Archive for December, 2008

January PULP Faith column

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

I’m not the kind of guy who experiences God in any mysterious way on a regular basis. I tend to play my faith a little closer to the vest. But once in a while something happens that’s simply hard to explain.


I have a close friend, who I’ll call Randall, who I’ve known since college. Randall is smart, funny, much more outgoing than I, and he was well-connected enough back then to get me into the local bars when I was nineteen.


Those were some of the best times of my young life: playing packed-to-the-walls house parties in Randall’s house with my band; traveling up and down Interstate 35 on the weekend, stopping at the Czech bakery along the way; talking in the wee hours of the night about the nature of God, love, fate and how to hook up with girls.


It’s hard sometimes to notice when someone is doing more than just having fun: when they’re really dealing with a beast they cannot tame, and with pain they cannot drink away.


I’ve worried for years since about Randall’s drinking. He’s built his whole life around it. He had dreams of owning his own business, moving to the country, and raising a family, but none of that has happened. Instead, I got a desperate email from his sister a few weeks ago, begging for help.


Randall was about to lose his job because of his drinking, and it was affecting everything from his health to his relationships. He had stopped eating, and his skin had turned sallow and waxy.


A couple of years ago, I sent him a letter telling him, in as loving a way as I could, that he either had to stop drinking, or he would die. He acknowledged that he did drink too much. But he was felt he had things under control, and that he could quit any time.


What I didn’t know was that he had shared my letter with his younger sister. His dad died when we were in college, and his mom and other sister are generally unavailable, but his younger sister has struggled with addiction too, and thankfully has come out on the other side.


It was time for an intervention and she needed help. My father-in-law has been in recovery for more than two decades, and he has performed more interventions than I can count. So the next thing I know, he and I are on a flight to Texas try and help get Randall into treatment.


It’s an emotional thing, being a part of just a life-or-death decision like that for someone you care about, but for me, it was about more than Randall. I was mourning the relationship with my dad, particularly given that the break several years ago between us revolved around alcohol. And the conspicuous absence of Randall’s older sister and mom, who opted not to participate in the intervention, touched a nerve in me too.


How do families that were bound by blood drift – or break – apart? How can love turn so bitter? All of this came welling up for me during the intervention.


I joked with Amy’s dad that we were on a mission from God. But the deeper we got, the more we actually started to believe it.


On the plane to Dallas, there was a spirited African-American flight attendant who actually smacked me in the back of the head, mid-flight. She mouthed off back and forth with us the whole trip, and finally offered us a couple of free drinks. I passed.


Mark explained that he didn’t drink, which sparked a conversation about where we were going. By the time we touched down, she offered us her blessing.


Then we got to the car rental office, and another black woman behind the counter greeted us with some bottled water and a beautiful smile, and started asking about our trip. So we told her.


“Praise God!” she shouted. “I’ve been in ministry for five years. You’re doing God’s work here today.” On our way out, she also offered a blessing, and said she would be praying for us.


The next morning, while we were having breakfast, our waitress – also African-American – leaned over to my father-in-law out of the blue and, under her breath, said that he reminded her of her first sponsor.


In twelve-step-speak, a sponsor is the person who has been in the program a while and now helps new folks navigate sobriety. So, of all the things she could have said, she mentions her sponsor, less than an hour before we head into an intervention.


When we told her what we were going to do, her eyes widened. “My goodness, I got goosebumps,” she said. “This is God’s work happening today. I’ll pray for you.”


One black woman blessing you is nice. Two is uncanny. Three begins to seem beyond all coincidence.


Amy had just finished reading a book called The Shack the day before I left town, and God is portrayed in the novel as – you guessed it – a black woman.


A life with God is no guarantee of picket fences, healthy families and two-point-five kids with perfect teeth. The lives we inherit are messy, sometimes painful and maddeningly inscrutable. The good news is our lives also are woven together like a tightly-knit tapestry. Thank God.


Our parents may screw us up six ways from Sunday, or we may do plenty of screwing up on our own. But God can still use us. Randall, broken and suffering as he is, bears God’s light. Sometimes we are like a beacon on a hill, and other times, it’s all we can do to keep the lamp lit at all. But Randall’s barely glowing ember was enough to bring us together.


And somewhere, in the middle it all, God showed her face, not once, but three times. Then Randall let light into the middle of all of that darkness with two simple words: “I’m ready.”


God’s call is not always to safety, comfort or convenience, but it is to joy, hope and healing. What is required of us is to respond with the words: “I’m ready.”

Piatt LOST book now available in Kindle Edition

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

In case you are interested, I wanted to let you know that my book, LOST: A Search for Meaning, is now available as a Kindle edition on Amazon. For those who may be unfamiliar, Kindle is an e-book system, where you can download the entire book to a portable reader, not unlike MP3s for music, but you still can read it just like a book.

This is often a less expensive way to get books, and it also saves trees, so I’m excited to have a book available this way.

Currently, LOST is #13 on one of the “bestseller” e-book lists on Amazon, and it would be great to see it jump up closer to the top. If you know anyone who is into Kindle or similar e-book formats and they dig LOST, please send this their way.

For a direct link to the e-book, click here.

Thanks, and happy holidays.

Christian Piatt, Author 

MySpace to Sacred Space and

Lost: A Search for Meaning

December NewSpin Column

Monday, December 15th, 2008

A November retrospective

This year’s ballot should have come with a disclaimer that no one with heart conditions, a propensity for fainting or other weaknesses of disposition should attempt to fill out the three-page behemoth without supervision.

Republican Secretary of State Mike Coffman certainly seems to get it though. By trying to block the involvement of thousands of newly registered voters – most of whom are registered as Democrats – les than ninety days out from perhaps the biggest election in our lifetime, he’s actually providing a valuable public service.

After all, you don’t want such a big responsibility placed in the hands of rookies, right? Leave this one to the voting veterans, my friends.

Actually, it turns out Coffman buckled under pressure and agreed to let these new registrants vote provisionally, so it looks like the newbies ended up having as much say as those with years of voting experience under their belts. No weighted averages or anything.

Next thing you know, these folks are going to argue to let women vote or something.

Though I knew voting this year would be more involved than usual, I figured that at least my choice of presidents would be easy, but no such luck. Instead of two choices, for which I had emotionally prepared myself, there were upwards of two hundred and thirty seven candidates. Between the Constitution Party, the Greens, Libertarians and others, I felt overwhelmed.

We’ll just leave that one blank.

Next, there’s the matter of the judges. Since when am I supposed to know anything about judges? I’ve never committed a felony, so why would I? And isn’t picking judges what the executive branch is for? Besides, they haven’t earned the right to my vote like McCain and Obama, who I got to know so well in thirty-second intervals and diluted sound bytes over the past two years.

We’ll go with a “yes” for everyone whose name doesn’t sound too fascist.

Then there are all of these amendments to wade through. Sure, there have been commercials about all the big ones, but no one can seem to agree. If you vote one way, you hate children, and if you vote the other, you’re a bloodthirsty commie.

Remember, commies hate children too. Let’s not discriminate.

Here’s one about making it harder to add amendments to the ballot. That’s an easy one: check. This much thinking makes my brain hurt.

 Finally, there are a few of these questions about eliminating antiquated language from the constitution. Really?  What’s that about? Do we really need our constitution to sound hip?  Are they replacing all of the “thous” and “wherefores” with “yo,” “jiggy,” and “krunk?” There’s something to be said for keeping up with the times, but that outdated language is part of the document’s charm.

By now, I’m surrounded by the remains of sports drink bottles and No-Doz packets, and I’m pretty sure that I’m experiencing the onset of carpal tunnel. The good news is, I’ve never felt so frigging patriotic in my life.

As I dab by glistening forehead with my Thomas Kincaid limited-issue stars-and-stripes hand-painted wristbands, I think back to the founding fathers, and all of the hardship they must have endured, writing all of those words down – and with a feather, no less!

At least I have my Mont Blanc at the ready, filling in the vacuous gaps between the “yes” and “no” arrows with the deftness of a stealth fighter. My snack stockpile has dwindled and the incessant staring at the ballot pages has resulted in some traumatic eye strain, but at least I can hold my head high and say with pride that I did my civic duty.

But just imagine if I had actually researched all those things before I filled them in! 

On a more serious note, I’m not too much of a man to admit that I actually got misty the night of the election, particularly during Barack Obama’s Victory speech. My first thought, which I contemplated with much relief, was that my soon-to-be born daughter would no nothing of George Bush’s presidency short of what is conveyed to her in the history books.

But much more than an absence of a negative was the presence of something I had not experienced in my adult lifetime with respect to politics: hope. I’m not talking about sound-byte, campaign-trail sort of hope either, and I should point out that my hope transcends any candidate or single issue.

The hope I felt, and thus far, continue to feel, is steeped in something bigger: something within me that has begun to believe in the national ethos of American resiliency, and in our willingness to change, to evolve and to take risk. In this historic election, we have broken a barrier that never can be put back in its place in American history, and though racial divides, economic disparities and ideological conflict still exist, we learned that, as a people, we believe in something bigger.

There will be days when Obama’s presidency is challenged, and when his near-messianic popularity will diminish.  No one human being, however visionary or great, can change the world on their own. But if the American people truly commit to the vision of change they have pronounced at least in rhetoric, and if we each covenant to own our share of the responsibility to lift ourselves and one another up, unwilling to settle for “good enough,” the change we seek will come.

It’s nice to believe this is possible once again, no matter who our leaders happen to be. It’s up to all of us, and the good news is that I’m starting to believe once again that we’ll do the right thing in the end.