Brad Ruggles

The Art Of Living

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

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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.

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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.’

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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.

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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

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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…

WHAT IS GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS DAY?

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.

WHY THE CRISIS?

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.

WHY IS THE CRISIS HAPPENING?

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.

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

  • Visit http://www.compassion.com/please 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: http://share-compassion.org/gfc/
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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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Best New Years Eve Movie Scene?

It’s scenes like this from When Harry Met Sally that set impossibly high expectations for New Years Eve. Billy Crystal’s character has used up every last excuse and has almost struck it out with Meg Ryan. But then he shows up at the last minute to sweep her off of her feet.

Honestly now, what woman could resist a speech like this?

I love that you get cold when it’s seventy-one degrees out.
I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich.
I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re lookin’ at me like I’m nuts.
I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes.
And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night.
And it’s not because I’m lonely.
And it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve.
I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.

For more updates, stay tuned at www.bradruggles.com

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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:

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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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