Saturday, January 31, 2009

Have we gone too far?

Can we ever be too cheap in our wartime efforts? Apparently, Jennifer and I go through an inordinate amount of toilet paper--so much so that we need special storage for our back-up (no pun intended) supply. We're sort of like the rich fool who built barns to store his grains, except we're storing toilet paper. Anyway, in an effort to live a wartime lifestyle, Jennifer decided to buy the cheapest tp storage around. So, my question is this: When is it OK to spend a little more on something that is no more functional, but doesn't make you feel like your living in...well, a house that would have something like this?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Wartime Wedding

I've been reading the blog of a lovely lady named Ali who serves as a nurse missionary with Mercy Ships. Recently she announced her engagement and shared the story of how Phil proposed. I was particularly intrigued with how they decided to handle rings. She wrote,
When I told Phil that I didn't want a fancy diamond engagement ring, he was more than happy to believe me. I wouldn't feel comfortable wearing a diamond in a third-world country, and we both agreed that the money that would go towards a ring could be much better spent paying our crew fees for the next however-long we're on the ship. But we both knew that the symbol of a ring was important, and so one day he jokingly told me he was going to put a tie wrap on my finger when he proposed. I thought it was perfect, especially since he's an electrician and would have easy access to all sizes!
The tie-wrap wasn't meant to last forever, you'll have to click over to her wedding blog to read the rest of the story about their rings. But isn't this a wonderful example of using our resources for something greater than ourselves. It makes me wish I had felt so strong a calling to use my resources this way when I was getting engaged. Furthermore, it makes me wish I could get a decent price for my wedding rings just so I could give the money away and wear something simpler.

What wedding traditions would you give up so that you could do something greater with the money?

Image Courtesy of AuntieP's Flickr Stream

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What war are you fighting?

The Peters' family is fighting a war to help save their children. One of their wartime strategies is to sell everything they own so they can afford the special care their 2 special needs children require. (HT: BabyCheapskate)

Can you help the Peters family?  

They war we are fighting, to bring glory to God, is an even bigger batter. What are you willing to give up?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Waste Not, Want Not

While browsing the internet for inspiration on post ideas, I found this statement:
Talking of waste, it was illegal to throw out food fit for human consumption during the war. People were fined for putting bread out for the birds.
Could you imagine if we applied that same standard to our lives now? Just how much perfectly fine food is tossed on a daily basis?

Recently, I was in a Quizno's for lunch and saw the sandwich maker cut off the 2 ends of a loaf of bread then toss them into a trash can.

I asked, "You aren't throwing those away are you?" He said, "Yep, there is nothing we can do with them."

The store manager joined into the conversation and said that his father had asked to have them when the shop first opened. The father intended to make croutons out of them. That lasted for just a few days, when there were more bread ends than he could possible keep up. The manager next looked into donating them to a local soup kitchen, thinking a hungry person wouldn't mind using the rounded end of a bread loaf to sope up the last bits of soup. But he was turned away there as well. There were too many rules and regulations about food donations to even make that possible.

What if, I suggested, he bagged them up and left them outside his door at night, in hopes that a hungry person or family could scoop them up. No go there either. If he did that, his shop would be fined for littering.

I know we can't control the laws and regulations that prevented that Quizno's manager from making use of his perfectly fine food, but we can control what we throw away from our own kitchen. I want to encourage you, and myself, to make the best use of all the food we purchase. I often end up throwing out bagged salad because it end up rotting in our veggie drawer before we finish it. I'm going to try to only buy what I know we will eat and make sure we eat what I buy.

What food do you waste the most?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Singer Solution

Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics at Princeton, wrote "The Singer Solution to World Poverty" (a magazine-length article) to outline what he viewed as a the moral imperative and method for helping the world's poor. If you have 10 minutes, read it and tell me your thoughts.

Is Singer right or wrong? How do his views compare or contrast with Christian hedonism and the wartime lifestyle?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Does your daughter dress like this?

A long time ago, Jennifer and I agreed that our little daughter was not going to be wearing those shirts that say "hottie," "princess," "wink, wink" or anything else along those lines. Well, I guess we should have included bibs along with shirts.

Jennifer purchased a pack of bibs at Wal-Mart because the pack was significantly more cost-effective than individual bibs. But, the pack came with one bib neither of us really cares for. In such a case, would it violate the wartime lifestyle ethic to throw the less desirable bib away? Would it violate Christian ethics to donate the bib to someone knowing you're giving them something to put on their daughter that you wouldn't put on your daughter?

OK, it's all sort of a moot point in this case, since we clearly use the bib. Charlotte is too young to be affected by its message, and it's not something she wears in public. It's not like she's walking around with "juicy" on her butt, which would be gross on a baby. Still, this picture made me wonder about the principles here. What if some distant relative decides to send her a "I'm too sexy" t-shirt for her 12th birthday? One has to be prepared for these things, right?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

John Piper on the economy

Here's a YouTube video of John Piper discussing how we should respond to the economic crisis.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


I recently saw a story on CBS's Sunday Morning about the high-end wedding market and the economy. According to the story, regardless of the economy, many people are still spending very large amounts of money on weddings. One couple highlighted in the story spent $600,000 for their special day.

Now, I'm sure most Christian hedonists will agree that $600,000 is an absurd amount to spend on a wedding. But, how do we decide what is an appropriate amount to spend?

At least Thabiti Anyabwile thinks there is a certain minimum we should invest in a wedding; he wasn't impressed by a $200 wedding in a Taco Bell officiated by a minister ordained online.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Choosing a college

How does our desire to live wartime lifestyles influence college selection? Everyone who has a chance to influence teenagers, whether in their families or churches, should think about this issue.

I have worked for a few different universities, private and public. And now I work with high school students as they are deciding where they want to attend college. My general advice to them (all of whom want gradate degrees*) is to choose an inexpensive undergraduate school and then choose the best graduate school; no one cares where their physician earned his or her bachelor's degree.

I also advise them to choose colleges (undergraduate and graduate) that fit their own goals, personalities, etc; for example, some people benefit from small schools while others relish large schools.

But, that advice is geared toward students in general rather than Christian hedonists. What about Christian hedonism and college selection?

What weight should cost have in selection when college loans are widely available? Is it more important to not spend enough to buy a small house, or is it more important to attend a Christian college? I'm a Southern Baptist, and there's actually a mandate for Christian colleges in our Faith & Message (statement of beliefs). But, Palm Beach Atlantic University (a Baptist school) is about 600% more expensive than the nearby Florida Atlantic University (a state school).

Tim Keller encourages Christians to move to urban areas so we can shape culture. Should Christian hedonists strive to attend top schools--even the extravagantly expensive schools--because that's where we'll interact with the future leaders of the world? Incidentally, Columbia University, in NYC, is about 1,200% more expensive than Florida Atlantic.

If we're looking for bang for the buck, it might seem 2 years at a community college and 2 years at a state university are the way to go. But, is there more to wartime living than bang for the buck?

Financial issues are always more complex than they appear. I once calculated, for a project in a doctoral class, that attending a public university could cost graduates more than $250,000 over their lifetimes. The reason was simple: on average, it takes public university students more than a year longer to graduate than private school students. That extra year in school has costs well beyond graduation. For example, the person will presumably work one year less in his or her career, and that will mean one year less for retirement savings. While that might seem insignificant, the person actually loses many thousands of dollars because he or she is losing the last--and most profitable--year of compound interest.**

Yet, the question remains: What role should cost play in the college decisions of young Christian hedonists?

* I teach at a magnet high school.
** For example, someone who placed $20,000 in a 401K for 35 years at 7% interest (compounded quarterly) would end up with $226,907. But, if that same person had 36 years, instead of 35, he or she would end up with $243,213--a difference greater than $16,000.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

replacing clothes

Use it up,
wear it out;
make it do,
or do without.

That was a WWII slogan encouraging Americans to conserve resources for the war effort. In Jennifer's introductory post, she had a picture of a WWII poster with a woman repairing her hubby's pants.

But, when should Christians, living a wartime lifestyle, replace old clothes? Would a Christian wearing these pants be telling the world, "My treasure is in heaven," or "I still listen to Nirvana"?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Aesthetics during wartime

What value should we place on aesthetics? St. Andrew's Chapel (R.C. Sproul's church in Sanford, FL) is currently in a building project (see PDF brochure or .wmv virtual tour). The new church structure is designed "for beauty and holiness." And it is going to be beautiful.

But, is it wartime living? When it comes to church buildings, should we aim for temple-like beauty or wartime efficiency? Should our churches be more like the Queen Mary during peacetime or wartime?

I was recently watching CSPAN's series on the White House and learned that Abraham Lincoln ordered construction on the Capitol Dome to continue throughout the Civil War--despite its immense cost--because its continued construction was a symbol of the continuation of the nation. He saw the construction expense--though unrelated to winning the temporary war--to be an essential part of the nation's permanency.

But, what about churches? Some churches are great art; for examples, consider churches designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, or of course, the great cathedrals of Europe. Other churches, however, epitomize function over form; think of rectangle metal buildings. Which style is more glorifying to God, though?

Let us know what you think about applying wartime living to church architecture.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Meet the Mr.

Since my wife decided to introduce herself, I realized I never really introduced myself. So, here goes:

Jennifer mentioned she learned to use credit cards throughout college and she faithfully made her minimum payments. She also mentioned when we were first married, I used my savings to pay off her cards. So, you can probably infer we had different money strategies.

I grew up in a family that should have been upper-middle-class, but we always had money troubles. My parents simply were not good at budgeting. So, I committed to being different. Money became something to be horded and stuffed under mattresses. Actually, growing up, my parents tended to take any money I managed to save; they always promised to pay it back, but never did. So, when I got a job in high school, I hid my money in the one place I knew my parents would never look: inside the family Bible.

I joined the Navy right after high school. Once out of boot camp, I went to the base credit union and took out a 6-month $500 loan and immediately opened a $500 secured credit card. I paid faithfully and built my credit through the secured card, to an unsecured card, to a gold card, to a platinum card. That was back when gold cards and platinum cards weren't given out like candy. And I would never allow myself to owe more than I had in the bank. After a year or so, I paid cash for a motorcycle. When I left the Navy, I had saved thousands of dollars.

I mentioned in a previous post we felt like we were moving into a shed when we bought our current smaller house. Well, there was a time when I actually rented a shed (converted into an efficiency) behind someone's mobile home. I paid $250/mo including utilities. I didn't even have a TV (everything I owned could be carried on a motorcycle), so I borrowed books on tape from the library.

Alas, my wife broke me of my ridiculous frugality. And I broke her of her spend-it-while-you've-got-it attitude. Well, we met in the middle. I needed to learn to place my trust in God more than money. And she needed to learn to think more than a due date away.

I once took great pride in my financial self-determination. Jennifer took pleasure in buy-now-pay-later. We were a Stoic and an Epicurean more than Christian Hedonists. Now, we're hoping God will be glorified in how we use what he has entrusted to us and we will find pleasure in God and boast only in him. And that's what this blog is all about.

Meet the Mrs.

My name is Jennifer and I have asked my husband to let me contribute to this blog as well. As a full-time mom, I approach wartime living and frugality from a different perspective. After reading the previous posts on this blog, you've probably noticed that my husband is a "big picture" kind of guy. I tend to be more focused on the details of daily living.

Let me start by saying that there is nothing in my background to encourage me towards a wartime lifestyle. While not spoiled as a child, I generally received what I asked for. I was encouraged to attend a very expensive private college. My own ambitions at 17 years old made it appear that an expensive education would be easily paid for once I had my big career in TV.

I had my first credit card almost as soon as I turned 18. Credit card companies were more than happy to line the breezeway of my school trying to attract the lucrative business of future yuppies. By the time I met my husband, I was using my card for just about every purchase and making minimum payments each month.

When we married, he used his savings to pay off the ~$2000 debt on my first credit card. We rarely used them for our first two years of marriage. And with his influence, I became a wise steward of credit cards.

Now, I've left 2 careers (one that paid more than we will ever make again, and the other as a teacher) and living a frugal (but not necessarily wartime) lifestyle is a necessity. I have less money now than ever in my post-college life. And I have a mortgage, 2 vehicle payments, 1 child, and another on the way.

I'll be trying to explore ways to live a wartime (rather than merely frugal) lifestyle on a day to day basis. In every way you might imagine, I still have a large learning curve here. I fail in some small way daily. I'll try to be honest with you about those failures. I'll also try to share my victories as well.

Image courtesy

choosing a house

I once heard of a missionary who was asked how he accepted his low standard of living. He explained that everyone knows Americans are richer than the vast majority of the world's population, but he liked to remind himself that--even at his missionary wages--he was richer than 90% of Americans were in 1950.

Not too long ago, my family moved from a 1,500 sq ft 3/2 house on one acre of land to a 1,371 sq ft 3/2.5 townhouse. After factoring in the space lost to our new staircase, we were losing more than 200 sq ft (~14% of our living area); we also lost a 2-car garage for storage.

We felt like we were moving into a shed, but we also understood we were moving into a home our grandparents' generation would have considered luxury.

The average American home built in 1950 was less than 1,000 sq ft. But, by 1990, the average new home was larger than 2,000 sq ft. The average number of bathrooms increased from 1 to 2.5 during those years (National Association of Home Builders). In addition, the percentage of homes with two car garages increased from 48% to 75% from 1968 t0 1992 (McKeever & Phelps).

The amount we spend on our homes has also grown much faster than inflation. The average new home cost $11,000 in 1950 , which adjusted to year-2000 dollars would have been $78,597. By comparison, the average new home in 2000 cost $206,400--and that was before the housing bubble (NAHB; AIER).

In fact, researchers Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Tyagi have claimed today's Americans spend less on food and clothing (thanks Wal-Mart) and cars (thanks Japan) than Americans spent in the 1970s. But they found we spend much, much more on housing.

Warren and Tyagi claim two-income families are spending more on homes in order to get into neighborhoods zoned for the best schools. But, that wouldn't explain why most new homes also happen to be built in deed-restricted neighborhoods. I wonder if people are more driven by finding neighborhoods with decent neighbors. But, whatever the cause, we're spending a lot of money on houses.

So, here's my question:
How do wartime Christians decide how much to spend and what to look for in a house?

McKeever & Phelps.

National Assn of Home Builders (NAHB).
American Institute for Economic Research.
Warren & Tyagi:

Random discolures: My first house, purchased in 2000, was a 1206 sq ft 3/2 that cost $76,500. My second house, puchased in 2003, was a 1500 sq ft 3/2 that cost $125,000. My current house, puchased in 2008, is a 1371 sq ft 3/2.5 towhouse that cost $114,900.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Is this wartime living?

This is a 2008 Harley-Davidson XL1200C Sportster (MSRP $10,385). How does this fit in with wartime living? What are your thoughts?

Friday, January 2, 2009

John Piper describes the wartime lifestyle

Watch John Piper describe the wartime lifestyle in less than 4 minutes.

"We have money to use it in such a way that we show that money is not our god, but God is our God. That's why we have money. Money is given to us to use it in a way to show the world that money is not our treasure, but Christ is our treasure."

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Several years ago, I read Desiring God, by John Piper. The book was amazing and has had a tremendous impact on my life. One of the areas in which Piper has influenced me is in what he called the "wartime lifestyle." Christians, Piper explained, should live with a focus on using their resources to win the spiritual war; we should live to fund missions; we should live to fight poverty; we should live to maximize the glory of God and our enjoyment of him forever.

But, how do we do that? How do we live so counterculturally--even counter to the typical American church culture? My hope for this blog is that Christians who desire to live wartime lifestyles can share their ideas, theologies, encouragements and struggles. I know it's not always (ever?) easy for me to live a wartime lifestyle. But, I think it might be easier if I had a fellowship of believers who were in it with me.

Piper noted that there is no law to tell us how to use our money. There is only the principle of stewardship. That is why living a wartime lifestyle is so difficult. I hope we can help each other.

If you haven't read Piper's book, you can read "Chapter 7: Money" at this link. Or, you can read the whole book online for free at this link.