Starting Point: Community and Shared Stories

By Dori Zerbe Cornelsen

mbchef76It’s the week after Christmas. In a cartoon sent to me by a colleague last week, we see a person at a store service counter, overflowing bags in hand, saying to the cashier, “I try to keep the Christmas spirit by having credit-card debt all year long.”

It’s hard to avoid the over-spending at Christmas when you get sucked into the vortex of shopping, even when it originates from a place of love and generosity for your favourite people. Maybe the new year is a time to blaze a new trail with others that can help remind us that we can show our affection to those we love without the hefty price tags. One resolution might be to find a support network, a community of people, with whom we can find a path that leads us toward God’s good news of enough for all.

In his book, Money and Faith: the search for enough (2008 Morehouse Education Resources), road-815297_1280Michael Schut writes in the introduction about the need for telling stories to ground us on our journeys of faith. He writes: “I believe that in telling and listening to our stories, we discover signs of God’s passing and presence – faith tracks, haunting harmonies, flickering images, unspeakable longings. Author Frederick Buechner… contends that each of our journeys through this life is sacred.”

Schut speaks of our own sacred journeys and their many layers, including those that expose our experiences with abundance and scarcity:

When we begin to plumb, poke, or peek into our relationship with money, that exploration often leads to… questions of trust, security, values, and to experiences of abundance and joy, as well as scarcity and fear. When we get in touch with those sorts of experiences, we need not travel far to discover moments of holiness, moments that deeply inform our sense of who God is and whether or not we feel we will be provided for in this life.

Our stories are meant to be shared in the company of others. In Deuteronomy 8, the writer tries to ground the people of God in their journey of faith by recalling the story they have lived. They were just about to receive the promise of the good land filled with streams of water, harvests of grains, fruits and honey, and extractable resources for wealth generation. Having sojourned in the wilderness for decades, this was good news! But their wilderness story wasn’t supposed to be forgotten and the writer reminds them:

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God… Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery… (Deuteronomy 8:10-14).

With whom can we journey this year, with what community can we surround ourselves, that calls us to remember God’s desire for us is not to depend on our own power and entitlement? With whom can we find a circle that encourages us to find the way of generosity together? We don’t have to do this alone – our faith isn’t just between us and God. Sharing our stories can weave us into communities of faith that ground our journey with money in God’s values.

About the Author

dori_zc-abundance-profile-pictureDori Zerbe Cornelsen is a Gift Planning Consultant with Abundance Canada, encouraging and inviting generous living.  She and her husband Rick live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where lots of generous, warm people live in cold temperatures for 6 months of the year.

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Seeking a path with your partner

By Dori Zerbe Cornelsen

This summer my spouse and I did a long road trip from our home on the prairies of Canada through the Rockies and into south-eastern British Columbia that has a wealth of provincial parks to explore. We were thrilled to find the Jewel Lake Provincial Park tucked into a valley between mountains. The campground was rustic but the lake and surroundings were amazing.


Jewel Lake Provincial Park

We took our bikes along the winding road from the campground to the resort at the other end of the lake. Well, resort may be a strong word for those who imagine all-inclusives in tropical destinations. The Jewel Lake Resort has some campground sites with RV hook-ups, some cabins for rent (including rustic hunter cabins) and offers watercraft rentals (no motors allowed!).

At the resort, we met the owner (who happens to be a retired NHL player – which we only found out later to my husband’s chagrin) who told us some of the history of the lake that at one time was home to a boom town during the early 1900’s. “You need to do some hiking to see some of the old mineshafts,” he told us. He gave us instructions to follow a logging road from


Mineshaft at Jewel Lake Provincial Park

the resort, up the mountain to a closed shaft. “And there’s another one closer to the campground where you’re staying,” he said. “The trailhead is pretty obvious from the road just at the entrance to the provincial park.”

We did the hike from the resort and enjoyed spectacular views of the lake and did indeed find an old boarded up mineshaft from which we could feel very cold air blowing out cooling us from the hot day. Having explored the first mine, we decided to find our way up to the open shaft on the other side of the valley.

Well, we thought we found the trailhead – there was a small opening where you could tell people or at least animals had traversed in the recent past. But a little way up, we found ourselves thrashing through the forest, not knowing which way the trail went next. My partner thought we could keep going – we weren’t going to get lost, really, because all we needed to do was go down the hill to find the road. But I was leery of continuing and finally talked us into going back to the road. We were disappointed but decided to go a little further up the road and there with a ribbon and a wider entrance, we found a wide, easy to follow trail. It was a short hop up to the mineshaft entrance.

Sometimes when we are learning together about money with partners in life, we don’t find a rhythm right away in terms of the trail we want to take together. There may be obstacles, even emotional blocks, to one way of doing a plan together and it might feel like thrashing through the forest and getting annoyed with one another.

It could be that there isn’t only one right way to make a budget or a money plan together. One of us may need to suggest going back to the road to find another way to get to our destination. That’s okay. What we need to do when we work with a partner, is to be open to listening to each other, remember that we have potentially come from homes where money was dealt with differently and so finding a way together might take some time. Conversation about money is worth it – the views when we work well together can be spectacular. So, keep trying to find what works best for you!

About the Author


Dori Zerbe Cornelsen is a Gift Planning Consultant with Abundance Canada, encouraging and inviting generous living.  She and her husband Rick live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where lots of generous, warm people live in cold temperatures for 6 months of the year.

Image credit: Dori Zerbe Cornelsen

Despite All Odds, The Financial Tool People Love to Hate is Becoming Cool

By Matt Bellconstruction-370588_1280

If you were to build a house, you wouldn’t just show up on the job site with a hammer, a box of nails, and some two-by-fours, and start flailing away. You’d have a plan—a blueprint.

Having a plan before you hammer the first nail is essential if you’re going to build the house properly.

Why is it, then, that so many people resist the idea of using a plan for building their financial life—a budget?

I once commissioned a research study in which budgeters and non-budgeters were asked about their perceptions of a budget. The gap between in their answers couldn’t have been wider.

Non-budgeters used words like “restrictive,” “rigid,” and “constraining” to describe budgets. One non-budgeter explained his resistance with humorous honestly by saying, “If I used a budget, I’d have to think before I bought something.”

office-594132_1280We wouldn’t want that, would we?

By contrast, budgeters felt “in charge” of their money, said a budget “allows me to control my spending,” “keeps me in a position of knowledge and control,” “allows you to plan for the future,” “helps me save money,” and “helps keep emotion out of spending decisions.”

Some non-budgeters acknowledged that they would probably benefit by using a budget. One said, “I think it would open our eyes to how much money we waste each month on non-essentials. I think I would recognize that we could easily pay for all expenses without ever having to use credit cards.”

But even their own reasoning wasn’t enough to get them to actually use a budget.

When asked why they don’t use a budget, one non-budgeter explained that “trying to stick to it wouldn’t be easy,” and tracking how much is spent in each category “seems like a pain.” That same person acknowledged not saving enough for their children’s future tuition costs.

The Bible tells us we’re stewards—managers—of God’s resources, and that we’re to keep tabs on the stuff that’s under our care.

“Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds.” – Proverbs 27:23

Not many of us are tending flocks or herds these days, but most of us do have some money flowing into and out of our lives. With nearly half of all adults in the U.S. acknowledging it would be tough to come up with $400 to cover an emergency, perhaps more of us could stand to give a little more attention to our cash

The good news is that things are changing in the budgeting space. With the advent of free online budget tools like, it’s never been easier to create and use a budget. It wasn’t that long ago that budgeting was a conversation killer. Now it’s something very close to fun—even cool.

People using today’s high-tech budget tools don’t even seem to realize they’re using a budget. In workshops, when I ask people how many use a budget, I still don’t get very many hands in the air. But later, when I ask how many use Mint, I get a lot more.

What exactly do they think they’re doing, if not budgeting? “Checkin’ on my money” is a common answer.

Works for me.

Do you use a budget? Why or why not? If you do, what’s your tool of choice?

About the Author

matt-bell-fb-profile-pictureMatt Bell is the author of four personal finance books that were published by NavPress, serves as Managing Editor at Sound Mind Investing (, a Christian company that publishes an investment newsletter, blogs at, and speaks at churches, universities, and conferences throughout the country. Using a budget helped him recover from his own prodigal son experience.

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Your Money GPS: Do You Know Where You Are?

By Marcia Shetler

map-455769_1280How did we get from place to place before Google Maps, Mapquest, and Garmins? I’m a member of the Boomer generation, so I remember using paper maps for every trip and vacation. One of our family’s favorite stories is laughing about the time our well-marked vacation map flew out the open car window as we were driving down the highway.

While we think today’s technology means that we never have to ask for directions, there are plenty of examples of a GPS leading people astray, with their final destination not being what they expected: at the best, interesting—and at the worst, perilous.

It can be distressing to be lost when we are traveling. It can be just as unsettling to feel lost when it comes to our finances. Unfortunately, we don’t always know what to use to find our financial direction and stay out of danger.

gps-41992_1280One of the best tools to guide you on your financial journey is a budget. Using a budget allows you to map exactly how you want to spend your money and provides a clear guide for short-term and long-term direction regarding your finances. This month, the COMPASS Initiative will focus on this topic. Each week new articles here on the COMPASS blog will provide practical ideas, personal reflections, and spiritual insights. Follow our Twitter feed and join us on Facebook all month long for great curated content. And learn about resources on the COMPASS web page that you can use for further in-depth study.

Finally, our monthly Live Chat on Monday, December 19, 8 p.m. Eastern, 7 p.m. Central, 6 p.m. Mountain, 5 p.m. Pacific, features Matt Bell of Sound Mind Investing. Matt will give us great ideas for creating and using a budget. Join us at the Chat!

The COMPASS Steering Committee and I look forward to journeying with you this month as we meet each other on Facebook, Twitter, and at our Live Chat, to explore ways you can become more comfortable, secure, and knowledgeable about your money!

About the Author

marcia shetlerMarcia Shetler became the Executive Director/CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center in March 2011. She holds an MA in philanthropy and development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, a BS in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan University, and a Bible certificate from Eastern Mennonite University. She formerly served as administrative staff in two middle judicatories of the Church of the Brethren, and as director of communications and public relations for Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Indiana, an administrative faculty position. Marcia’s vocational, spiritual, and family experiences have shaped her vision and passion for faithful stewardship ministry that recognizes and celebrates the diversity of Christ’s church and the common call to all disciples to the sacred practice of stewardship. She enjoys connecting, inspiring, and equipping Christian steward leaders to transform church communities.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS Initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page, follow us on Twitter, and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

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