Brad Ruggles

The Art Of Living

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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Watch. Think. Discuss.

The latest Nooma Video, Tomato is premiering at Neue. It will be streaming in its entirety for the next 24 hours only. Head on over there, watch it, then come back here and discuss.

Do you ever find yourself telling a story in a certain way to make yourself look better?

We pick up at a very young age from the world around us that it’s about winning or impressing. We leark quite quickly that the way to get ahead is to take the path of ascent, to climb higher and higher.

We spend all this energy maintaining this false self, carefully protecting and preserving this image that we’ve created. Jesus invites that part of us to die. The part of us that always has to be right, always has to be better, always has to look good.

Think about how many broken relationships aren’t going to get any better until somebody is the first to apologize. Why is that so hard? Because when we say we’re sorry we admit that our hands aren’t clean, that we may have contributed to this mess – saying you’re sorry is a form of death. It’s a refusal to carry on the false self and prop it up, it’s a refusal to maintain that perfect image of yourself.

Jesus invites us to lose our life so that we can really find it.

I don’t know about you but the message of this video hit me between the eyes.…

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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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Pay Attention To The Rule-Breakers

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photo by Scott Fillmer

Many of the people in my group said the most impactful session at Catalyst for them was the one by Steven Furtick, lead pastor of Elevation Church. Regardless of what you may think about Steven’s leadership style or church philosophy, there’s no denying that God’s hand is on him in a powerful way.

In the very last session Andy Stanley shared some thoughts on a handful of quotes that have helped shape his ministry. One of those quotes was from Joel Barker from his book Future Edge,

“What do I believe is impossible to do in my field, but if it could be done would fundamentally change my business?”

There are paradigm shifts taking place every day as companies, organizations, and churches are having to re-adjust their definition for what is and isn’t possible. Just because we think something is impossible or highly unlikely doesn’t necessarily mean it’s impossible. It could just mean that we haven’t discovered the way to get around that obstacle.

Andy’s takeaway from that quote was this:

Pay attention to people who are breaking the rules!

I think of people like Steven Furtick when I hear quotes like that. I just recently read about the Dream Sex series that Elevation is doing. They’re not only encouraging healthy relationships from the stage on Sunday, they’re actually providing an opportunity to kick-start it by giving out $30 gift-cards to local restaurants and 3 hours of childcare!

There is a new generation of churches and church leaders that are fundamentally redefining how church is done and people are reached.

Allow Room for Changing Paradigms

onlinechurch-124125We’re used to the idea of an Internet Campus like LifeChurch and Seacoast are doing but it was only within the last 5 years that those models were pioneered. What new ideas and tools will be available to us in 5 years that haven’t even been thought of yet?

Let’s take that question off the whiteboard and bring it home.
Perhaps you’ve had to adjust your ministry model to incorporate social media. Maybe you’re figuring out ways to utilize current technology tools like text messaging to make your service interactive (check out Jarbyco). Or maybe you’re letting God stretch you in the area of music or methods.

What are the paradigm shifts you’re dealing with in your ministry or organization right now?…

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Atlanta Bloggers Meetup Next Week

I’m so excited about meeting so many of you at the Atlanta Bloggers Meetup next week! Between going to Catalyst and hanging out with other bloggers, it’s going to be like my birthday and Christmas all rolled into one.

I also found out earlier this week that the Dealy Viper Shin-Dig will be taking place later that evening at the same location as the Blogger Meetup so if you hang around you’ll get a chance to meet Mike Foster, Jud Wilhite and the rest of the Deadly Viper crew. The one-and-only Anne Jackson will also be on hand capturing all the juicy details for CatalystBackstage and I’ll finally get to meet one of my favorite bloggers, Jon Acuff (StuffChristiansLike). We may even have a surprise visitor stop by!

Many of you have been asking who all is going to be at the meetup. Here’s the list of everyone who has registered so far. If you have some time before the conference check out some of these amazing bloggers:

  • Jonathan Herron
  • Josh Allen
  • Matt Simon
  • Russ Hutto
  • Pat Rowland
  • Pete Wilson
  • Jenni Catron
  • Ryan Bult
  • Chad Roberts
  • Dave Senes
  • Anne Jackson
  • Shawn Elledge
  • Shannon White
  • Adam Miller
  • Stuart Delony
  • Kevin Twombly
  • Jon Acuff
  • Mark Acuff
  • Bennett Acuff
  • Cherith Carpenter
  • Brett Carpenter
  • Shaun King
  • Dawn Nicole Baldwin
  • Keith Baldwin
  • Michael Harrison
  • Crystal Renaud
  • Lynse Leanne
  • Mark LeHew
  • Terrace Crawford
  • Dave Daniels
  • Kim Daniels
  • Aaron Dininny
  • Katie Dininny
  • Tim Liu
  • Zak White
  • Nic Burleson
  • Cole Phillips
  • Adam Black
  • Bryan McGee
  • Jennifer McGee
  • Mike Paschal
  • Ryan Detzel
  • Nick Carnes
  • Brad Ruggles
  • Lisa Ruggles
  • Aaron Foster
  • Jason Ruggles
  • Tom Hinton
  • Corbin Prows
  • Jake Miller
  • Adam Flynt
  • Travis Thompson

Remember, Twitter will be abuzz with activity during the conference as well (#catalyst08 is the hash tag to use and follow). I’m looking forward to meeting and hanging with all of you! See you next week in Atlanta!…

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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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There’s A Monster At The End of This Post

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monster-at-the-end-of-this-book-074256One of my favorite Little Golden Books as a kid was The Monster at the End of this Book. It was a great moment when we received this book as a gift and I was able to read it to my kids.

I got hours of enjoyment sitting down with Emily and pleading with her in my best Grover voice,

PLEASE DON’T TURN THE PAGE!!

She would of course. With each new page turned poor Grover would beg and plead to stop turning pages for fear of finding the monster at the end of the book.

Until we turned the last page and found that the monster at the end of the book? Yup, turns out it was lovable, furry old Grover the whole time.

Anger & Disappointment

This past week the church world was rocked with another disappointment. I don’t need to add any additional commentary to what has already been said by other bloggers I respect. I want to talk instead about how we as Christians are supposed to react to this kind of news. Because if the scandals of the last 24 months serve as an indication of future failures, we have many more of these stories yet to be uncovered.

I’ll be honest with you. My first reaction to these kind of stories is a mix of disappointment and anger. Disappointment, because yet another person I admired let me down. And anger, because I know that once again, the name of Christ will get drug through the mud because of another person who thought they could live a double-life and get away with it.

Looking For Monsters

Why do we find it so easy to point our fingers at the “monsters” we see in the church today? Sure we’re upset about it but can we so arrogantly cast blame when it could have just as easily been you or me?

Far too often I’m so busy trying to remove the splinter from my neighbor’s eye that I’m tripping over the plank in my own.

Don’t get me wrong – I am in no way excusing deceit and hypocrisy in the church. What Michael did was wrong. Nor am I condoning sweeping stories like this under the rug. However, let’s remember that we’re really not that different.

The moment that we begin to think of ourselves as immune to these kind of shortcomings it the moment we’re most in danger of falling. As Paul warned, If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin. (1 Corinthians 10:12)

Like Grover, we may find that if we keep turning the pages, WE are in fact the monster at the end of the story. We’re all capable of lust, greed, hypocrisy and deception in the worst way.

There, but for the grace of God, go I.…

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3 Stories That Have Touched My Heart

Since I’ve been blogging there have been several people whose story Lisa and I have really connected with.

CJ & Andrea Mills

The first was CJ and Andrea Mills. CJ is a special blog buddy because he happened to be my 100th blog subscriber. Back in May while on vacation in South Carolina Andrea went into labor two months early and had little baby Asher who only weighed 4 pounds 9.7 ounces.

Our family checked their blog daily and prayed for Asher who struggled with health problems associated with being born so soon. My daughters knew CJ, Andrea, Jadyn and Asher all on a first-name basis as they were all in our prayers so often

I’m excited to say that God did an amazing miracle in Asher and he is now healthy, strong and growing. Our family still looks forward to the first time we get to meet this little guy we spent so much time praying for.

Adam & Karen Owens

The second family Lisa and I have spent a lot of time praying for is Adam & Karen Owens. Their little boy Gavin was born with a host of health problems including Mitochondrial disease and is TPN dependent which means he receives all his nutrition intravenously via a feeding tube.

Adam and Karen live a life that I can’t even begin to imagine. It’s not unusual for Lisa and I to wake up in the morning and read Adam or Karen’s post and find that Gavin spiked a fever overnight and had to be taken to the hospital which means living in the Ronald McDonald house for several days or longer.

Just yesterday Karen took Gavin at 12:30 am and didn’t get checked into their room until 4 am. Karen wrote on her blog, “I didn’t even bother going to sleep, instead I’ve been sitting here just wondering how much longer we can do this. I try to stay positive but on a day like today I just have to question…What in the heck is He trying to do to us?”

Honestly, I don’t even know what to say to someone who is going through something like that. The most I can do is continue to pray for them and encourage you to do the same. Add them to your blog reader, leave a comment and let them know you’re praying for them.

Matt, Liz & Madeline

Matt’s blog is one that Lisa really connected with. He shares the story of Madeline’s birth in March of this year. Shortly after her birth his wife Liz was getting up from her bed to hold their daughter for the first time when she passed out. A pulmonary embolism took her life leaving Matt to raise their first and only daughter on his own.

It’s a girtty, honest, painful look at the struggles of day-to-day life raising a child on your own while trying to make sense of the tragedy of losing the love of your life. I’ve seen Lisa read his blog many times with tears running down her cheek.

I try to put myself in his shoes but I can’t even imagine going through what he’s been through. To experience the happiest and most hearbreaking moments in your life, all within 24 hours?

These are just a few of the stories that have touched my heart and driven me to my knees in prayer.…

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You’re So Vain, You Probably Think This Post Is About You

Well, actually it is.

I’ve gotten quite a few new subscribers in recent weeks which is awesome but I’m starting to feel lost. So many awesome people I haven’t met yet! If I could, I’d slap a name tag on you to help me remember who you are. Hey, that’s not a bad idea!

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Please take a minute to fill out your name tag (even if you’re a long-time subscriber) and let me know…

  1. YOUR NAME
  2. WHERE YOU LIVE

Any additional information about yourself that would help me get to know you better is definitely welcome but not required.

Go ahead, here’s your sharpie.…

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