Brad Ruggles

The Art Of Living

Where Will It End?

I’ve said it before, as a Dad to two girls I’m scared to death to raise my daughters in today’s culture, especially when I think about what waits for them when they grow up.

I grew up in the 80s, which weren’t perfect of course but still tame by comparison to today’s entertainment scene. MTV had just come on the scene and featured lots of big hair and cheesy music videos. Artists like Michael Jackson or Madonna pushed the envelope and caught flack for their “edginess.”

Today is a different story though. It seems every time I pull up a news page one artist or another is making headlines for setting the bar lower still with some racy music video or concert publicity stunt.

skitched-20100611-091602Lady Gaga, no stranger to controversy, released her latest music video on Tuesday for her song ‘Alejandro.’ It features Gaga dressed in a latex nun’s habit, sucking on rosary beads and at the center of a gay orgy dressed in a crucifix-emblazoned robe with a cross over her crotch.

Katy Perry (remember the one who “kissed a girl” and liked it?) made news when she publicly slammed Lady Gaga’s blasphemous video saying “Using blasphemy as entertainment is as cheap as a comedian telling a fart joke.” In the article I read about Katy’s issue with Gaga, the author added at the end in a humorous touch of irony, “The teaser for Katy Perry’s ‘California Gurls’ video, in which frosting shoots from her breasts, was also released Tuesday.”

Hello Pot? Yeah, this is Kettle. You do realize you’re black too, right?

And don’t even get me started about Miley Cyrus’ shenanigans. You would think that an artist that started off her career appealing to young kids as Hannah Montana and openly professes to be a Christian would hopefully display some restraint and at least think about the example she is setting for her fans.

skitched-20100611-093337But of course, Miley proved indeed that “nobody’s perfect” when she decided to release a rather risque music video for her latest song and then went on to further generate controversy with her extremely sensual bumping, grinding and fake-kissing in a couple of live shows in Britain and Spain.

But don’t worry parents, Miley helped set the record straight for all her young fans on her blog: “I just want to put an end to this right now and just say one thing to everyone out there making this performance such a big deal. GET OVER IT! NOTHING HAPPENED. THERE ARE WAYYYYYYY MORE IMPORTANT THINGS IN THE WORLD!”

So yeah, this is the world that I’m raising my two daughters to grow up in. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t scare the crap out of me. Sure, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry are setting new lows for what’s acceptable but where does it go from there? What will the “new low” be that the next artist sets? When Disney stars are bumping, grinding and almost-making-out on stage while their TV shows air on Disney every day, what will the next generation of kids entertainment look like? Where will it end? Will our world ever stand up and say Enough? Or are doomed to watch each generation try to out-do the last and push the envelope further still?

I don’t even know if I want to know the answers to those questions. I’m just a Dad to two little girls trying my best to raise them right in a world gone wrong.…

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Sex Can Wait. So Can Marriage

I recently read about the growing trend in evangelical circles of couples getting married younger. When facing the possibility of the dreaded “sex before marriage,” some pastors and churches are trying to cut their losses and nudge young adults toward the altar even as many of their peers and parents are holding them back.

When Margie and Stephen Zumbrun were battling the urge to have premarital sex, a pastor counseled them to control themselves. The couple signed a purity covenant. When the two got engaged and Margie went wedding dress shopping, a salesperson called her “the bride who looks like she’s 12.” Nonchurch friends said that, at 22, she was rushing things.

The most recent issue of Christianity Today ran the cover story The Case For Early Marriage that looked at the current trend in the church toward younger marriages.

Better To Marry Than Burn

skitched-091627I’m not debating the damaging effects premarital sex can have on a marriage. There’s no question that no matter how many chastity balls we throw or purity rings we hand out, we’re losing ground. Over 90 percent of American adults experience sexual intercourse before marrying. The percentage of evangelicals who do so is not much lower. In a nationally representative study of young adults, just under 80 percent of unmarried, church- going, conservative Protestants who are currently dating someone are having sex of some sort.

Many christian leaders raise Paul’s argument that it’s “better to marry than to burn with lust.” (1 Cor. 7:9)

But at what point is marriage simply viewed as a ticket to guilt-free sex? What about the fact that marrying young is the single highest predictor of divorce?

I have my own opinions on this topic that are better shared over coffee than trying to condense into this post. I would however love to know your opinion.

What do you think?

Do you think pastors and Christian leaders are encouraging couples to get married too young? Or is young marriage the key to avoiding premarital sex?

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7 Keys To Raising A Good Christian Family

Today’s highly sarcastic post is my first collaborative effort. I had some ideas and turned to my amazingly witty and creative buddy Curtis Honeycutt to help me out. Keep in mind, he helped write this before he got those cool new glasses. Imagine how much more creative he is now! Rumor has it he went up 10 IQ points the day he got them.

Don’t Spare The Rod

We all know that the “rod of correction” will drive the devil out our kids. If the rod works and keeps the naughties away, why be stingy with it? Give em a good whack on the behind before they go to bed. Who knows what evil thoughts they were thinking during the day that you didn’t know about?

Oh Be Careful Little Eye What You See…

Start them young on a steady diet of Veggie Tales. As they get older you’ll be able to start weaning them off that into pre-teen Christian classics like Bible Man (what’s cooler than a superhero that prays?).  Just make sure they don’t start watching The Simpsons. Before you know it, they’ll be dancing, which leads directly to listening to hip-hop music.

Find Christian Versions of Popular Cultural Trends

Culture is bad. We’re in the world but not of it which means that we need to clean up all the things our kids watch, see or do before they’re destroyed by their corrupting forces. Here are some examples:

  • Guitar Hero = Guitar Praise
  • Dance, Dance Revolution = Dance Praise
  • Simon Says = Solomon Says
  • Halloween = Harvest Party
  • YouTube = GodTube
  • Altoids=TestaMints
  • GI Joe = Bible Action Figures (like Sampson & Moses)
  • Goldfish Crackers=Icthus Crackers (I’m pretty sure this one hasn’t happened yet and Goldfish crackers are a staple of children’s ministry…this gold mine is up for grabs)

There’s no end to the things in culture that can be made better by making it “Christian.” Even popular board games like Monopoly, Outburst and Scattegories have their Christian counterparts – Bibleopoly, Outburst Bible Edition and Scattergories Bible Edition.

Buy Them a Dog Named Goliath

Probably the best Christian claymation cartoon of all time was Davey and Goliath. Goliath could roller skate. Who doesn’t want a dog who not only talks, but also roller skates? It’s the best of both worlds, if you ask me.

Remind Them of the Danger of Jeans

Boys=Forbid Them to Wear Jeans to Church
Girls=Forbid Them to Wear Pants of Any Kind to Church

Everyone knows that Charles Darwin, not Levi Strauss during the California gold rush, was the inventor of jeans. Darwin thought that denim slacks was the natural evolution of pants. Since we boycott most of Darwin’s ideas, ipso facto, we boycott jeans at church. When it comes to girls wearing anything but modest skirts and dresses to God’s House, that’s also a big no-no. If boys find out that girls have legs, that might lead to dancing (see above for why that’s bad).

Make Sure They See You Reading the Bible.

The Bible’s pretty awesome. Pretty much everyone knows that. But that doesn’t mean your kids read it. You need your kids to see you reading the Bible so they’ll want to. Simple as that. My suggestion is that you hang out right outside their bedroom to do your daily Bible reading, and occasionally say things like “AHA!” or “THAT’S INCREDIBLE!” or even “YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!” Before you know it, they’ll be highlighting verses faster than you can say premillennial dispensationalism.

Don’t Pay Them an Allowance

…but make them do lots of chores. When they complain, remind them that they’re storing up treasures in heaven. That’s how my dad got me to mow the lawn for free growing up.

If you do all these things, your kids should turn out pretty normal…anything we left out?…

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The New Porn Addicts

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Crystal Renaud, a blogger friend of mine, is working on a new book that addresses the relatively un-talked about subject of women addicted to pornography. Her book site, TheNewPornAddicts.com launches today.

According to some surveys (which are always hard to verify on this subject) as many as 17% of women struggle with porn addiction. Here are some more statistics from Brigham Young University:

  • 13% of Women admit to accessing pornography at work.
  • 70% of women keep their cyber activities secret.
  • Women are far more likely than men to act out their behaviors in real life (such as having multiple partners, casual sex, or affairs)
  • Women favor chat rooms 2X more than men.
  • An estimated 9.4 million women access adult web sites each month.

So if this is such a big problem why aren’t more people talking about it? I’m sure this is due in part to the social stigma associated with women and pornography. For whatever reason, our culture has commonly accepted the behavior with men but label women who struggle with the same issue as freaks, sex-addicts or worse.

Thankfully there are more women like Crystal stepping up and talking honestly about their struggles. Here’s part of Crystal’s story from her site:

crystalAs a young girl (age 11 to about 17), I struggled deeply with a pornography and sexual addiction. One that I battled in silence and very much in shame.

My addiction started out as nothing more than the curiosity of a young girl when I found a porno magazine in my older brother’s bathroom. What started out as curiosity quickly escalated to something dark and out of my control. Sin had taken over and took me down a path of what seemed like no return.

I had no friends. No passions. I had one mission and purpose in my life: pornography and adhering to my addiction. Any way I could find it, I would. And it didn’t matter where I was or what I was doing. Home, school, my friend’s houses, summer camp and yes, even church: my addiction came too.

Porn. Masturbation. Cyber Sex. Webcam Sex. Phone Sex. Anything you could think up, I watched, experienced and enjoyed. Even to the point of questioning my own sexual orientation. No matter how many times I said I would stop – I would just keep doing it.

But why? Why did I enjoy something so much and hate myself so much for doing it all at the same time?

You can read the rest of her story at TheNewPornAddicts.com.

In the meantime Crystal is looking for some help in establishing how best to communicate the far-reaching damage of this growing problem for her book. Here’s how you can help. She currently has 3 surveys on her site for women only who either are currently addicted to porn, used to struggle with an addiction or knows someone who is.

If you’re a woman who fits into any of these 3 categories would you please consider taking a few minutes to click the link and take a brief survey?

The results of the survey will be compiled and used in Crystal’s upcoming book. I have a feeling that this is a much wider-reaching issue than many of us realize. Thanks in advance for helping spread the word about these surveys via Twitter, email and on your blog.…

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This Is How Bridges Are Built

I’m sure you’ve heard all the buzz in the news about Obama’s controversial choice of inviting Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. It has stirred up a lot of animosity on the part of gays and lesbians who, through the years, have felt hatred and rejection from the Church.

I recently read a column that singer/songwriter/gay-activist Melissa Etheridge wrote in a local newspaper about Rick Warren (ht: Bryan Allain). It offers an interesting perspective on the whole firestorm around this issue. Here is an excerpt from the column:

I hadn’t heard of Pastor Rick Warren before all of this. When I heard the news, in its neat little sound bite form that we are so accustomed to, it painted the picture for me. This Pastor Rick must surely be one hate spouting, money grabbing, bad hair televangelist like all the others. He probably has his own gay little secret bathroom stall somewhere, you know.

As I was winding down the promotion for my Christmas album I had one more stop last night. I received a call the day before to inform me of the keynote speaker that night… Pastor Rick Warren. I was stunned. My fight or flight instinct took over, should I cancel? Then a calm voice inside me said, “Are you really about peace or not?”

I told my manager to reach out to Pastor Warren and say “In the spirit of unity I would like to talk to him.” They gave him my phone number. On the day of the conference I received a call from Pastor Rick, and before I could say anything, he told me what a fan he was. He had most of my albums from the very first one. What? This didn’t sound like a gay hater, much less a preacher.

He explained in very thoughtful words that as a Christian he believed in equal rights for everyone. He believed every loving relationship should have equal protection. He struggled with proposition 8 because he didn’t want to see marriage redefined as anything other than between a man and a woman. He said he regretted his choice of words in his video message to his congregation about proposition 8 when he mentioned pedophiles and those who commit incest.

He said that in no way, is that how he thought about gays. He invited me to his church, I invited him to my home to meet my wife and kids. He told me of his wife’s struggle with breast cancer just a year before mine.

When we met later that night, he entered the room with open arms and an open heart. We agreed to build bridges to the future.

I’m so glad to have leaders like Rick Warren in the church today who stand firm in their beliefs while responding in love to those who disagree. He sets a wonderful example for Christians today.

This is how bridges are built and the love of God is lived out.…

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History In The Making

thumbLast night was a historic night.

Regardless of who you voted for you can’t help but appreciate the significance of the events that unfolded.

There were people who voted yesterday who have lived long enough to remember when women and blacks were both denied the right to have a voice in the electoral process. 40 years ago there were still schools that wouldn’t accept African American students. Within one generation our country has come out of the civil rights movement of the 60s to see our first African American President Elect. History was made last night.

You can also say what you want about John McCain but he gave one hell of a concession speech last night (transcript). I only wish his supporters in the crowd at the Biltmore in Arizona shared his gracious attitude and maturity.

Here is one of my favorite excerpts from his speech.

McCain-085218In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been, his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving.

Regardless of where your political affiliations lie there are some very important leadership lessons to be learned from this election. Obama’s brilliant speech last night was the culmination of probably one of the best political campaigns ever.

One of the things that stood out to me the most was Obama’s ability to inspire such a response in his followers. Was it his charismatic personality or his well-laid campaign strategies? Those elements certainly come into play but I don’t think that’s completely it.

Even if you don’t agree with Obama’s policies or political views you can’t help but admire his ability to rally followers to his cause. To borrow Seth Godin’s marketing concept, he built a very strong and loyal tribe.

What drew millions of Americans in was his ability to tell a better story. A story of change.

But most importantly, it wasn’t a story about Barak Obama. It was a story about you and me. A story about how together we can bring change. Yes we can.

The very essence of leadership can be summed up in this quote from Obama’s web site:

believe-083304

You see, a leader doesn’t stand up and say, “I’m going to do something amazing. Come follow me!”.

They say, “Let’s do something extraordinary together.” And that’s something every leader needs to remember.

By this point you may have drawn your own conclusions about who I voted for.

Incidentally, I voted for the other guy.

But you’re not going to hear me whine and complain about how terrible the next four years will be. I refuse to live out of the fear of what could be and choose to remember where my trust really lies. I will also choose to surround President Elect Obama and his cabinet with the same prayer that I would have given to John McCain if he had won.

Here’s something to think about for those who voted for the “other guy.”

What if it’s not really as bad as you think?
What if, instead of our nation falling apart like some of you think, it actually does ok during the next 4 years?
What if Obama becomes one of our best Presidents yet?

Can you be ok with that?

I’ll leave you with this extraordinary quote:

Confirm it in your heart and soul that the day after the election, God is still on His throne, and Jesus is still at His right hand. Certain things are not on the ballot, and the sovereignty of God is not.

When Christians react to elections with despair and panic, they are demonstrating that their faith is in the wrong place. If the election goes badly, do not soak your hair with lighter fluid, set it off, and then run in tight, little circles. Be a Christian. If the election goes well, do not act like you have just been saved. Salvation is not something that Caesar holds in his hand, whether to give or withhold.

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5 Tips for Becoming A Social Network Butterfly

social-network-butterfly

The Internet is changing daily. In the last few years we’ve seen the rise of sites like Facebook and Twitter as millions have joined the social networking trend. But social networking isn’t just for business professionals trying to find new sales leads or socially inept computer nerds trying to retreat from the real world.

No matter what your level of experience is with blogging or social media you can expand your circle of friends and meet some amazing new people.

5 Tips To Becoming A Social Network Butterfly

Let me start by pointing out that the goal isn’t to meet so many new people that you develop a large group of shallow relationships. The key to social networking is meeting enough people so that you can cultivate deeper relationships with those you click with. Here are 5 tips for becoming a social network butterfly everyone wants to meet.

1. Make Yourself Easy To Find

Perhaps the simplest and most obvious way to get connected online is to get yourself out there! There are a host of popular SN sites that make it easy to meet new people. Some of the more popular ones include Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, StubleUpon, YouTube, Vimeo and LinkedIn (we won’t mention MySpace, I’m still trying to pretend it doesn’t exist).

However, one of the biggest mistakes I see people making on their blogs is failing to provide easy links to all their social network profiles. If you’re going to capitalize on networked relationships then make it easy for visitors to your blog to find where else you are online. Popular social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk does a great job of this on his blog. Make the most out of your online presence by making yourself easy to find.

2. Cultivate Shared Interests

As you begin to develop your online relationships you’ll find you related to some people better than others. The beauty of social networking is that it allows you to connect with people that have similar likes and interests as you no matter where in the world they live. There are several new sites and tools that help facilitate meeting people with shared interests.

Meetup is one of the largest network of local groups. Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group around an interest or activity. More than 2,000 groups get together in local communities each day, each one with the goal of improving themselves or their communities.

Roov is a new online community launched earlier this summer that “connects like-minded individuals around their shared experiences and passions within their church and city.” It was designed to help facilitate new relationships and build community within the church.

There are a variety of other social networking tools that allow you meet new people that share your interest, hobby, affinity or passion.

3. Discover New Connections

Just meeting and associating with people online who have the same tastes and style would greatly limit you. There are certain online “circles” you may feel more comfortable hanging in but why not leverage the power of social networking tools to broaden your interests and meet new people.

Most of the people you interact with online probably became your “friend” through another online friend or a link off of their site. The old adage, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is just as true on the web. The most successful social networkers have expanded their social circles to include thousands or tens of thousands.

One good way to make new connections online is to harness the power of Google Alerts. Simply type in the search term of your choice, such as the name of your favorite author or an area of social need you’re passionate about. Select “Blogs” in the search type to limit the alerts to just blogs that mention those keywords you chose. Choose how often you’d like to receive notifications, type in your email address and click the ‘create alert’ button.

You can create as many of these alerts as like and manage them from your Google account. You’ll be amazed as the new connections start showing up in your inbox.

You can also use Twitter’s Search functionality to perform real-time searches of what people are saying on Twitter. This is another great way to meet new people on Twitter who are already talking about the things you’re interested in but may not run in your social networking circles.

4. Go Deeper With Key Relationships

Sure, you may have 535 friends on Facebook and follow 796 people on Twitter but what fun is that? The ultimate goal here isn’t to see how many people you can follow on Twitter (even though some people take that approach) but to find new people that you can get to know better.

Most social network or blogging relationships start with the “comment exchange” – I leave a comment on your blog, you leave a comment on mine. Don’t just limit yourself to “comment relationships” though. If you’re clicking with someone then shoot them an email, forward them a link you think they would enjoy reading. You may even chat with Skype or AIM.

You’re going to develop lots of relationships online but you won’t necessarily get to know everyone on the same level. Take the time to go deeper with people you really like.

5. Meet In Person

relationships-20081002-100118The ultimate goal of social networking isn’t to be stuck behind the computer all day hanging out with our “virtual friends.” In spite of all the great networking tools that about on the Internet today, nothing beats good old-fashioned face-to-face.

Be sure to check out local social networking sites in your area to see if there are any opportunities for connecting over shared interests. Meetup.com is a great resource for this but in my area there’s also sites like Smaller Indiana that help facilitate meetups.

I’ve been blogging for 9 months and I already have a network of people that I can hook up with for coffee or lunch in nearly every major metropolitan hub in the country. You just can’t develop a network of relationships like that anywhere else.

Next week I’ll be hooking up with 60+ bloggers at the Bloggers08 Atlanta Meetup, many of whom I’ll be meeting for the first time. I’ve also had the chance to meet some amazing people in person that I would have never been able to meet were it not for my social network.

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Good luck on using these 5 tips to expand your online circle of friends. Social Networking isn’t just a trend or buzz-word, its a chance for you to make and develop new relationships with people you would otherwise never had the opportunity to meet. I’d love to hear more ideas and tools you use for your social networking.…

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