Brad Ruggles

The Art Of Living

Catalyst 09: Rob Bell


I was really looking forward to Rob Bell’s session here at Catalyst this year. He always blows me away and challenges me every time I hear him. Rob Bell’s latest book is Drops Like Stars.

This was such an amazing talk. I’m sure I didn’t do it justice in this post. If you can you really need to hear this message when it comes out on CD or DVD.

Rob Bell – “10 Years Ago I Didn’t Get This”

  • RobBell-20091008-151510Is bigger better?
  • John 6 – “…from this time on many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him…”
  • Jesus had to confront many misconceptions the Jews had about who the Messiah was and what he was to do. When he told them about what the Messiah came to do many of the disciples said, “We can’t do that.”
  • Sometimes the crowd thins and people leave.
  • What would Jesus say to modern church growth experts who say “If you do A, B and C then this and this will happen”?
  • Yes, sometimes there are large crowds but sometimes large groups leave. Sometimes the crowd thins and not everyone comes with you.
  • Luke 21 – Jesus saw the rich giving large amounts and the poor widow giving a small amount. Even though the rich had given more money Jesus said that the poor widow had given more than all of them. More is not always more.
  • Rob took a stab at magazines and organizations that rank churches according to their influence and creativity. “Really?” he said, “And this coming from people who claim to follow a man who said ‘The first will be last’?”
  • Is the church in our culture known for its beautiful, self
  • When you rank and break down a church into numbers and statistics you violate the bride of Christ and what she was meant to be.
  • Have you had a deep dissatisfaction with what you’ve done? Are you carrying this burden for this thing you’re building for God? Have you stressed about the size of your church or organization? God wants to set you free from that.
  • The ten commandments end with “You shall not covet.” Some people view this as more of a reward than a commandment – if you love God and seek him wholeheartedly you won’t want any other life than your own?
  • Have you been observing a sabbath? Which day of the week are you busy doing nothing? Which day of the week have you set aside to feed your own soul so on the other six you have enough food to share with others? Which day of the week can you not be reached by phone or email?
  • Does your spouse get your very best or does your spouse get what’s left over after you’ve given your best to the church? (personal note…holy crap! Talk about kicking you in the teeth!)
  • If things are going well with the church but not with your family then they’re not doing well with either. They are inextricably linked. You ignore the one at the peril of the other.
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Brilliant Cover of Single Ladies


Over the weekend someone Tweeted about this video and I absolutely had to share it with you. While I’m admittedly not a fan of Beyonce’s music, I will say that this is one of the most creative covers I’ve heard in a long time.

I have one of the best karaoke machine for home practice, which makes me good day by day.

Cover of “Single Ladies” by Pomplamoose

Pomplamoose-085217But you would be wrong if you thought this was just a YouTube one-hit-wonder. As I went through their videos I found amazing covers of songs like Nature Boy, My Favorite Things, Do What You Want (by OK Go), 7 Nation Army (White Stripes) and Mrs. Robinson (Simon & Garfunkel).

All of the vocals, harmonies and various instrumental and percussion parts were performed and recorded by Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn who make up the band Pomplamoose (Twitter). I love their creative use of household items like pots, wine bottles or corkscrews to make up the various background beats. Their finished recorded sound isn’t bad for what is apparently a simple in-home recording room.

Want some Free Music?

You can find Pomplamoose on iTunes and MySpace. If you visit their MySpace page you’ll find a handful of free MP3s for you to download and share. Here’s a few of the songs I’ve been listening to and enjoying over the weekend:

  • Gatekeeper
  • My Favorite Things
  • La Vie En Rose
  • Nature Boy
  • Mrs Robinson
  • Single Ladies
  • O Come All Ye Faithful

So what do you think? Like their music? What other new music have you discovered lately?…

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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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What Church ISN’T


There’s an ancient principle that says you can learn more about something by first defining what it’s NOT before you try to define what it IS. Let’s take a look at a few things that Church ISN’T.

Church Isn’t About Protecting Christians From The World

Some of the church environments I experienced maintained that the church was a haven of peace and hope in a horrible, broken world. We were the sheep. They were the wolves. We had to protect our sheep by keeping the wolves out. We were “in the world but not of it,” remember? While there are many churches who consciously or sub-consciously adhere to the idea of being a place to hide from the evils of the world, I remind you the type of company Jesus kept when he walked this earth. He could have adopted the Pharisee’s method of separating himself entirely from everything “unclean.” Instead, he was known as a “friend of sinners.” Can our church say that?

Church Isn’t A Club

One of our strengths as the church is the friendships and community that come out of our local expressions of worship. People who have been hurt and rejected for years find healing in healthy relationships. However, if we’re not careful, friendships can turn into cliques and new people walking through the door will find themselves on the outside looking in. Our circle of friends is important but let’s not be so self-absorbed that we miss those Christ is calling us to serve.

Church Isn’t An Event

In Western culture especially, we have equated church with an event that happens once a week. We get ready for church, we drive to the church, we do church, we come home and then we don’t think about it again until next week. God never intended church to be an event that we only participate in for a couple hours each week. We are the church. That means that we carry it with us 24/7. It follows us wherever we go, whatever we do. Church is as much a part of the conversation we have with a co-worker on Monday as it is about the worship songs we sang the day before.

Church Isn’t A Location or Building

While most of us know this intuitively, we still need to be reminded that the church isn’t a specific building or location. Our buildings and programs create environments for church to happen but they are no more or less sacred than our living room or even the neighborhood pub.

Church Isn’t A Denomination

We each like to think that our own beliefs and doctrines are the “right way.” Which is understandable. We wouldn’t practice them if we didn’t believe them to be true. The danger comes when we begin to see our way as the only way. There are some hills to die on but then there are other battles that don’t need to be fought. Some sprinkle, some dip. Some take communion with wafers and wine, others with bread and grape juice. One day soon we’re all going to be sitting up in Heaven wondering what all the fuss was really about.

Church Isn’t About You

This one is the most important distinction in my opinion. Church isn’t about YOU. It’s about THEM. I have no patience for people who visit a church and come home complaining that the music was too loud, the message too long or the air conditioning too cold. Some people view church as a “pick-me-up,” a little boost of joy and happiness to get them through the week. Show up, sing a couple songs, shake a few hands, go home and pull out the potroast. The church was never meant to be a place to cater to Christian’s comforts. It is and always has been about “seeking and saving those who are lost.” (Luke 19:10)…

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In Defense of Adultery

So there’s apparently this whole pro-cheating movement proliferating on the internet. Huge surprise, right?

According to Utne, there’s a raft of pro-adultery literature cropping up on the web. They cite a piece on Briar patch that dismisses marriage as a tyranny in which “your intimacy is governed by scarcity, threats, and programmed prohibitions, and protected ideologically by assurances that there are no viable alternatives”; and an irreverent post on Jewcy about the (apparent) Jewish infidelity movement.

Couples married more than a year or two will tell you: Marriage is work. It requires open, authentic communication between both partners. Keeping two people in a fulfilling relationship is difficult, while adultery comes naturally. It’s often easier to find someone new to share your dreams and difficulties with. Easier that is, until that new car smell has worn off and the cycle repeats itself all over again.

Our good friends Justin & Trisha will tell you that there are plenty of things that, if left unresolved, will destroy your marriage. Let’s face it, the odds are stacked against long-lasting, healthy relationships and the opportunities for disaster abound.

Justin & Trisha shared that praying for each other and your marriage is crucial for long-term health in your relationship.

Take a minute and share your prayer for your marriage.

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The Prison Of Thanklessness


In the book, The Holy Wild, Mark Buchanan shares a story from when he was in Uganda. In a little dirt-floored church one Sunday evening the village pastor asked if anyone had anything they wanted to share. A tall, skinny African woman from the back danced to the front,

skitched“Oh, brothers and sisters, I love Jesus so much,” she said.

“Tell us, sister! Tell us!” the Ugandans shouted back.

“Oh, I love Him so much, I don’t know where to begin. He is so good to me. Where do I begin to tell you how good He is to me?”

“Begin there, sister! Begin right there!”

“Oh,” she said, “He is so good. I praise Him all the time for how good He is. For three months, I prayed to Him for shoes, And look!” And with that the woman cocked up her leg so that we could see one foot. One very ordinary shoe covered it, “He gave me shoes.”

The Ugandans went wild. They clapped, they cheered, they whistled, they yelled.

But not me. I was devastated. I sat there broken and grieving. In an instant, God snapped me out of my self-pity and plunged me into repentance. In all my life, I had not once prayed for shoes. It never even crossed my mind. And in all my life, I had not even once thanked God for the many, many shoes I had.

Like Mark, that story just wrecks me. I’ve prayed about a lot of things but I’ve never prayed for shoes. It’s the little things that we take for granted. Things like a roof over our heads, the clothes on our back or the shoes on our feet.

I’m reminded of our little boy Sabato from Tanzania that we sponsor through Compassion International. We exchange letters with him regularly and have been following along with his progress in school. This last letter included this photograph of him.


Did you notice his shoes? He’s wearing girl’s tennis shoes that are at least a size or two small with huge holes in both toes. They’re the kind of shoes we wouldn’t be caught dead with here in the United States. And yet he’s thankful for something to protect his feet (incidentally, we did send money for him to get a new pair of shoes).

How many little things do we overlook every day and miss out on the joy of recognizing God’s provision? This is how Mark Buchanan wrapped up the above story in his book:

Thanklessness becomes its own prison. Persisted in, it becomes its own hell, where there is outer darkness and gnashing of teeth. Thanklessness is the place God doesn’t dwell, the place that, if we inhabit it too often, He turns us over to. “See to it that no one misses the grace of God,” Hebrews says, “and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Thanklessness troubles and defiles many, because first it troubles and defiles the one in whom bitterness takes root.

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Sex, Lies and Photoshop

I’ve been working in Photoshop since version 3.0. Photoshop (and design in general) has come a long way. With each new version there are features available to help make my job easier and make the finished product look better. I love how far design has come.

But there is one part of my industry that I’m ashamed of. Photoshop retouch artists have redefined the standards of beauty, health and physical appearance through what has come to be known as the ‘Photoshop Effect.’

Just because we have the tools to completely change the look of a person’s body in Photoshop doesn’t mean we have the right to do that. Especially when what we’re altering distorts the image of what and what isn’t the definition of a perfect body. With so much falsehood in fashion advertising, just how much are we affecting the minds of the younger generation?

70 percent of girls report that images of models in magazines influence their definition of a perfect female body.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Most of you have seen the popular Dove Evolution commercial that shows in detail how easy it is to completely adjust an image to reflect something that isn’t even realistic.

Many celebrities have dedicated retouchers on commission and won’t let a single photo be released until it passes through them. For an interactive look at exactly what goes into a Photoshop magazine cover retouch.

We Live In A Virtual World

The plain and simple truth is that no one can live up to the images of beauty and physical appearance that we see in magazines these days. Research shows that these images negatively affect a girls self-image and yet magazines continue to push the boundaries of what they define as ‘beauty.’


These days, altered images are ubiquitous; the fairytale world threatens to engulf our own. The illusion is more complete, too — with digital technology it’s harder to see the smoothing. Stalin would have drooled at the possibilities.
More here on David Byrne’s Journal.

Beautifully Unrealistic

Here are some examples of popular celebrity photos before and after Photoshop retouching. Observe the completely flawless skin, the reduced waist line, enlarged bust, lack of eye lines, and perfect hair.





There are many people who are advocating a new standard for magazines that will require them to clearly list in the credits for a photograph that it was retouched. I don’t think that will help to rebuild the self-image of countless girls who are trying to measure up to these false standards but it’s a start.

Magazine-retouching may not be a lie on par with, you know, “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction,” but in a world where girls as young as eight are going on the South Beach Diet, teenagers are getting breast implants as graduation gifts, professional women are almost required to fetishize handbags, and everyone is spending way too much d*** time figuring out how to pose in a way that will look as good as that friend with the really popular MySpace profile, it’s f*****g wrong.

– Anna, Photoshop of Horrors

What do you think?

Should magazines be required to label which photographs have been retouched? Or is this issue blown out of proportion?…

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Global Food Crisis Day Today


Ok, I’ll be honest with you. I wanted to write a long post about this subject. I’ve had it sitting in my drafts folder for weeks. For whatever reason life has caught up with me this week and I haven’t had as much time to throw towards my blog as I would have liked.

This is a HUGE issue for me though so I want to at least make you aware of what today is. Today is the Global Food Crisis Day. Here’s some more information…


Compassion International is partnering with radio stations, media, churches and bloggers to spread the word about the Global Food Crisis and raise funds that will make a real difference to those impacted by it.


Overshadowed by recent political and financial economic news, the UN World Food Program calls the current global food crisis “a phenomenon, a silent tsunami,” that is affecting millions of families in every nation on every continent. This global food crisis is more rapid, urgent and devastating than any other in the history of our planet.


The cost of food staples have roughly doubled in many countries where Compassion serves. Some of the original factors that turned this trend into a world calamity recently include unstable oil prices, increased meat consumption in countries like India and China, droughts in major crop-producing countries, and increased production of biofuels.


  • Visit to learn more about the Global Food Crisis
  • Donate to Compassion’s Global Food Crisis Fund.
  • Blog about the crisis, talk to your friends, email those you’re close to about the issue to help spread the word
  • Add a Global Food Crisis widget to their blog sidebar or posts:
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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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