Saturday, December 17, 2011

God's Happy Pills

God. I can't think of any other word that has been debated, discussed, argued, loved or hated in the language of the world. Every person on the planet has heard the word "God", we all know what it symbolizes and it has become a dividing line where groups often run into their opinion cliques and nobody seems to agree fully on what or who God may be.
I know about as much as anyone who may read this and I'm not going to do the usual "God" debate. However, I would like to share a few of my personal beliefs and bring a new subject to light: What are God's happy pills?
I was raised a poor black woman. Oh wait...that was Celie in "The Color Purple". I get confused sometimes. Sorry. I was raised the grandson of a preacher man. This is true. We were brought up (southern slang for having birthdays) in the Pentecostal Church and the Assemblies of God....which aren't very different in the south at least. You couldn't get bored in these services. At any given time Sister Edna or Sister Bessie would feel "the power of the Holy Ghost" and run all over the place praising their savior. We had it all....speaking in tongues, dancing, fiery preaching, soulful singing, falling out under God's anointing. Honestly, you could feel it. I've been to numerous churches and you can always tell when it is "put on", (southern slang for not real). But, there was a difference and you could recognize the difference.
Home church wasn't like TV church. We never had pink haired ladies walking around in clown costumes and way too much make up. Not that there's anything wrong with that....I was a faithful viewer of the "Bozo The Clown Show" when I was three to six years old. As you get older and your own mind and beliefs are forming, you tend to see things differently than how you thought you would. This happened to me.
I've always said the worst thing that's happened to Christianity were denominations. Obviously, people can't agree on everything. We are divided on everything. Church has been no fact, I think it's worse. Somewhere between Christ's crucifixion and the Great Depression, the Church forgot exactly what they were here for and totally throw grace, mercy and love out the window in exchange for hellfire and damnation. Surprisingly, this type of preaching really took off, resulting in the infamous tent revivals and camp meetings where there were no problems with a man named Oral laying hands on people.
Fast forward to today and it's amazing at how many church's aren't those old home style churches anymore. They have grown into "Mega Churches", basically arenas filled to the max with everything from soda stands to near rock music blasting from the speakers. Some find it incredible and great for the Church and declare if 35,000 people want to attend your church then have 35,000 seats. Others dismiss it as a grand rock concert and hate on it's lack of intimacy with other church members and the pastor. Back in the day, you'd really never see so many huge Mega Churches around. Even local churches in bug cities have multiple mega Churches. So, I wonder what the reason for this is. Has the church truly grown, is it because there's just more people on the planet these days or is it the common refrain, "People are just looking for some sort if hope in these days"?
I believe everyone is looking for hope these days but I'd alert people to be careful where they attempt to look for it. No, I'm not going to hate on Church or preachers because at my core is a belief that the do some really great work in their communities and overseas and that should be commended. However, my views have changed as I've gotten older and I'll be sure to say one hundred Hail Mary's if I offend you. (I'm not even Catholic so that's a darn good deal!!)
Here we go..... Ahem......

I am not 100% certain that everything written and included in the Bible is 100% the opinion or Word of God. Maybe it is but the opinions and distortions of all these denominations have scattered everyone's brains. So many different opinions are being put into the God pot while being stirred by ignorance with a cup full of hate and a dash of forgiveness. Sometimes they forget to add that dash, sadly. When did church become the "good ole folks club"? as long as you believe exactly how we believe, kick your gay daughter out of your house and send her to a healing missions trip, pay your dues (tithes) and be sure to bring a dish to the weekly potluck dinner, we are A-ok? That's not at all what the Bible teaches....or, at least what the red letters teach. The red letters in the Bible are the words of Jesus himself. If you focus on those, I think the Church would be in for a vast surprise. But they don't get it. They are "the chosen ones" in their minds. They minister to us sinners who probably believe more than they could ever know. But, Lord knows...they are always right. Welcome to the walls of Christianity. You can't have the gay man in your church because he hasn't been healed yet. The woman who is struggling but could only find a job as a waitress in a bar is probably a sinner too. Walls. Meanwhile, the preacher and congregation of the same churches can't wait to get Sunday morning service over with so they can slip into further obesity at the local buffet line. Interesting what is a sin and what isn't.
Which brings me to my personal belief: I believe in Jesus because it feels right to me. I believe He died and was resurrected. I have faith in Heaven and I believe Jesus is the Son of God, I've been forgiven of wrongdoing and will share eternal life with Him. If I'm wrong, then I'll go nowhere and won't know it why not believe? So, I chose to and here I am. Keeping in mind what I said earlier, I do not call myself a Christian. Don't gasp too hard....yea I just said what you think I said. Why? Because Jesus never told me to be a Christian. He asked of me to believe that He is the Son of God and repent and accept Him into my life. So, I did.  I am a believer in Jesus and a receiver of His grace, love and tender mercies. Frankly, I don't like the way a big majority of Christians act anyway so I don't feel like I'm missing anything other than religious doctrine and Jesus hated that too.
God simply wants us to live happy lives and share our personal relationship to others, spread the word and give to those in need. Have I led the best life possible? Um...negative...but we are all works in progress. What makes God happy? I imagine it's seeing those who do believe do great things, keep their faith and do good towards others. It's really not a lot to ask. So, I imagine God's happy pills are His believers. Every time we do something good in His name, He gets a jolt of happiness. I think it's safe to say that we should all do good things to keep God happy. A mad God will only prove those hardcore crazy Churches right (WBC, anyone?).
Even if you don't believe in God, or you believe in God but not Jesus, or you believe in unicorns and not anything else....let's just do good things. Be nice, play fair, show compassion and try not to fight. Because, even if you don't believe, I do...and I want God to remain on His happy pills! Remind me of this next time I'm stuck in the middle of Wal-Mart hating every single individual in there! :-)

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Attack Of The Seven Foot Lesbian

I am a concert junkie. I love everything about a concert. From the lights, to the sounds, the crowds, the excitement, the epic ringing of the ears afterward....I love every second of the experience. Thankfully, I've been fortunate enough to see some awesome performers. Madonna (twice!), Whitney Houston (before the Crack Is Whack Tour), Amy Grant, George Strait (yawn), Luther Vandross, Robyn, Lady Gaga, Marilyn Manson, Fleetwood Mac, Heart, the B-52's, Little Richard, Cher.....just to name check a few of the crazy cool shows I've attended. One would think the most dangerous of these shows would've been the Marilyn Manson show. Well, you would be wrong.
About a year and a half ago, I had the pleasure of seeing a performer I've always admired. Her music was better way before she secured mainstream success and it was those early records that made a true blue fan out of me. Her name is Melissa Etheridge. The tour was "The Live And Alone Tour", just Melissa and a guitar. While that may sound boring on paper, trust me....she killed every song and you forgot there wasn't a big band behind her. It was amazing watching this legendary pro blast through not only her greatest hits, but all of those random songs from her earlier CDs. The only problem? I'm not a lesbian.
Look, I'm fully aware it's stereotypical to assume all of Melissa Etheridge's fans are lesbians and if you go to a Melissa Etheridge concert, it's just going to be a room full of lesbians. So, allow me to say it like it really was. It was a room full of lesbians and me.
There is nothing wrong with being a lesbian or anything or anyone else you are. You must be you at all times otherwise you are living a lie. Obviously, I am a very openminded, accepting and understanding person. The lady lovers in attendance at this show were super friendly and just as excited as I was...if not more. Somehow or another, I got front row seats. I'm still not sure how that happened. Melissa took the stage at 8:01 on the dot and rocked the house down! Halfway through the show, the crowd was allowed to stand right there at the stage...right in front of Melissa Etheridge herself. That's when it happened.
It was never my intention to block a woman three times my height and weight from shaking hands with Melissa Etheridge. It just happened. Melissa stepped away from the microphone and bent down to the crowd to slap fans hands. There is some weird sort of electricity that happens to a crowd when this occurs. Basically, all bets are off. It was like slow motion. I thrusted myself fully over this woman's arm, reached out while fully blocking her mind you, and shook the surprisingly soft hand of one of the meanest female guitar players out there. Trucker Sally didn't stand a chance. And I knew it.
Now, I'm totally satisfied in my concert experience. Not only did I see an icon perform a hell of a show, I shook her hand during the performance. The problem is Melissa Etheridge left me to defend myself from what could be a very scary situation.
I'm 5ft4inches tall and weigh 134 pounds. Ride Sally Ride was probably 6ft7 and weighs in at 259 pounds. I could feel her cold stare and warm beer chugging breath on my neck. I could feel it because now I'm in that horrid position of having to remove myself from my stance. I'm basically on top of this woman with a leg hiked up in the air. I slowly turn around and try not to make eye contact of any sort with this woman. I robbed her of a chance to touch Melissa Etheridge and now I may pay the price.
The woman taps me on the shoulder. I freeze up. What will she do to me? Will I live to see the encore? Finally, she speaks. "You must really like Melissa Etheridge.". Obviously, I was shaking. Is this a threat? Does that have a meaning I'm not privy to?? I smile shyly and respond, "Yes ma'am". She gives me a comfortable smile and we end up jamming out together. Whew! It was a close call but thankfully it ended up ok and no harm was inflicted upon yours truly.

What's the point of all this, you may ask? Silly readers, isn't it obvious?! Melissa Etheridge plays the guitar for a living and has been for over 25 years. She has the softest skin I've ever touched. So...lotion up people! Dry skin is not in!

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Highlights For Adults

With Christmastime fast approaching, one tends to reflect upon times past. Family and friends would always gather during this season and it always seemed money must have grown on trees. Presents and food were endless and there were always plenty for everyone. Christmas as a child was a total highlight. There was always just something special in the air and while the presents were an obvious highlight for a kid, the smells, the company, the tree, the lights all were equally enjoyable.  Now as I have grown a few years, I wonder if all those Christmas evenings were as much of a highlight for the adults as they were for the kids.
 The world is a much different place than it was on, say, December 25th, 1987. Even our own personal family has changed so drastically, it's like leaving one sitcom for the next. I am still playing the same role but with an entirely different cast.  Perhaps I was born to be typecast. I can't complain. I'm lucky enough to be like a cat with 9 different lives. I'd say Im on life 4 now. It's a good firm solid number but who's counting?
The feeling of knowing there will be no more Christmas mornings with any of your grandparents is a tough stocking to fill, but it eventually happens to us all. Now, I'll be surrounded by different family and new friends which is great but not the same as yesterday.
With family passed away, money not where it could be, debt rising like the plague and time going by so fast its nearly impossible to keep up.....What are the Highlights for adults this Christmas season? Thankfully, we have what we have: Memories of the past, future memories to create and a stamp on those who cross paths with us. We are able to give of ourselves when there is no money for gifts or lavish celebrations. That's a highlight all adults have. Rather than drain our pockets and energy with regret that seeps in when the bills arrive in January, we can give the one thing we have and never seem to lose: ourselves. Since I'm cheap and easy anyway, I think I can afford to give myself this year.
So, there you have it.....I can't buy you a new iPad or pay one of your bills for a month, I am unable to buy you a fabulous new outfit or the latest flat screen plasma television. But, I can offer a joke, a hug and maybe even one of those awesome Hallmark greeting cards. You know you want one!
Highlights are different for everyone. You can take joy in giving to the "new kids" on the family block and watching their expressions which remind you of your own expressions as a kid during Christmas. A highlight for me as an adult is walking out of the car insurance company with a receipt saying "PAID" on it. I guess all that matters is we are still here, we may be scattered across this nation....but myself, my family and my friends are here and that's a highlight that can't be denied.

.......and for those who have was a highlight having known you and I know where you all are and that's a highlight in itself.

Here's to a peaceful Christmas season full of brand new highlights for each and every one of you. To you from me and The Ruff Side!

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Will Madonna Win The Superbowl??

Come February, America will be divided on only two things: Which team they are rooting for and what type of television they will watch the "big game"on. Some will watch on their finest flat screen plasma televisions, while others will watch on great grandpa's small antenna to the sky. Whichever format used to experience all that IS the Super Bowl of 2012 really doesn't matter. What matters is the entertainment of the whole ordeal. Sure, we love to watch grown men sweat, run, tackle, observe, defend and score, which makes me wonder what the difference is between a game and real life, but I digress.

The money is in the commercials and the half time show. Its obscene at the millions of dollars spewed out of the pockets of all major corporations for a chance at a 15 second commercial during the Super Bowl. With upwards of 200 million people watching the same "show" at the same time, its more than likely worth the money. There isn't a televised event that I know of which assures you of so many eyes actually paying attention to what you are selling. Football isn't for everyone, but even non-sports lovers tune into the Super Bowl for it's ridiculously random commercials and for the ever coveted half time show.

The past few years of Half Time shows has been a mixed bag, to say the least. We had the Janet Jackson fiasco where Justin Timberlake "accidentally" tore a part of her shirt off revealing what I like to call, "a Jackson Five". It was Ms. Jackson"s breast with an odd star shape over her actual nipple....the star had five sides, thus a true "Jackson Five". That "wardrobe malfunction" cost CBS over $500,000 in fines and Janet hasn't had a hit since.

Then we had the legendary act "The Who". How can you go wrong with The Who? That's what I wondered, but shockers of shockers.....apparently 80 year olds just can't bring it like they could in their 40's. How anyone was surprised is beyond me. Let the dead sleep for God's sake!

Last year we were "treated" to a half time show from everyone's favorite vegetables, The Black Eyed Peas. I can't hate on the Peas because they seem to do rather well and are thankfully taking a much needed break from the front and center. However, there attempt at a half time show was robotic and pitchy doesn't begin to describe Fergie.....who later apologized to America for her horrible vocals.

The Half Time Show at the Super Bowl is designed to give the teams a much needed breather and the fans an extra treat as they suck down $9 hot dogs and a watered down Pepsi. The least you could ask for is a cool WOW moment.

Enter Madonna, who was recently announced as the Super Bowl Half Time performer for the 2012 Super Bowl. In my opinion, it's an odd yet interesting choice. Having seen Madonna live in concert twice, I can say she puts on a hell of a show. It's a very expensive show, visually stunning and most people know just about every word to every song. Madonna has been around for three decades.......THREE decades...crazy huh! At the age of 53 years old, she has pretty much done everything there is to do in the entertainment world.....except perform at the Super Bowl. That all changes come February 3, 2012.

The Queen of Pop"s relevence has been in question for years now. No, she doesn't hold the same appeal she did when she danced in front of burning crosses in her 1989 video for "Like A Prayer", but she has been able to miraculously stay in the forefront of pop culture much longer than most in this fast paced day and age. In my opinion, this is the perfect gig for Madonna. While she can still get a number album, a top ten single and schedule a sold out world tour bringing in tons of millions, I think this could be the opportunity to attempt to regain her throne. She needs to win back middle America....the heartland. That's a place she seems to have long forgotton and quite possibly the part of the world that stopped buying her cd's.

Madonna has to kill this performance. Super Bowl Half Time performances usually run around 12-15 minutes. She has to make her set as thrilling as the football game and not an extended bathroom break. Come February, we shall see if the supposed Queen Of Pop still has a firm grip on the throne like the players have a firm grip on the ball. I'm hoping for a win. Worse case scenario, Lady Gaga will attempt a field goal next year. Or Justin Bieber will fumble......but what else is new?

The Super Bowl is about the game, the players, the teams, the plays.............but the commericals rake in millions and the halftime show is a killer opportunity for an artist to have an insane amount of people watching. If anyone can make it worth it, Madonna could. I just wonder if she still can.

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Ruff Side

Hello! My name is James Ruff and welcome to my brand new blog. Exciting isn't it?! Yes, my last name is Ruff which has provided me a rather interesting existence. Sure, we all have pesky irritating problems in life but I'm willing to bet that during those problems you aren't being barked at. Literally barked at. Allow me to give an example. Have you heard the one about the 32 year old man walking into a bank? That man would be me. Nothing beats attempting to make a transaction and hearing, "How are you today, Mr. Ruff? Are you having a good day or a RUFF day? Haha haha haha!". Yes, Mrs. Turnblad, that's hysterical! I haven't heard anything so funny since 1st grade! Perhaps you should give me my money before I have a RUFF time robbing you! All honesty aside, I'm proud of my name. It seems to work for me and fit in some odd yet tantalizing way.

Since you are still reading (Anyone, Anyone?), allow me to detail exactly what this blog is intended to be: A no holds barred discussion of pop culture, movies, music, politics, news, religion and anything else that may float my boat at any given moment. You should be prepared for randomness since that's the only field I actually have a degree in. It wasn't free. I paid for it, trust me. Here on The Ruff Side, anything goes. The sky is the limit, the ocean is bottomless, the mountain is high....look, I'm running out of descriptions here. Surely, you get it by now! There will be videos, music, news broadcasts, rants and raves.......well, not the raves with glowsticks but hey, anything is possible. There also may be some true life worries, family members...I'll change the names to protect the guilty. Hopefully, as time goes by, I may do video chats with friends and family and other ridiculous goodies so stay tuned! Be sure to bookmark my page and check back often. If you don't, I'll know and there's this weird old woman down the street who makes little human dolls and I just saw a coupon for half priced pins.

Feedback is always much appreciated....just be nice! Much more will be coming very soon! My name is James Ruff and welcome to Tales From The Ruff Side.

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