Archive for January, 2009

Pulling the Goalie Audio Chapter 4 now on my podcast

Friday, January 30th, 2009

I just got chapter four posted on my podcast, which is about the wonders and challenges of raising a boy genius.

You can also subscribe on iTunes, Podcast alley and many other podcatcher systems, just search my last name, “Piatt” to find it.

Piatt podcast – first three episodes posted

Monday, January 26th, 2009

If you have not yet check out my new podcast, you can get directly to it at or you can index it and subscribe in iTunes, podcast alley, podcast pickle and the like by searching “Piatt.”

Please spread the word to others who may enjoy this.



Faith in fallow times (PULP column)

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Faith in fallow times

I don’t do winter well. Some call it Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D. – seriously), but I just get melancholy. Aside from being from the south where winters are only notes on the calendar to help tell time, days shrink in winter until I’m waking up in the dark and driving home in the dark.

What’s worse, everything dies.

We all know spring is coming, but we only get to it by enduring the fallow time that precedes it. It takes a bit of the edge off to know the snow, cold and lack of life seemingly everywhere doesn’t drag on forever, but for us winter-averse folks, it’s a time to be endured rather than embraced.

In the Christian faith, there is the period of advent that precedes Christmas, which always is a time of hopeful anticipation. But then, as one who works at a church, and with a wife as a pastor, it’s also a hell of a lot of work, which can diminish the celebration a little.

There are the winter-specific sports too, along with warm nights by the fire, snowball fights and hot tea, but none of this shakes the undercurrent that is the reality of this season: death is palpable.

My mind inclines toward the scripture in Ecclesiastes that says “to everything, there is a season,” good and bad, destructive and reconciling, fallow and fruitful. I do have the benefit of my wife, Amy, being a little more than a month from giving birth to our new daughter, Zoe, which stands in stark contrast against the barren landscape that surrounds us.

But it also makes even more salient the notion that this fragile, innocent little life, before she takes her first breath, is born into a world bound to death.

It’s a dark thought, but part of being a parent is fantasizing about all of the terrible things that will – or even might – happen to your kid.

Yes, death is inescapable, and that’s a drag. But considered another way, death simply is the end of a good thing. After all, it would not seem so bad if life weren’t so precious to begin with. Ultimately, missing out on life because of our fear of death would be like canceling a party before it starts, worried about its end.

In this context, my greatest consolation during the fallow times, whether brought on by weather, economic hardship, lost love or the big “D” itself, is to lean on gratitude, both for what I still have, and even for what I have lost.

Would it be better not to have lived if this is the only assurance we have to avoid death? Do we shrug off the allure of love to mitigate the heartbreak? Do we miss the party to keep from ever getting sent home?

Pain, death, suffering and struggle all are a necessary part of life. The first tenet of Buddhism is “life is suffering.” Though it sounds dire and fatalistic on the surface, the acknowledgment of this removes suffering’s power over us. We are then free to pursue joy and love, not oblivious to suffering, but also not beholden to it.         

It would be nice if there were a way around it, a shortcut to a painless life, but when we find ourselves mired in fallow times, usually the only way out is through.

Why Pueblo doesn’t have a mayor (From PULP)

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

My latest NewSpin column from PULP



Why Pueblo doesn’t have a mayor


City Manager Dave Galli abruptly took a leave of absence recently, the first step in what is expected to be his resignation. Though the rest of City Council was tight-lipped about the talk behind closed doors, Ray Aguilera, who lives in one of the poorest districts and is term-limited, was happy to expound on some reasons why Galli is being edged out by council, including the Obama rally on Union Avenue and his management of the parks and recreation department.


Having run for public office, and knowing how paranoid you have to be about every syllable that escapes your lips, it’s exhilarating when someone in a position like Aguilera exercises his middle finger, bucking the system and actually speaking his mind. But it speaks to some deeper issues in our local government.


Anyone who has gone to a Pueblo City Council meeting will recognize that they are well-versed in the art of micromanagement. Issues that should be delegated to subcommittees are hashed out on the council floor, sometimes with tempers flaring.


No wonder they don’t want their meetings televised.


Having lived in a number of other cities where the general consensus is that the more accountable local leadership is to the electorate, the better, it’s foreign to me to have instead a city manager, appointed by city council. So, wouldn’t it make sense, now that it appears there will be a vacancy in this post, to consider a properly elected mayor for Pueblo?


Don’t count on it. The reason why is best demonstrated by explaining what I call the “Pueblo shuffle.”


When former County Commissioner Loretta Kennedy resigned her post to work for U.S. Rep. John Salazar, it caused a ripple effect in local politics, much like musical chairs. State representative Dorothy Butcher resigned her seat as state representative to vie for Kennedy’s seat, and then Sal Pace, a former aide to John Salazar, went for Butcher’s seat.


City council seat holder Jeff Chostner also moved over into a county commissioner position, and state senator Bill Thiebaut took the district attorney gig. Upon the emergence of the now-defunct rumor that John Salazar was being considered to helm the USDA, the music started playing immediately again to occupy his spot; the top names floated for his job as U.S. Representative were all quite familiar.


Personally, I have no beef with any of these folks, and I generally respect and value their leadership. However, the part that’s most potentially damaging for Pueblo is that it seems to be a foregone conclusion that the same names get recycled through the system for the same jobs. This sort of close-to-the-vest leadership helps sustain, more than anything, career politicians rather than public servants, and in many ways helps ensure that little ever changes.


Which brings us back to the city manager position. Really, city council has no motivation to change the system. Having the city manager under their wing allows them to continue micromanaging, while also having a whipping boy to turn to every time the public drops the boom on them.


So what would it take to move the city manager job out from under council into the more appropriate role of mayor, so that they are accountable to voters? One way would require city council’s willingness to cede authority over the most powerful figure in town. For that to happen, we would have to have more people on council intent on making dramatic change in the way we do public business in Pueblo, rather than maintaining control, and hence, the status quo.


The other, more realistic, option is for local voters to place a referendum on the ballot in the fall, which presents its share of bureaucratic hoops. However, despite political rhetoric, the greatest change in politics tends to begin and end at the voting booth.


This writer is hopeful that the kind of change Pueblo needs is coming.    

When is a church not a church?

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

Here’s an article that was recently featured on the WorshipConnection website about nontraditional church governance.


When is a church not a church?


My wife, Amy, and I started Milagro Christian Church four and a half years ago in Pueblo. We began in our living room, gathering around our coffee table or huddling by the fire with a handful of friends, trying to imagine what this thing called “church” might look like some day. I remember one week when no one came other than us. After feeling sufficiently sorry for ourselves, I informed Amy that she was not allowed to preach only to me, so we prayed, took communion and went out to dinner.


Just recently, Milagro, which is Spanish for “miracle,” was recognized by our region as an official congregation in good standing. That our church is still around in itself is a miracle, though I still don’t quite know what it means to be an official congregation.


The region agreed that, since we were worshipping 60 to 80 people a week and showed many typical signs of viability, we should charter. This chartering thing is something I guess all churches have to go through to graduate from being little-baby-make-believe churches to big-kid churches. It was nice to be recognized by the region, though, and it was a good cause for celebration within the region, so why not? Let’s charter – even though we don’t really know what it means.


It turns out that, in order to charter in our denomination, you are supposed to have 100 members on your roles. The thing is that we don’t have members in our church, and thus, we have no roles. I don’t really even know what a role is, although it evokes images of some very dauntingly official-looking scroll or something. It sounds like something people should sign with a big, fancy feather.


Not us: no members, no roles.


The good thing is that the region was so happy about our success that they overlooked their old policies and chartered us anyway. So now we’re official, which is nice, but we pretty much went back to doing things the same way we were doing them before.


That’s not entirely true, actually. To date, we’ve prided ourselves in doing things a little bit differently. Our Board is entirely volunteer, open to all who choose to participate at any given meeting. We have no committees or chairs (we actually do have chairs to sit on, but not the type that run meetings), and we have operated thus far without bylaws, budgets and the like. We’ve survived on passion and faith, and so far it’s worked, more or less.


Granted, Amy has foregone a significant chunk of her salary package for the last couple of years, and there have been a few things that have slipped through the cracks. So after almost five years of blissful anarchy, we’ve actually begun to get organized. We still don’t have members or elected Board folks, but we do have a Board Chair, and she is gradually nudging us toward having a financial plan – dare I say (gag), a budget.


I understand the need for all of this, and one thing I have come to realize is our post-institutional, plenary rejection of the old models of governance and congregational structure have left us somewhat adrift, once we reached a certain size. Believe it or not, there’s actually a reason for all that structure!


Problem is, too often, the people in charge have no idea what that reason is any more.


Church growth expert and author George Bullard speaks often about the model of the van, with the four passengers – Programs (P), Vision (V), Management (M) and Relationships (R) – each competing for the driver’s seat. We started as a big “V” church, driven by little more than a dream of what we might be. From there, as we gained a little bit of momentum and people actually came, we added a healthy dose of “R” to the recipe. As we had more and more kids, and as people wanted to do more to reach out to the community, study scripture and spend time together socially, “P” asked to cut in.


Now, though we’ve held it at arm’s-length as long as we could, “M” is knocking at the door, asking – if not demanding – to be let in.


Too often, established churches allow “M” to stay in the driver’s seat, focusing on sustainability, budgets and keeping the lights on more than feeding on prayerful vision. However, vision, relationships and even programs lack some real teeth without strong management. In reacting against something we wanted to avoid, we actually were holding ourselves back.


So how do we let “M” into the circle of trust without it taking over? After all, “M” has a time-tested reputation for doing just that. Do I really want a worship committee (just typing the “C” word makes me a little nauseated) telling me how church should look and feel? Our “y’all come” approach to letting anyone who is willing to help out has served us well, at least up to now. But is it time for a change?


Bullard’s contention is not that progressive, post-institutional, emergent churches have to reject “M” outright; in fact, he stresses that good management is a critical part of a successful organization. It may not look exactly the same as it’s been done before, but ideally, it serves a necessary purpose.


At Milagro, we’ve agreed to let “M” play ball, but we’re clear on keeping him out of the driver’s seat. A couple of times, when we started to get big enough that Amy and I couldn’t talk to everyone after worship on Sunday, “R” reared its head and suggested that perhaps we were growing too fast. So far, “P” is too young to drive in our faith community, but I’m sure the day will come when she’ll try to grab the keys when we’re not looking.


The key to our long-term sustainability, effectiveness and congregational health is keeping Vision at the helm. Though the region may struggle to redefine what it means to be a congregation as churches continue to reinvent community, I’m confident that the logistics of what you call attendees, worshippers, members, committees or what have you is not what make a church a church.


A church can take on many wonderful forms, but when Vision takes a back seat, that’s when it really begins to look like something other than what it was created to be.    


My new podcast

Monday, January 12th, 2009

I finally set up my own podcast. You can get to it at the site:

or you can subscribe through iTunes, or check out the player below:

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Pulling the Goalie audio chap 2 now posted

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

I posted the first audio chapter of my new book project, titled “Pulling the Goalie: My Lesson in How Babies Are Made…Again” a few days ago, and I just finished producing chapter two today.  You can check it out on my main MySpace Page in the audio player by going to

Check it out, share the link with others who might enjoy it, and let me know what you think.


Pics of Baby Zoe and Mattias’ B-day

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

New Book Audio Chapter now available

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

For those who may not yet be aware, I’ve been working for the last nine months on a new book about my wife’s recent pregnancy called  PULLING THE GOALIE: MY LESSON IN HOW BABIES ARE MADE…AGAIN.

I’ve decided to create some audio files of the first few chapters, and I recently recorded and mixed chapter one. To download the first audio chapter of PULLING THE GOALIE for free, CLICK HERE. Unfortunately, the file is too big to fit on my current web hosting site, so you’ll have to check it out on MySpace until my new site (coming soon) is built.

WARNING: The book contains some coarse language some may find objectionable.

I’ll post more chapters as I record and mix them down. In the meantime, enjoy, pass the word along to others, and please let me know what you think.
Christian Piatt