Brad Ruggles

The Art Of Living

Our Little Boy Is Growing Up

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It’s hard to believe that in just five weeks I’ll be in Kenya! I’m so excited to experience the awesome work of Compassion International first-hand.

We’ll be sponsoring our second child from Africa who I’ll be able to meet while I’m there. Our first little guy, Sabato, has been a part of our family for nearly four years. Letters, like the one below that we just received, are what make the child-sponsor bond so special.

**this letter was dictated by Sabato in his native tongue and then written and translated by Compassion workers – I’ve left the broken English intact**

letterSaboto greets you so much in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. He says he is very happy for the gift you sent to him. (we send extra at Christmas for a Christmas gift) He says he feels good to have a person – a very important person- who takes care of him so much. He says he took his picture near with their center.

He asks do you like his suit and his shoes? He says he likes wearing his suit and his shoes during going to the church.

He says he continues with his lessons with all his effort and after school lessons. He also went to learn an extra lessons during evenings.

He says he likes going at the church on time in order to sing, to pray and singing the Lord’s songs. He says later on he plays football.

He says he loves you so much and he continues praying to God with effort in order to succeed in your activities. Lastly he asks you to continue praying for him so much in order to do all his effort in his lessons.

He says may God bless you so much and to pray for his country Tanzania. He says Goodbye.

We received this updated photograph of Sabato along with this letter…

sabato

This photo is proudly displayed on our refrigerator next to pictures of our two girls. I smile every time I see it.

Sabato described Compassion best in his letter: “He says he feels good to have a person – a very important person- who takes care of him so much.”

And that my friends, is what Compassion is all about.

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I’m Going To Africa!

It’s not often that the opportunity to do something that has been on your heart for years just falls in your lap. When it does, it’s hard to pray about it objectively because you kinda pray and ask God about it with the equivalent of the puppy-dog eyes that my girls know work far too often on me.

You see, while many people have prayed the, “God I’ll do anything for you…just please don’t send me to Africa!”prayer, I have always prayed the opposite. My heart has beat for this continent and its people for years.

So when I got a phone call from Shaun Groves, who works with Compassion International, asking me if I wanted to take a trip to Kenya with Compassion Bloggers in March…well, let’s just say I was more than a little excited! And not just the “I get to fly on a plane to an exotic destination” kind of excited – I’m pumped about leveraging the influence and voice God has given me through this blog to make a difference in a child’s life.

Children like our little Sabato.

We’ve sponsored Sabato for nearly four years. Because of a very small monthly sacrifice on our part he has been able to go to school and stay clothed and healthy. Because of the unique sponsorship relationship Compassion has developed we are able to write Sabato and receive letters from him. Chloe & Emily talk about him to their friends and even call him “their brother.” He’s become part of our family and we are an important part of his.

That’s why I’m so excited to take this trip and share the sights and sounds with you. I’ll be live-blogging from Kenya March 4-10 with a team of bloggers and photographers. I’ll be sharing more details about the trip and my fellow bloggers in the weeks to come but in the meantime you can follow our trip on Twitter. You can also promote help me promote the trip by embedding this widget on your blog:

cbtrip-9011

I’ve got a few little surprises I’ll be sharing along the way so keep checking back (click here to subscribe to my updates in an RSS reader or click here to subscribe by email).

Thanks for reading and helping me promote this trip. I’m so excited to share this adventure with you!…

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Catalyst 09: Shane Hipps

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In this session Shane Hipps, author of Flickering Pixels, shared about what and how we communicate our message in today’s digital world. Don’t forget to keep checking in over at CatalystBackstage.com

Shane Hipps – The Medium Is The Message

  • Christianity is fundamentally a communication event
  • “The methods change but the message stays the same.” i.e. You have to innovate your methods otherwise the gospel becomes increasingly irrelevant.
  • The medium, in fact, IS the message – how you say something as much as or more than what you say
  • What you use to communicate will determine how your message is heard and received
  • The content of any particular medium is like the slight-of-hand that a magician performs. While we’re distracted the message is subtly communicated
  • In advertising there is a big difference between the printed words and images. Our brains process them differently. When you present your views in an essay format, it invites argument. However, when you present your opinion using images, it represses the logical side of our brain and causes us to become more accepting of the message.
  • Mark 2:22 “No one pours new wine into old wine skins…” Jesus makes the emphasis that the wine is new as well as the wine skin. In other words, you must update your methods and your message. The gospel of message has changed through the years depending on who it was being presented to, where they were at and at what time in history they were from.
  • And yet, the ever-changing gospel never changes. How is that possible? Look at a picture of yourself when you were a baby. You look, act and function completely different now than you did when you were a child…and yet, you are still the same person.
  • The look, function and feel of a mustard seen is completely different than the look, function and feel of a mustard tree. And yet a mustard tree cannot exist without that tiny mustard seed. They are the same and yet always changing. The leaves that grow on the tree do not invalidate the mustard seed.
  • The DNA of the gospel will never change (love wins, grace is free, etc.)

I haven’t read Shane’s book, Flickering Pixels, yet but I want to after this talk. Your thoughts?

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Catalyst 09: Malcolm Gladwell

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In this session, Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers, talked about the danger of being overconfident as a leader.

Malcom Gladwell

  • Experts can still make mistakes. You need look no further than the current economic crisis to see an example of this.
  • Does more information allow you to make a better decision? You can still be wrong wrong even with more information. In a study, a group of individuals were asked to make a decision about a certain thing with little information. As more and more information was provided to them their decision didn’t necessarily change but their confidence in their decision increased.
  • Incompetence irritates me, overconfidence scares me
  • We generally like people who are overconfident. When a brain surgery says before surgery, “Don’t worry, everything is going to be fine,” he is being overconfident and we want him to be. And yet he can still be wrong in his overconfidence.
  • When we’re trapped by our overconfidence and arrogance, the world around us can change and we will never know it (example: the banks, and mortgage brokers who thought the economy would keep going up…)
  • In times of crisis we think we need daring and bold decision making from our leaders. We don’t. What we need in times of crisis from our leaders is humility (note: I thought this was an interesting point…I’m not sure what I think about Malcolm’s point here but maybe I need to hear more context)
  • Andy Stanley’s Question to Malcom: What are the warning signs of an overconfident leader? There is a potential for overconfidence in all of us. We should be looking for it in every leader in our organization. The biggest warning sign is when our leaders stop listening to the advice of others.
  • The opposite of an overconfident person is a person with humility – being willing to listen to others
  • When a small business reaches a certain point in their growth, the entrepreneur fails to realize that the same rules that helped them grow to where they are at now will not take them to where they need to be. As your organization or church grows, it becomes imperative that leadership begins to become more and more collective.
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Catalyst 09: Andy Stanley

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Here’s my first post from Catalyst 2009, On Your Mark. In the first session Andy Stanley shared about leaving our mark as leaders. Don’t forget to stop by CatalystBackstage.com and check out all the fun and interviews there with Anne & Los.

Leaving Your Mark – Andy Stanley

  • Most leaders won’t realize the significance of their mark until long after it has been left.
  • In Joshua 5 Joshua encountered an angel standing before him with a drawn sword. God basically told Joshua, “I have not come to be a part of your story. I’m not even here to be a part of Israel’s story. I’m here to find out if you’re willing to be a part of MY story.” Our response to that question will determine the mark we leave behind
  • God is not someone who has been invited to play a part on my story. Instead, as a leader I have been privileged to play a part in His.
  • Am I willing to submit my leadership gifting to a bigger picture and a larger story?
  • Joshua determined that he would not be a man in authority but a man under authority. He would not be a man out to make his mark but a person who would be commited to let God make a mark through him.
  • “God takes full responsibility for the life that is wholly devoted to Him.”
  • It’s not about the mark you leave. It’s about being in the perfect place so that God can make his mark through you.
  • When God does his greatest work through you, you won’t even know it happened.
  • Living to make my mark is too small a thing to give my life to. But when God calls us to let him make his mark through us, that is the thing willing to give our life for.
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Catalyst 09: Rob Bell

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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

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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

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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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