by looking into their faces, looking at their eyes. You can tell so much just from a person’s face."

2.  Speaking of uncomfortable, I have some sage advice, which I garnered from this piece by James Bryant: when people make you uncomfortable, block them. Block them on Twitter. Block them on Facebook. Put them on your blacklist. Whatever you do, do not engage in mutually beneficial dialogue. Just block away! This, as it turns out, is the marketing strategy of economic guru and arm-chair theologian Dave Ramsey. For more helpful brand-building wisdom and social media tips, check out Bryant's piece.

3.  John Blase opens his most recent poem, "Grown Accustomed," with this:

Its what we always do
with a thing we love.
Get dependent on it.
Then we’re terrified when
its not around anymore.

Boy, don't I know the feeling. This, however, isn't a poem about liquor or stuff. This is something wholly different. It's about living. Don't miss it.


I'm posting this because I miss my friend Water Box Wilson. He'll be making an appearance next week. Keep your eyes peeled.


There are few things that I love more in this life than discussing music. This week, I had a bit of a quandary: what kind of classical music do my friends like the most? I posted it on Facebook, and the response was both overwhelming and entertaining. The discussion has resulted in this playlist, a list which includes a selection from each person in the thread. I call the playlist, "Music to Make You More Smarter."

I hope it works.


Keeping with the theme, check out this video featuring Ludovico Einaudi. (Hat tip to Buddy Black for this piece.) It's long, but incredible. Enjoy.

Good Links (The Pipe and Coffee Edition)

*This Euro-Shade coffee from Onyx Coffee Lab and the hand carved pipe from Uganda (courtesy Mike Rusch) are two of my favorite things these days. I thought I'd share them with you because they're just so pretty. Last night, a small group gathered in the party-room at Copeland's of New Orleans in celebration of Lisa Jo Baker, whose gypsy ways had carried her to Arkansas for a spit. It was a good night filled with conversation about things which I cannot now share, because as my new friend Steve Boss says, Copeland's is the Bourbon Street of Rogers. And as my grandma used to say (long before Las Vegas stole her quip), "what happens on Bourbon street stays on Bourbon Street."

(If you would like, and at some later date, we can discuss how my grandmother first took me to Bourbon street when I was twelve, and can further discuss the efficacy of life lessons learned on that iconic boulevard in my tender years.)

After supper, Amber and I lay in bed sipping tea when Lisa Jo left a message. It went something like this, "I've been traveling, and I'm tired, and I have no words left because motherhood stole them all from me, and would you be kind enough to submit a five minute free write on the word 'visit' in the next ten minutes?"

A Challenge? Why yes, indeed! I love a challenge.

And that brings us to our weekly roundup of good links.


1.  Join me today at Lisa Jo's Five Minute Friday free writing prompt. After you read along, jot one yourself. Not familiar with the prompt? It's simple. Sit and write for five minutes about a particular word of Lisa Jo's choosing. This week's word is "visit." Set a timer. Grab a pen, and go! No editing. No second thoughts.

2.  It seems that Facebook is always tinkering with it's site, always trying to attract more users in hopes that it will not go the way of MySpace. This week, the social media network announced that it would again be tinkering with its page algorithms in an effort to make it easier for page managers to share content. What was the problem? I'm glad you asked. Amber shares in her piece "Advice for Bloggers,"

Bloggers, when you link to a blog on Facebook, add the link using only your right hand to type. The tongue should stick out to the left. Set your laptop down. Do a few pirouettes, and then press Enter. That should do it. My friend Lora Lynn thinks you should also spit, but that’s debatable because she’s from Alabama...

3.  Many of you know of my love for Tweetspeak Poetry. They're bringing poetry back to the people, I say, and they're doing it one challenge at a time. For instance, consider their challenge to the poetry-averse Sandra Heska King,

“We’d like you to read not just a poem a day but a poem from one particular poet a day. (That is, the same poet every day.) And that poet, for reasons we have yet to discover, isT.S. Eliot.

Don't miss this piece at Tweetspeak poetry about the 30 day poetry dare.

4. Finally, this week Grace Biskie asked an important question--"what are you supposed to tell your sons about the Black Woman chair?" What's the black woman chair, you ask? Don't miss Grace's piece this week. It's that important.


I feel so terrible about dropping One Direction videos on the blog this week. I'm here to make up for it. I'm leaving with you a few stellar pieces. I hope you enjoy.