Click Here to Get $aved

Money-goes-far-in-Missouri-Show-me-the-moneyI posted the following on Facebook:

“By not saving & managing your money in your youth…you greatly increase the likelihood that you will one day feel enslaved to a job. People will tell you that money doesn’t make you happy, and that’s because they are broke. Money will offer you freedom, which can lead to both peace and happiness. Make it-Share it-Save it”

Uncle Tony

Being on the radio for almost 20 years has taught me that you can’t make a statement everyone will agree with, and so I was not shocked that a few (very few) disagreed.  However, I am a little shocked that someone would disagree.  Does that make sense?  Sure, I know that not everyone will realize I’m like a Caucasian Buddha, but not sure how anyone can deny the importance of money here in America.  Regardless, I want to clarify my statement to help people understand the brilliance that flowed so easily from my tortured mind.

Note that I didn’t say money can take care of all of our problems, and that it is the source of happiness. I said it can make life easier for you. When life is easier it can thus bring more peace and happiness to most situations.  For example, one of my dear friends replied with the following statement to my post:

I agree with you Tony. Always been a “save for rainy day” fund gal. In my 20s..when we were making very good money-we both socked 16 percent into 401ks…bought a modest home.  15 year mortgage ( house now paid off and I am only 43 ). Being responsible then when we were making big bucks saved me a world of grief later.

You will notice the phrase, “Saved me a world of grief later.”   What you don’t know is my good friend lost her husband to cancer at a very young age, and was left to raise 3 children. Did the money take away the grief.  No.  Did she ever think the money would replace the loss of the love of her life?  No.  However, did it reduce the stress in her life greatly? Absolutely.  Let me give you an example on the other side of the spectrum.  My parents are now almost 80 years of age, and despite having Medicaid and an AARP health policy their medications cost them over $500 a month.  If my parents had not saved money then they would be having even more struggles  Life is still difficult for them, but at least one stressor has been removed due to a few extra “Benjamins” in the bank.

Money shouldn’t be worshiped, and allowed to control us, but you sure as hell better learn to respect it and know the value of it.  I’m not speaking from a place of expertise, but I am speaking from experience.  I’ve made and continue to make great money, but because I wasn’t wise throughout the years it has tripled the amount of stress I have in my life.  I simply didn’t listen to my father who told me to save my money.  Now, please know I’m blessed beyond my dreams with most of the important things in life so don’t miss my point about money. My post is simply a way of advising younger folks to not just live for today.  Sure, enjoy today and spend some of your money on things that will bring joy into your life…just don’t spend all of it!

A few others insinuated that my Facebook post showed that I’m a broken man and in need of turning things over to God.  I would like to say that we are all broken, and you know what is worse than being broken?  Being broken and broke at the same time!  I fully believe that a belief in a high power will bring an incredible amount of peace during difficult times.  However, God doesn’t even carry a wallet, which makes it very difficult for Him to pay my rent.

 

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I thought it was God talking, but it just turned out to be gas!

GodWhen I moved to Washington almost 5 years ago I would have told you it was because this is where God wanted me to be.  There was little doubt in mine or Amy’s mind that God was sending us from Texas to the great Northwest!  Well if this has been part of God’s plan then it was poorly thought out.  Yes, we have made some incredible friends here and absolutely love the culture and beauty that surrounds us, but little has gone right for us financially, mentally, physically, and even spiritually.

I only write this because It is my form of therapy, and helps me process it, but it has truly been one disappointment after another.  And being a former pastor I know all of the amazing clichés that can be tossed my way like, “God didn’t promise us things would be easy, God puts us through trials to strengthen our faith, & God is there during the storms.”  What people don’t like to think about is the fact that maybe…just maybe God had nothing to do with the decision. It is possible that what I thought was God guiding or speaking to me was nothing more than wishful thinking, or gas from a bad plate of lasagna.

Let me give you a great example of what I’m talking about in this blog laced with sarcasm and discouragement.  About a year ago I was talking with a lady who informed me that God had used the Wolf’s station vehicle to speak to her (100.7 The Wolf).  She said that she was praying about her pastor, whom she thought was a “Wolf in sheep’s clothing”, and then she saw our vehicle pull up next to her!  And she knew at that moment that God was communicating with her.  So she then likely went to the elders of her church to get rid of the Wolf (aka pastor).

I’m not here to say that God does or doesn’t communicate with us, but I have learned that I need to be very careful when I think God is speaking to me or others.  I have never heard an audible voice, but I’ve been thinking…He is God so if He really wanted me to know something wouldn’t it be loud and clear?  I just believe that there are more times in life where people believe they are following God when in reality He is following them, and He is likely thinking, “Why in the world would he think I wanted him to do this?”

I’m Coming Out of The Closet!

weddingringesequalitysamesexmarriage2World Vision sure stirred the religious pot over the last couple of weeks!  In case you missed it, they made a public statement that they would lift their ban on hiring those in a same-sex marriage.  It was a very bold statement and move by a Christian organization, and many of us here in the Northwest applauded them.  However, it wasn’t long until some very prominent evangelical leaders openly condemned them, and several thousand donors cancelled their child sponsorships over the new policy.  A few days later World Vision realized they were going to lose a substantial amount of funding, and released the following statement:

“We listened to [our] friends, we listened to their counsel. They tried to point out in loving ways that the conduct policy change was simply not consistent … with the authority of Scripture and how we apply Scripture to our lives,” said Stearns. “We did inadequate consultation with our supporters. If I could have a do-over on one thing, I would have done much more consultation with Christian leaders.”

“What we are affirming today is there are certain beliefs that are so core to our Trinitarian faith that we must take a strong stand on those beliefs, We cannot defer to a small minority of churches and denominations that have taken a different position.”

“Yes, we will certainly defer on many issues that are not so central to our understanding of the Christian faith, but on the authority of Scripture in our organization’s work [and employee conduct] … and on marriage as an institution ordained by God between a man and a woman—those are age-old and fundamental Christian beliefs. We cannot defer on things that are that central to the faith.”

I wish that I could say that this is all surprising to me, but unfortunately I understand the fundamentalist world much too well.  This is going to come as a shock to some of you, but growing up in the Baptist church I heard one or two people talk poorly about gay people.  In fact, I was taught that God opened up a big ole can of whoop-ass on a city because of all the homosexuality.  By the time I was a teenager I was fairly fond of boobies so I was extremely thankful that I was not going to be burned to a crisp for being a “lover of my own kind.” And since I didn’t know of any openly gay people it wasn’t something I spent much time thinking about.  And then I met Steven!

I was in my first semester of seminary, and working for a large radio company when I met Steven.  And he is one of those gay men that didn’t come out of the closet quietly…he ran out of it screaming “I am gay hear me roar.”  In fact, we were on the same radio show together, and he went by “Big Gay Steven.”  Did I mention this was in TEXAS?  I have to admit that I was a little scared of him at first.  He was purposefully flamboyant, and because he knew I was studying to be a minister he enjoyed watching me squirm.  He would often ask me for a hug, and ask me if I thought “queers would go to hell?”  As time went by something very strange happened…I began to consider Steven a dear friend.  And in the process I also learned a great deal.  One of the most important things I learned was that who someone finds sexually attractive is not a choice.

For the last few years I have lived in the pacific northwest where I have had the privilege of getting to know many who are gay.  I almost used the phrase “gay community”, but they are not part of a gay community…they are part of the community.  They are wonderful folks that love their partners, their children, and believe it or not…some actually love Jesus! And I personally believe that Jesus loves them as well.  The heartbreak in the World Vision story is the fact that there are Christians and Christian “leaders” who are using their power to bully an organization into discriminating against a part of our community.

Let this sink in for a moment…people withdrew their financial support of starving and sick children, because World Vision said they would consider hiring those in a same-sex marriage.  World Vision didn’t say they condoned same-sex marriage or a homosexual lifestyle they simply said they would not discriminate against them, and that caused people to get angry, lash out, and withdraw support.  I can’t help but wonder if the same thing happened years ago when companies stated that they would begin hiring certain minority groups. I hope those who disagree with World Vision will take the “high road” and still continue to support the children who need it.

Now, let me end by telling you why I’m writing this on my blog that is supposed to focus on midlife issues.  It’s because I have reached the point in my life where I have decided to be me.  For too many years I said what I thought others wanted me to say, did what I thought others wanted me to do, and followed belief systems that were handed to me by others. And I allowed that to keep me from stepping forward and showing my love and support for those who are gay.  So I want to come out of my closet, and openly express my support for a group of people who for far too long were forced into the closet.  My wife Amy is truly the love of my life, and I can’t imagine someone saying to me, “Tony because of my religious beliefs I can’t allow you to get married, and share your life together.”  It would crush my spirit to live in a world that didn’t allow me to share my life with someone that I love.  I don’t think we all have to share the same belief system, but we should all be able to share our life with those we love.

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The Movie Noah: Don’t Miss The Point By Drowning in The Flood of Criticism.

leadI’m going to go see the movie Noah this week, and I’m honestly not looking forward to it.  I’m not big on going to movies based on Biblical stories, and I’m not completely sure why.  For example, I never went to see “The Passion of The Christ.”  I’ve read the Biblical account several times, and to watch that kind of pain inflicted on someone doesn’t appeal to me whatsoever.  And the story of Noah is equally gruesome.  It actually may be more so, because death by drowning couldn’t possibly be a pleasant experience, and I don’t want to spoil the movie for some of you, but a few people and animals are killed by a flood!

Within minutes of the first person seeing the film there was a FLOOD of Facebook posts criticizing the story for not being Biblically based.  Surely I’m not the only one that knew that Director Darren Aronofsky would take a few creative liberties?  And I can’t say that I blame him, because there are a lot of unanswered questions from the Biblical account.  And honestly there are a few (not many) discrepancies in the Biblical account of the flood.  So how was Aronofsky supposed to fill in those blanks?  Please don’t think I’m trying to prove a point one way or another here, but let me give you some of the questions that many “unbelievers” have about the story of Noah.  And ask yourself how you would have answered the cynics throughout the film:

Genesis 7:6 Noah was six hundred years old when the flood water’s came on the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood.

  • Eight Bronze-Age humans over 500-years-old built a watercraft the size of a football stadium with only felled trees and pitch?

Genesis6:19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you.
Answers In Genesis posits that Noah gathered “kinds” of animals and not all “species,” an estimated 16,000 pairs, which raises a few animal-related questions:

  • How, exactly, did eight extreme senior citizens load, manage and care for 32,000 animals?
  • What about specialized diets (bamboo for the giant panda, meat for the carnivores, fresh vegetation for the herbivores)?
  • Who cleaned each stall and shoveled the tons of daily excrement through the huge ark’s single window?
  • How did they separate the predator and prey animals? Did the lion lay with the lamb?
  • How do you explain the acquisition and loading of animals not indigenous to the Middle East (many separated by oceans), like the polar bear, the sloth, the crocodile, the fruit bat, the anaconda, etc? And how did the penguins and other cold-climate creatures survive in the blistering desert heat?
  • Wouldn’t freshwater rains from the sky have made the saltwater deadly to ocean marine life? And wouldn’t saltwater have proven equally toxic to all freshwater fish? If water boiled up from beneath the earth’s crust, wouldn’t water temperature changes in the delicate ecosystem have also had a deadly effect?
  • Dinosaurs on the ark. Did they exit the boat and THEN get hit by a comet?

Genesis 7:19-20 {the waters} They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet.

  • This would require steady, planet-wide rainfall at the rate of 6 inches per minute, 360 inches an hour, for 40 days and 40 nights, covering Mount   Everest under 22 feet of water. How, exactly, did Noah measure this for the record? Where has all of the water gone since? And why is there no legitimate geological evidence of a global flood?

Genesis 8:8 Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground.

  • Why did Noah require a dove to find land (Genesis 8) if he and God were on speaking terms in Genesis 6?

Genesis 8:15-16 Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.”

  • When the ark landed, what did the carnivores eat? All other animal life had been drowned. And vegetation would’ve also been wiped out in the flood, so what did the herbivores eat to survive?

Genesis 9:1 Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.

  • 8 people of middle-eastern descent practiced incest to produce over 5,000 of today’s ethnic groups in only a few hundred generations?

Genesis 9:20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent.

  • The only guy worth saving spent his latter days drunk and naked ?  MY SIDE NOTE:  If you spent that much time with your family in an enclosed Carnival Cruise on crack wouldn’t you start drinking?  

Source:  The Thinking Atheist 

Those are just some of the questions that needed to be answered to make the movie.  Now, if you believe in an all-powerful God then you would say, “Well I’m not sure how He did it, but he was able to do it.”  And that is fine, but again…if you make a movie you have to somehow give people a visual. I believe that we also have to understand that this movie appears to take from a small variety of ancient stories about a worldwide flood, such as The Epic of Gilgamesh.  I am by no means an expert on mythology so I looked up the similarities between the story of Noah and The Epic of Gilgamesh and found the following table:

 

GENESIS

GILGAMESH

Extent of flood Global Global
Cause Man’s wickedness Man’s sins
Intended for whom? All mankind One city & all mankind
Sender Yahweh Assembly of “gods”
Name of hero Noah Utnapishtim
Hero’s character Righteous Righteous
Means of announcement Direct from God In a dream
Ordered to build boat? Yes Yes
Did hero complain? Yes Yes
Height of boat Several stories (3) Several stories (6)
Compartments inside? Many Many
Doors One One
Windows At least one At least one
Outside coating Pitch Pitch
Shape of boat Rectangular Square
Human passengers Family members only Family & few others
Other passengers All species of animals All species of animals
Means of flood Ground water & heavy rain Heavy rain
Duration of flood Long (40 days & nights plus) Short (6 days & nights)
Test to find land Release of birds Release of birds
Types of birds Raven & three doves Dove, swallow, raven
Ark landing spot Mountain — Mt. Ararat Mountain — Mt. Nisir
Sacrificed after flood? Yes, by Noah Yes, by Utnapishtim
Blessed after flood? Yes Yes

So my point today is to simply say that we may need to be somewhat sympathetic to the writers and directors of “Noah”, because it isn’t an easy story to tell.  And I found many sources that said that some of the staff and possibly the directors are atheist.  So I don’t think they approached this movie in a way that most Christians had hoped.  The point I hope we can all walk away with is that as human beings we are given the responsibility to love each other, and to take care of the earth we have been given.  If we choose to continue on the path we are currently on then thousands or millions of years from now there will be another tragic story to be told about the destruction of the earth and most of mankind. However, this time God will not be the one to take the blame.

Podcast: A Man’s Journey from A Born Again Believer to Buddhism

 

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In today’s podcast I interview Dr. Jay Forrest about his journey of faith.  Dr. Forrest has a weekly podcast and blog called Five Minute Dharma where he helps others grow mentally and spiritually through the teachings of Buddha.  He also explains that Buddhism is not a religion as much as it is a philosophy and form of psychology.  However, the former pastor has been on quite the journey to get there!

I took a walk with Jesus & Buddha and they told me to tell you this one simple truth!

LoveYourselfSignI consider myself to be a huge hypocrite!  Seriously, according to Merriam-Webster.com, hypocrisy is “The behavior of people who do things that they tell other people not to do:  behavior that does not agree with what someone claims to believe or feel.” And by that definition I qualify as a card-carrying member of hypocrisy.

I’m not talking about being a hypocrite in that I have some dark and “sinful” lifestyle, and I teach others to live a life of purity.  I’m talking about the fact that, for the most part, I see the good in others.  I honestly like most people who I meet, and believe greatness lies within them.  And I have no problem encouraging others by pointing out their good qualities through compliments, kindness, and compassion. However, I have trouble being encouraging, kind, and compassionate to myself!  I tend to focus on my shortcomings and flaws, and at times say very harsh things to MYSELF.  Yes I talk to myself, and at times even have arguments!  I am admitting to you that I have trouble caring for and accepting myself.  What about you?  My guess is that many of you share my problem of easily practicing self-rejection, but difficulty with self-love.

Every great spiritual leader has taught the importance of loving and accepting yourself.  Jesus said we are to love others as we love ourselves.  Most may believe that He was saying we already love ourselves; so we should love others as well. Actually, He was teaching us that in order to truly love others as they need to be loved…we need to learn to love ourselves. And Buddha taught it like this, “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” And I really enjoy the following paragraph taken from Abundance Tapestry:

Buddha observes, “you can travel around the world to search for someone more lovable than yourself, and yet that person is never to be found.” In other words, the search is not external but internal. You first find it from within. To love the self is to be in continuous connection with your true essence. You learn to accept, appreciate and affirm who you are.

I have given you enough to digest today, but let me encourage you to focus on the above spiritual thoughts today.  You and I need to begin loving ourselves as we would like others to love us (((rewind))) You and I need to begin loving ourselves as we would like others to love us.  Be compassionate and caring with yourself, and begin to fully accept yourself.  The more I accept myself (faults and all) the healthier I become spiritually, physically, and emotionally.

Who Love Ya?

Tony Russell

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What were you doing at 22 years-old? Meet Spc. John A. Pelham of Portland, OR

john alex pelham
John Alex Pelham

I’m at the age where I look at young men or women in their twenties, and think they look like kids!  After all, being almost 50 years-old I could easily be their father.  Then I hear stories about young men like Army Spc. John Alex Pelham.  His story makes me realize that while some twenty somethings may still be acting like children, there are many that are courageous and mature beyond their years.  Yes, some are truly heroes, and a man among men like Spc. Pelham.  Alex, as his father called him in an interview, was only 22 years-old on the day that he picked up his riffle and laid down his life for his country. Let that sink in for a moment.  What were you doing when you were 22 years-old?

Some of you were like Spc. Pelham, and many of you were like me…you didn’t know shit from shinola (excuse the southern phrase).  I wish I had been more like the young men who are serving our country today, but I was quite frankly immature and thinking only of myself.  So to read the story of Spc. Pelham is overwhelming to me.  It overwhelms me because a man I never met laid down his life for me and my family.  In what must have seemed like another world a young man chose to enter into harms way while you and I slept peacefully.

This story reminds me that we all need to be more involved in the political process of this country.  Because you and I get a vote that helps determine the future of a country that young men and women are dying for every single day.  I’m not writing this to insinuate that we should or should not be in Afghanistan.  I simply want us to realize that Alex wasn’t only the son of Mr. & Mrs. Pelham, but he was our son as well.  We should all consider these young men and women serving today as our sons and daughters, because as citizens of the United States we are responsible for their welfare.  We must keep that in mind when we choose our leaders.

When they were children we only hired those we trusted to watch over them while we were away. And now, we must only hire those we trust to watch over them while they are away.

Please take the time to listen to the Troop Salute given to Spc. Pelham today on our morning show, and join us in saying a prayer of peace for his fiance and family.

Troop Salute Audio:

Questioning God in Midlife

exit-from-crisis-signI spend a lot of time talking about spiritual issues with men and women that are around my age.  And many say that they came to a point where they began to ask their selves if their spiritual beliefs were real.  Meaning, did they truly believe what they said they did about God, or were they simply carrying on a family tradition. So many of us began to dig a little deeper into our spiritual minds, souls, and brains.

It no longer felt right to say we believed something, because mommy, daddy, and the preacher said it was true.  And what about the bible?  Do we really believe that all of mankind is cursed with illness, death, and sin because a woman listened to a talking snake and then ate a piece of fruit? Would God really send a flood that would kill moms, babies, and everyone else by drowning them, but spare Noah who ended up getting drunk and having sex with his own daughter?

It was strange to me, because when I was a pastor I didn’t often think about those questions, and if I did I would simply say, “Gods ways are not our ways.”  Translation for that is, “I don’t want to look too deep into that question, because I may not like the answer.”  But there came a day when sweeping my questions under the Christian rug didn’t work.  I knew that it would be uncomfortable, but I had to get some real answers and examine my faith.

I realize that for some of you this may sound blasphemous or sinful.  And if you feel that way you will probably hate my blogs, but I hope you will stick around.  My point is not to be critical of scripture by any means, but to say that some of us begin to struggle with just having blind faith.  We can’t ignore the contradictions we see in the bible, the unjust ways in which many suffer, and the lack of integrity among the many that profess to have great faith.  For some they can just continue on, and pretend that none of the above exists, and others will need more clarity.  I was one who took the leap, and what I was about to learn would literally scare the hell out of me.

My leap of faith or leap into the lack of faith started by reading everything I could that was written by…ready for it…atheist or agnostics.  And I watched YouTube videos of Christopher Hitchens & Richard Dawkins attempting to discredit scripture and creationism. I downloaded podcasts from former pastors who now consider themselves to be “deconverted.”  And before I give you my thoughts on these interesting characters let me backup.  I want to tell you one of the things that really made me want to take a look at the other side of the holy hedges.

I work with a young man that is absolutely the nicest guy you could ever meet.  He is always polite, thoughtful, respectful, and has an incredible work ethic.  He is faithful to his wife, and loves her dearly.  In Christian terms you would say he seems to walk in the spirit of God…a very positive energy surrounds him.  And he is from part of the “bible belt” so I just assumed he was a Christian.  WRONG!  I was in a conversation with one of his close friends that informed me that Mr. Nice Guy is an agnostic.  I was shocked!  Because I was well into my adult years thinking most atheist and agnostics were people who never smiled and were miserable.  And this guy was far from miserable.  In fact he seems so happy that it can be annoying!  So how could someone who didn’t believe in Christ be more Christlike than most Christian people I know (including me)?  How can someone give off the Holy Spirit vibe if they don’t have him, she, or it?  At one time in my life I had preached that these people were lost and living in darkness, and now I wanted to see if they had actually been the ones to “see the light!”

In my upcoming blog posts I will share with you where this journey has lead me in my faith.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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