do you have a personal debt ceiling?

People are talking a lot about debt this week as the U.S. attempts to sort out how to manage their few dollars owing. This short video traces the history of U.S. debt. As a Canadian and one with limited knowledge of economics (on all levels!), I have little comment, except to say I found it very interesting.

Take a look:

But if you follow the story closer to home (your personal finances), there are definite parallels, especially when it comes to our ability to justify exorbitant amounts of personal debt. As I watched, I found myself asking, “Do I have a personal debt ceiling?” I’ve never really thought about it like that before. At what point do I look at my standard of living and the resources it takes to sustain it, and say, “Enough is enough!”? And in the context of raising a family in one of the most expensive regions of the world, I find these are hard questions to ask.

Which brings me to the statement I found most challenging (and true!):

“It might be hard to wean off of all this borrowing we’ve gotten used to.”

No doubt!

Reminded me of some challenging words we hear once in awhile, but tend to avoid:
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also...No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." Mt. 6:19-21,24 NIV

I'm a winner!

Yes, I'm privileged to have won my first blogging award: the Versatile Blogger Award!

And no, this award is not blog spam. For whatever similarities there are to those pass-it-on emails everyone loves to hate, there is one important difference: it's an award. And I won. Yay!!!

Plus it's a great way to ease back into blogging two weeks of vacation.

So, here's my 'prize':

1) Thank the giver of the award and link to them.

Thanks Ryan!

2) Tell readers seven things about yourself.
  • Our second child is due to be born on our son's birthday.
  • I went on a 3 month snowboarding missions trip with YWAM when I was 19.
  • I'm left handed ("everyone's born right handed, but only few overcome it").
  • I just finished reading the Harry Potter series - I couldn't put it down!
  • We have plums, cherries, blueberries, peaches, pears, apples, and strawberries in our suburban backyard.

3) Confer this prestigious award upon someone else.

Phil, over at Intersect, you win too!

blogs to consider IV

While I'm vacationing for a few weeks, I've decided to post a set of recommendations for blogs I regularly read and highly recommend (in no particular order).

#4: Jesus Creed

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. He is the Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University (Chicago, Illinois)...

Scot McKnight is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and the Society for New Testament Studies. He is the author of more than thirty books, including the award-winning The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others (Paraclete, 2004), which won the Christianity Today book of the year for Christian Living.

blogs to consider III

While I'm vacationing for a few weeks, I've decided to post a set of recommendations for blogs I regularly read and highly recommend (in no particular order).

#3 The Pangea Blog

I (Kurt) served as a youth pastor and in adult ministries for a total of seven years. Currently, I am discerning a possible call to plant a church in the Northwest (2012) and have gone back to school full time to finish a Masters of Divinity at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary. For the past couple of years I have been active in the ministry of blogging, which began as a hobby for getting my thoughts ‘out there.’ Now, I am in frequent contact with my readers. They send me questions, ideas, prayer requests, and continue to challenge me to dream about the Kingdom of God. There are lots of good Christian folks who are hungry for a faith that stretches beyond the status quo and it seems that for the moment, God has given me a platform to minister to such Christ-followers (and even some skeptics). If I would have to label myself (which I am hesitant to do), I would probably say that I am an Anabaptist, lower-case evangelical, fairly charismatic, sometimes contemplative, follower of Jesus. I am passionate about theology, spirituality, social justice, creation care, ethics, ministry, and leaving behind the right answers.

blogs to consider II

While I'm vacationing for a few weeks, I've decided to post a set of recommendations for blogs I regularly read and highly recommend (in no particular order).

#2: Intersect - Community Reflection on Faith and Culture

About Phil: Phil and Julie recently moved from the Abbotsford, BC, to Longview, Washington. Phil serves as the Associate Pastor of Spiritual Formation and Congregational Life at Longview Community Church. Phil has an MDiv from Regent College in Vancouver BC.

About The Blog: This blog seeks to be a venue for community reflection on how our faith, life, and culture intersect.

blogs to consider

While I'm vacationing for a few weeks, I've decided to post a set of recommendations for blogs I regularly read and highly recommend (in no particular order).

#1: Rumblings - Hope, Humour, and Other Eschatological Goodies

I’m Ryan Dueck—a husband, father, pastor, blogger, student, and follower of Jesus Christ. I began blogging in 2007 while a graduate student as one way of “unstopping” my ears in response to the God whose “thunder” is unmanageable and unpredictable, but which also responds to the most profound human needs for meaning, acceptance, forgiveness, and redemption. I write about a variety of things here, often related to faith, philosophy, culture, church, etc. Mostly, though, my writing here is simply an exercise in remaining open—open to the God who does speak, in strange, unexpected, mysterious, even puzzling and obscure ways, to be sure, but also in ways more beautiful and challenging and hopeful than we could expect or imagine.

vacation and rest


Kids out of school. Time off work. Traveling. Home projects. Beaches and mountains. Family and friends.

For many of us, summer offers a drastic change of pace from the rhythm and routine of the rest of the year. The word “vacation” originates from the idea of “freedom or release from activity or occupation.” We literally vacate our normal lives for a period of time. And in our busy N.A. work-based lives, a vacation is exactly what we need.

The author of Hebrews raises an important point for consideration:

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest... (Heb. 4:9-11 NIV).

Personally, I sometimes wonder if my vacations are actually restful. Special activities. Road trips. House projects. Day trips. You know the saying: “places to go, people to see.” I may have vacated my busy routine, but often I simply trade one type of busyness for another. Is this really rest?

In a world of adventure and activity, rest is hard. Vacations can be fun, sure, but not always restful. Ironically, as Hebrews points out, rest actually takes “effort.” Rest is hard work. And clearly, rest is necessary. Even God rests.

So as I embark on vacation next week, and as you consider your own change of pace this summer, I challenge us to not simply vacate our normal routines or trade one form of busyness for another. May we also rest. Such an “effort” is exactly what we need!

hesitant nationalism

In Canada, July 1st was Canada Day. Today, July 4th, is Independence Day in the U.S.

On many levels, I enjoy celebrating my country (Canada). The holiday offers time for fun, family, and food - a window into a few of the benefits that many Canadians get to enjoy as citizens of this great country. For Americans, I’m sure, it’s similar (just with a lot more fireworks!). These holidays remind us that nationalism is alive and well - personal identity is tied to your country (e.g. you are Canadian or American). National holidays highlight this identity, giving opportunity to celebrate who we are. Some may even say it is God’s blessing to be North American. Thus the celebrations are loaded with religious overtones - “God keep our land...” and “God Bless America.”

Yet every year I’m hesitant in my celebration. People in other countries aren’t celebrating. It’s hard to party when our global neighbors live in poverty and face countless injustices (e.g. AIDS in Africa or sex-slavery in Southeast Asia). Additionally, many people in North America itself don’t have the privilege of “fun, family, and food” on these holidays (or any day for that matter). Nationalistic celebrations, while endorsing tolerance and inclusion, may actually hide the sad reality of exclusion in our countries and around the world. Sorry to rain on the parade, but it’s true.

But my hesitation is also religious. How can I identify with my country when as a Christian I’m called to identify with Jesus (Mk. 1:15, Phil. 3:20)? The MB Confession of Faith (my denomination), offers what I think is a pointed challenge:
The primary allegiance of all Christians is to Christ’s kingdom, not the state or society. Because their citizenship is in heaven, Christians are called to resist the idolatrous temptation to give to the state the devotion that is owed to God. As ambassadors for Christ, Christians act as agents of reconciliation and seek the well-being of all peoples... (Article 12 - "Society and State")
There is a danger that our nationalism - both in Canada and the U.S. - can prevent us from more important identifications - as humans in general, but also as Christians in particular. I wonder, what would happen if the same energy and resources we put towards our nationalism went into caring for fellow humans? Or for Christians, to being “agents of reconciliation”? July 1st and 4th would be seen (and practiced) in a new light, no doubt.