Yearly Archives - 2020

The Parable of the Mexican Fisherman

There’s a story I ran across several years ago that has really helped influence my thinking on the important difference between being “successful” and being “fruitful” in life.  The idea is that one can work hard, stay relatively productive, and become genuinely successful in a particular field of work while honestly not accomplishing anything ultimately meaningful when it’s all said and done.  Or, at least, discovering, when it is all said and done, what was truly meaningful about it could have been accomplished so much sooner in life and with a much more direct path.

I think the story was originally written by an author named Mark Albion, though I first saw it in one of Tim Ferriss’ books.  It’s called “The Parable of the Mexican Fishermen,” or “The Parable of the Businessman and the Fisherman.”  The story goes like this:

There was a young businessman on vacation at a small Mexican coastal village.  One day, while standing at the pier, he noticed a small boat with just one fisherman returning to the cove after a short time of casting on the water.  The fisherman moored his little vessel to the dock with several large yellow-fin tuna inside the boat.  The businessman looked at the fisherman’s catch and complimented him on the quality of the fish and asked him how long it took to catch them.  “Only a little while,” the fisherman replied.

A little surprised, the young businessman asked, “Why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?

The content fisherman said, “This is enough to support my family’s immediate needs. I don’t need any more.”

“But what do you do with the rest of your time?,” asked the confused young man.

“Well, I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a walk with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos; I have a full and busy life, Señor.”

The businessman scoffed, “Let me give you some advice.  I’m a Harvard graduate with an MBA and know a little bit about business.  If you spent more time fishing and with the proceeds bought a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you bought several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats.  Then, instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You could control the product, processing, and distribution. Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal village and move to Mexico City and, perhaps, eventually to New York, where you could run the headquarters of your growing enterprise.”

The fisherman asked, “How long will this all take?”

The young man replied, “Oh, 15-20 years, if you work hard.”

“What then?,” asked the fisherman.

The businessman laughed and said “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich.  You could make millions.”

“Millions, Señor? Then what?”

“Then, my friend, you could retire, move to a small coastal fishing village where you can sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a walk with your wife, stroll to the village every evening where you can sip wine and play the guitar with your amigos.”

If there’s any takeaway from that story, I suppose it’s not to bash the hard-working Harvard graduate or business executive.  I for one am very grateful for those who clock the time behind the big desk to keep the gears of our modern, global economy moving, but it does make you think.  It makes you think about what in life you’re really working toward and how direct of a path you’ve chosen to get there.

I know some people tend to work for the sake of work itself, while others out there will work more as a means to some other end.  I tend to fall in the latter camp.  The question then is to what end are we working, and do we really think that end can only be reached at some distant date on the calendar, say, when we finally reach the higher rung on the company ladder, or that comfortable number in our retirement fund.

If you’re working for some material end—say, a larger nest egg, a more prestigious position, maybe it’s a bigger house, or something like that—I imagine it may very well take you until retirement to reach that.  But, if you’re working towards something more intangible—say, a stronger marriage, or trying to build character in your kids, or giving more time to ministry in your local church and community, or growing closer to the Lord—I’ll tell you, it would be a mistake not to give as much attention to those things as you can afford to do now.  Why?  Because those things don’t require more dollars in the bank, or more degrees on the wall, or more busywork logged on the time sheet in order for fruitfulness and fulfillment to happen.

The story of the Mexican Fisherman reminds me a lot of the story in Luke 10 when Jesus visited the house of Mary and Martha.  In that account, Mary was content to sit at the feet of Jesus in order to spend time with him on a personal level, while the text says Martha was distracted with much serving, running around the house to get things done.  While Mary was just sitting on the floor talking with Jesus, Martha voiced her complaint, “Lord do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Tell her then to help me.”

From Martha’s perspective, it didn’t look like Mary was being very productive.  But what did Jesus say in reply?  He said, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion which will not be taken away from her.”

Mary chose “the good portion.”  Question—does that describe your life?  Have you chosen the good portion?  Have you chosen what is truly fruitful and meaningful in life over the mere illusion of achievement, productivity and busyness?  Are you wasting precious years of your life, or your spouse's and your kid’s lives, or the life of your church family, detouring around the very destination that’s right in front of you?  I encourage you, take a lesson from Mary and the Mexican Fisherman.  The fact is you can be very productive and successful in your work and not very fruitful in your life.

How Not to Measure Wealth and Calculate Your Net Worth

A lot of people have learned to evaluate how they are doing in life based on the bottom line of their financial statement, which they'll itemize with the simple formula: “Total assets minus total liabilities equals total net worth.”

I admit, this little calculation is relatively easy to remember and to do the math on.  I would even say it can be quite helpful if what you're looking for is an appraisal of how much belongs to you after you subtract whatever you still owe financially.  If those are the numbers you're looking for, you simply add up what you have in terms of both fixed and liquid assets.  That includes all the money you have in the bank or the market, as well as all the cash you've got hidden under your mattress; it includes the fair market value of your home, the possessions and valuables in your home, your vehicles, and so forth.

You add up the total of all those assets in one column, and then in another column you add up all that you currently owe in terms of your financial obligations—your mortgage, credit card debt, student loan debt, car payments, and the $20 you still owe your friend for covering your movie ticket and popcorn the other week.  You get the grand total of all those debts and subtract them from your asset column, and you come up with a number that is your monetary net worth.  Again, that can be a helpful metric to use.  In fact, in some future videos I plan to talk about some practical ways that a person can go about improving those numbers.

But what if I told you that I’m not convinced that such a formula is necessarily the best way to be measuring wealth and calculating one’s worth?  Why do I say that?  Well, because the entire equation assumes the only assets and liabilities you have to measure and calculate are those that have a monetary value.  That is to say, you're only adding up those things in your life that can be assessed in dollars and decimals.

In my opinion, when you do that, you unavoidably leave off those things in your life that are truly of the greatest value.  What are those things?  Well, just consider what in life is understood to be truly priceless?  What in life can money not buy?  Things that belong on that list would include your close relationships—family, friends, church community, etc.  The people in your life are, or I would say, should certainly be, ranked among your most priceless assets.

What else in life is priceless?  I think things like time, freedom, health, a sense of purpose, contentment, happiness and joy are all on that list.  These types of things you can’t just tally up in simple numbers in an Excel spreadsheet, and yet it can be so obvious and evident when a person is cashing in on the rewards and dividends that these kinds of treasures offer.

A lot more could be said about all this, but the bottom line is, if you're looking for a standard of measurement and a formula to calculate your worth and the value of what you have, don't just quantify that by the bottom line of a financial statement.  You've got to assess so much more than how many figures show up in your account balance.

Jesus taught in Matthew 6:19-21

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

In other words, according to the Lord, there is a higher measure of wealth and a very different kind of math we should be using to factor our worth.  I just wonder, if you started making out a list of those areas that truly matter in life and begin evaluating how you're doing, and the degree to which you are investing in those treasures, how are you doing?  Would you evaluate your relationship to God, your spouse, your kids, and/or your church as what it should be?  If you could audit your time, your freedom, your life's purpose and goals, your sense of personal growth and fulfillment, all those things, would it look like you're making perceivable progress, or would it look like you've got a lot of catching up to do?

None of us want to end up like Ebenezer Scrooge from the old Charles Dickens story.  Scrooge was quite proficient at counting and recounting his assets, producing what I'm sure was a very thorough and well-worked out net worth statement.  Unfortunately, despite have such a detailed accounting of all his assets and liabilities, he eventually discovered that he was actually quite bankrupt in the areas that really mattered.  We don't want to make the same mistake.

Saving a Living: 3 Keys to Saving on Groceries

In an earlier post, I touched on the topic of helping with the family’s income as a stay-at-home-mom.  The first aspect that I mentioned was the concept of “Saving a Living.”

Well, how do you do that?

In this post, I’d like to share with you three key principles on how to help save money in the grocery budget, and how we apply that in our own family.

  • Plan in advance
  • Set aside a few dollars from each week's grocery budget for future bulk purchases
  • Stick to the plan

Planning in advance.... What does it even mean? I mean, how do you plan in advance for grocery shopping? Is it just you sit down and you write out a menu or a grocery list?  How does this even start; where's the beginning point?

So, here's what I have found that works for us.  I simply take a sheet of notebook paper, and I write down all the days and next to it I write down the day of the week.  For our family, we have a very structured set - for instance every Tuesday night it's our Family Worship Night and because of that we want as much time as possible to be able to stay at the dinner table to be able to sing together, pray, and have our Bible story.  Now, I don't know about your family, but in ours, I have some picky eaters.  If we have a meal that they turn their noses up at, we can sit there for an hour and a half trying to get them to eat, and that is a big waste of time.  So, to get around that, Tim asked me that for every Tuesday night I fix a breakfast meal. That meal could be scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy, a breakfast casserole; the list goes on and on. Regardless just a breakfast meal.  Why?  Because our kids love breakfast food, and we don't have to fight with them to eat.  They inhale it!  It's easy to make, easy to clean up, and really easy to get them to eat it.

When that happens we then have all of that extra time to spare for Family Worship, so every Tuesday on my list is going to have a breakfast meal and I'll rotate them out.

Then there might be other days of the week you have specific events planned.  In our family we do Fridays as Family Pizza-n-Movie Night, so I make homemade pizza every Friday night. Other days of the week that I know are going to have a lot of different functions going on like Care Group with our church, Trail Life, different things, I know how much time I'm going to have in the kitchen or how busy I'm going to be, and based on that, I then plug it into my calendar so I know what type of meal I can fix.

That gives you an idea how to take your life - take your schedule - put it on the calendar and then based on what your schedule is, create a menu. If you only have enough meals to fill in one week, that’s great.  If they are seven proven meals you know your family will eat, they're not going to be picky, and you're not going to waste food, plug it in and just keep rotating that week's meals until you find where you can start increasing more. Then you build up to two week’s worth of meals, and you take those two weeks and rotate them twice so you just fix the same meal twice a month instead of four times a month.

I think you get the idea of how that works. Every family is different.

That's the first thing that I do—I plan.  After I figured out what my menu is going to be for that week or that month, I go ahead and start to write out my grocery list. The first thing I want to do is I take that menu and I sit down with a piece of paper and start to plan out what do I need for ingredients.

After I know what ingredients I need, I go to my freezer and my pantry and mark off every single ingredient I already have in stock because if I don’t need to buy it at the grocery store that saves money because I already have it.  Once I've done that, the next step would be to fill in gaps - plug the holes so to speak.  I would do that by sitting down with the sale papers – they send out the paper every Tuesday with the Kroger ads and coupons, and the new sales cycle starts on Wednesday.  I usually do my shopping on Thursdays so that gives me a little bit of time to kind of look through what's on sale.  Some stores just advertise online.  Regardless, I do my research. And the key to that is try to plan on shopping at least three different stores.  Why is this important?  Because if you only shop at one store, more than likely you're not going to save money.  Take advantage of price wars! That's the benefit of capitalism – stores have competition and want your business; so they're going to give you every incentive possible to come shop with them which means that you save money.

You need to learn how the system works.

The best way I have found to do this was to keep a notebook inside my bag and write out everything that I regularly buy. For instance, you buy milk every week or every month.  I'm sure you buy butter or bread… Whatever it is that you buy regularly, start writing down the prices.  You write the name of the store and the price.

The reason this is important is because you're actually creating a record system that you will be able to utilize to see where the sale cycles are.  Stores cycle through prices every six to eight weeks. Think about it… When do you see all the Kroger sales for chips and salsa, chicken wings, dip, stuff for cold and flu medicine, healthy foods, you know diet foods?  January!  Why? Because you've got the Super Bowl game coming up, and you've got people who are wanting to reorganize their homes and are starting New Year's resolutions with losing weight.  Well, the stores reflect that so they're going to sell certain items at certain times of the year.  A really good website that I’ve found helpful is  She has a great list of things put together for you.   The more knowledge you have in this area, the more power you have and the more you're able to save in your own budget for your family which is extremely important.

What do you do with all that information? Why is it so important?  Well, when you're putting together  game plan, you now have your menu, grocery list, and record of all the prices listed, you take those prices and plug them into your grocery list. That means before you even go to the store, you have a rough estimate of what you are going to spend.  This is great because, say for instance, I have on my menu a pot roast, but I don't have one in my freezer, so I have to buy one. Well, that's about $9-12 for a decent-sized English pot roast which would put me over my budget.  Instead of buying that piece of meat, I can take it off my grocery list, save the money, and instead put something else in place like a squash spaghetti bake or a meatless chili fiesta served over rice with taco toppings on it.  There's all different kinds of ways that you can incorporate changes into the menu after you see, “Oh hey, I can't really afford to buy that cut of meat this week,” or you know, “Do we really need to have those side items? Maybe we can fudge and do something else instead?” That's how you can stay within your budget so you don't end up overspending when you go to the store.

The second thing I would say on this would be to always try to set aside a few dollars from each week’s grocery budget to have a surplus available

I literally have to force myself to take money out of that budget and set it aside. It's that thought of “out of sight, out of mind.” If I don't see it, I don't spend it.  I have my budget, and I just take a little bit off the top. It's still there, but by me not planning on spending it, I won't spend it. Therefore, I'm always saving money. There's that old saying that says, “Failure to plan is planning to fail,” and that is oh so true for me.  If I don't plan in advance to save money, it won't get saved.  I always have that tendency of thinking, “Oh, well, I'll just save whatever I had leftover from the grocery budget this week.”  Very rarely is there anything left over from the grocery budget. That route just isn’t going to work.

The reason you need the savings is because when you go to the store, and you end up finding those special deals, if you don't have extra money saved up, you're going to end up going over your grocery budget for that week. You don't want to do that!  The goal is you always stay under your budget, so if you have that surplus, you then have money set aside to go ahead and buy the things you need at the lowest price possible.  The professionals always say, “Don't stock up on items unless they are 60% or more off the original price.  So, you aren’t going to spend full price for anything!  You want it to be rock-bottom, and that's when you stock up; that's when you restock your pantry and your freezer, and you're not going to pay top dollar for it.

That goes back to when you are putting together your menu, you shop in your pantry and in your freezer first.  You can do that because you have been stockpiling all these staple items.  That's how over time that snowball effect begins to kick in.  You start to save more and more and more because you're not having to go to the store.  Say for instance, you run out of flour, or you know you needed to buy flour…Well if you had stocked up on flour when it was 60% or 70% off when it was on sale, you then don't have to go to the store because you ran out and pay 100% for it.  You don't have to pay top dollar because you got it for 60% less.  You see how that it saves, but it takes time to start seeing that effect.  So again, that second principle of always setting aside a few dollars from your budget is very important.

The third principle to this, and I think it is probably the hardest but most beneficial, is STICK TO THE PLAN no matter what.  If you need to save money (and it is tight) and you're struggling, do NOT deviate off your list for any reason especially if you don’t have that surplus saved to buy those on-sale items. Stick to your plan! That’s how you can save money, and that's how it works.  And it does work!  Trust me, I’m feeding a family of seven every week, and we can stick to our grocery budget for $100 a week, but it takes strategy.  If you are serious about saving money, you CAN do it.

Helping with the Family Income as a Stay-at-Home Mom

One of the things about being a stay-at-home-mom on a working homestead is that I’ve had to figure out creative ways of helping with the family income without a job.  What I’ve figured out so far, I like to think about in two aspects:

  1. “Saving a Living.”
  2. Discovering what I can make at home and sell from home.

The first aspect to this is “Saving a Living.”  I don't know if you've ever heard of this concept before, but it totally works.  You can save almost as much as what you could earn at a part-time or even a full-time job.  It is possible.

I have learned ways to save money every which way, some crazy and some more practical.  Some ways of saving a living would be by (1) learning to do things yourself instead of paying others to do it, and (2) making your own products.

A big money-saving example of the do-it-yourself side of the coin is the dreaded haircut.  I have five males in my home, so by investing $25 or $30 in a set of quality hair clippers that will last the family 5 to 10 years, I can save an average of $80 per month.  That comes out to $960 per year!  Over the course of 18 years, that’s a whopping $17,280—just in haircuts!

You can see how by learning just one skill and making a small one-time investment, you can save your family big bucks.  And for anyone who thinks they need a cosmetology degree to use a comb and scissors, you don’t.  You’d be surprised what you can learn on YouTube and with a few willing test-subjects.

Learning to make things yourself can also save a lot of money.  I’m reminded of what my mom used to tell us growing up whenever we were inside the clothing store.  We'd find a beautiful dress or skirt and would be admiring it, and it never failed you’d hear my mom pipe up, “I can make it for less than that!” That of course meant that we weren’t buying it.  I can share more in future post about all the different ways we've incorporated this aspect into our homestead by making our own cleaning products and canning our own food - but think about all the things you spend money on and then ask yourself, “Can I make or do that for less?” Again, all it takes is a little research to learn a new skill.

The second aspect to helping with the family income was to discover what I could make at home to sell.

Unlike my mom who could look at something in the store or in a catalog and sew an even better version, I can barely sew a straight line.  Oh, it's horrible to admit that!  I am not gifted in the typical crafty department.  In fact, I somewhat loathe making crafts.  Glitter, beads…ugh!  It’s the stuff nightmares are made of.  And, yes, as a homeschool mom I am admitting that.  But it's true. However, if you put me inside a kitchen, or in front of a blank canvas with some paints, my blood begins to pump with excitement because I love to create.  I just had to figure out the right medium to use.

One of my recent passions has surprisingly turned into handcrafted soapmaking, as well as making my own face creams and makeups.  It’s something I never imagined myself doing, but it has surprisingly become a practical way of harnessing my creative passion into a realistic income.

You can't be good at everything.  No two homesteads are going to look the same because you have unique strengths that others don't, and vice versa.  I’m sorry, perfectionists, but that's just the way it is.  And that's okay.

Find what you're good at, and a good starting point is to explore what are you passionate about.  You'll be surprised at what you discover when you start researching and combining a love for something with a way of turning it into an income.  It's like following the trail of breadcrumbs. You start with one idea, and as you search around you uncover another, which leads you to another and another until you finally find that one thing that you’re so passionate about and you absolutely love.  Others around you then catch onto that and they end up loving it as well, and, guess what?  That's the beginning of a business.  That's the beginning of bringing in an income!

Thoughts on Stewardship

Thoughts on Stewardship

One of the things I thought might be helpful to share with those who have taken an interest in our homestead are some thoughts on the topic of stewardship.  There are several lessons that we have learned along our journey that have made a real difference for us, and we imagine could make a real difference for others as well.

We sometimes get questions—and I know we get a whole lot of raised eyebrows—when people find out that a couple of years ago I made the big and somewhat scary decision to give up my full-time status at the office where I've had the privilege of working for 15 years.  Back in January 2019, I officially dropped to part-time, voluntarily cutting a big percentage of my hours and pay.

Also, as a bi-vocational pastor at a relatively small church where I've also had the privilege of serving for 15 years, there were many of those years where, in an effort to serve the church and to free it’s budget to be used for other needs, I turned down any compensation in order to minister to the people free-of-charge.

In addition to that, early in our marriage, Amy and I made the decision that we wanted her to stay at home to focus primarily on being a wife and mother.  We agreed we didn’t want to grow dependent on her needing to work outside the home to bring in a second income, so for most of our almost 14 years of marriage, Amy has not brought in a traditional paycheck to add to the family coffers.

Aware of these things, people often ask how we have made all that work.  What does it look like behind the scenes, and even on paper in the family budget, to accommodate such cuts in one’s take-home income and yet still make relative progress in their overall stewardship goals?

The answer I would point to comes back to stewardship.  “Stewardship,” if you're unfamiliar with the word, is a major biblical theme and one which Christians often use to talk about their responsibilities of faithfully managing the resources God has given them in life.

Our conviction is that there is nothing that any of us have, or earn, or acquire that really even belongs to us, but that it's all the property of the Creator who, by his own good pleasure, has temporarily stewarded us—all to different degrees and in different proportions—what we have, ideally to be used for whatever purposes he intends.

The whole topic of stewardship assumes there are both “faithful” and “unfaithful” ways to steward.  It assumes there are “right” and there are “wrong” ways to manage resources.  And, all things being equal, there are principles, both biblical and common, that when applied or not applied, as the case may be, produce results that can be anticipated.

I say “all things being equal,” of course, because there is an element of God's providence and grace in all of this that ultimately influences all of our circumstances.  I understand that.  But, as much as it depends on us, there are different ways and different methods of stewardship that by design produce different calculated results.  You give two men a dollar and have them go their separate ways, one will potentially waste his dollar and the other find a way to multiply it.

I will admit to you that there are probably plenty of dollars that our family has wasted over the years.  But, by God’s grace, we haven’t wasted all of them.  To his credit, I think we've even learned how to multiply some of them and to steward them in a deliberate way.

So, my plan in some upcoming posts is to share some of what we're doing as relates to stewardship so that you can see on a practical level how we think and how that translates into what has proven to work for us.  Lord willing, there may be something we can share that makes a difference in someone else’s stewardship goals as well.

Stay tuned for upcoming posts in this new stewardship series.

The Intellectual Agrarian and the Educated Homemaker

If I could take a book of my shelf and step into one of the fictional worlds created out of the imagination of one of my favorite writers, and had the chance to visit one of the enchanting places in that fictional world, I think it would be fun to visit J.R.R.’s Tolkien’s  “The Shire of Middle-Earth.”

If you’ve ever read the classic series “The Lord of the Rings” or it’s beloved prequel “The Hobbit,” you’ll know the scene I’m talking about.  The Shire is best known for its simple agrarian lifestyle and slower pace of life.  The rural Hobbit folk Tolkien imagines value their old-fashioned traditions and have a passion for life’s simple pleasures.  They appreciate good home cookin’ and find satisfaction in an honest day's work tilling the soil and watching things grow.

I guess the only thing that bothers me about the way the little Hobbits are depicted is the stereotype that an apparent trade-off of living in the country must be the absence of progress and the absence of a good education.  Tolkien picks up on a common opinion that I think a lot of people share that farmers must be barefooted, overall-wearing, pipe-smoking, straw-chewing backwoods Hillbillies who don't own that many books and who are woefully oblivious to what's happening in the world.

If there's one Hobbit who seems to be the exception to the rule it's the main character, Bilbo, who has made quite the study for himself at his home of Bag End where he keeps all his maps, journals, and elven histories.  I think it’s unfortunate that Bilbo has to be the exception to the rule, because I would prefer to see the “Bag End” kind of farmer as the norm and the model for the rural community.  It’s the whole “Intellectual Agrarian Standard” that has unfortunately been lost by many who work in the field.

When I think of homesteading, farming, and rural life, it’s not all watching the world pass by from one’s isolated porch in Mayberry.  Rather, what I envision is the George Washington of Mount Vernon kind of farmer.

You know, Washington was the kind of farmer who had a love for his garden and orchards and, as a surveyor, developed amazing landscapes and garden designs.  He enjoyed the routine of getting up early and planning out his day's work and then, after breakfast, riding out on horseback to inspect his farm.  As he made his morning inspection, he would hand out assignments and visit with his workers.  Later in the day, he would return back home to his wife Martha to host whatever guests they had planned to host that evening.  Then, after he had finished entertaining, he would retire to his home office to read a little from the newspapers he was subscribed to and from the shelves of books that he had collected.

Washington didn’t just read for the pleasure of it, but he put his learning to work as an officer in the French and Indian War, later as an elected official in the Virginia legislature, and eventually as commander-in-chief in the Continental Army and in the War for Independence before becoming the first president of the United States.  Then after serving his country in those capacities, he retired back to the peace and quiet of his beloved farm.

When I think of farming, I also like to think of men like Thomas Jefferson of Monticello, who not only gave attention to advancements in agriculture, including better ways of rotating his crops and better seed varieties to try in those crops, but as a bit of an architectural enthusiast, he spent much of his adult life designing and redesigning his homestead estate of Monticello.  He looked for the best ways to position his gardens, his fencing, and his outbuildings in relation to the landscape, creating what I think, having visited Monticello, is a delightful place to be.

It’s interesting how Jefferson was sure to include in all his farm designs a dedicated home office which he would refer to as his “cabinet” where he would answer thousands of letters and do most of his reading and writing.  It was in his office, Jefferson mapped out his master plans for Monticello.

Like Washington, though, Jefferson was careful to balance all that private life with a life of public service.  He practiced as a lawyer and served as a Virginian delegate in the Continental Congress.  He penned our Declaration of Independence.  He served as our third President of the United States.  Even in his retirement years, he continued to balance both a commitment to his farm and political career.

The point is, men like Washington and Jefferson kept a foot in both worlds.  They kept their hands dirty in the soil of their gardens but then, after the planting was done, they washed their hands, read another book from their library, and went to work on some bigger cause for the good of mankind.

It's the Bilbo Baggins of Bag-end kind of farmer who, enjoyed his well-stocked pantry of home-grown goods and enjoyed reclining in his favorite armchair in front of the fire to read a good book.  But then, who also shared in the Middle Earth adventure, fighting against the threats of evil and injustice in the world.  Again, if you've ever read or watched the Tolkien series, you know all about the greater global fight Bilbo got involved in.

The kind of farm-life I'm talking about compels a man to be content in the field, disciplined in the study, and available to serve a greater cause.

I like what Joel Salatin has to say on this topic in his book “Letters to a Young Farmer.”  Writing to farmers, ranchers, and homesteaders who, perhaps might start to conform to the whole uneducated, backwoods stereotype, he writes:

“Read liberal and conservative news sources; business, history, religion.  All of this creates a renaissance persona that can stand toe-to-toe with any Fortune 500 executive. Get a nice suit and wear it; don't see yourself as a blown-in hayseed. View yourself as a modern Jeffersonian intellectual agrarian. What's on your bookshelf? How many hours a week do you read?  Readers are leaders…”

I love where Salatin is going with that.  With an objective of engaging on equal footing with the world around you—whether that's in business, or politics, or spiritual interests—educate yourself.  Build a wealth of knowledge in order to make yourself effective in the lives of those around you.  Hang up the overalls and wear a suit when appropriate, and begin viewing yourself as a respected contributor and influencer in society.

What I'm arguing here for are more intellectual agrarian farmers who are equipped not only to work in the field and produce good food, but who are equipped to work among neighbors and communities to help produce a much different kind of harvest.   If you truly believe in the old-fashioned traditions and values common to farm life, I’ll tell you, you have something worth sharing that our modern secular society desperately needs.

Honestly, what I'm talking about not only applies to men in the field but to their wives at home as well.  In addition to “Intellectual Agrarians,” I’m convinced we need more “Educated Homemakers.”(2x)  That may sound like a contradiction and insult to a lot of feminist progressives out there who might say, “Why would any woman want to waste her education as a homemaker?”

Personally, I think that the most noble career a woman can pursue is as a mother to her children and a wife to her husband.  Amy and I both have a lot more we can say on that topic biblically appealing to God’s good design for women.  Without making a full argument here, I believe the home, as Titus 2 says, is certainly a worthy and honorable path to be pursued among our ladies.  As such, I think it is a worthy area to invest more education and learning in.  It's what used to be called the study of home economics.

I don't know if they still teach Home-Ec in schools anymore.  My guess is they probably don’t.  But I like what a lady named Sarah Hale once taught young women in her book titled “The Good Housekeeper” in 1841.  She writes:

“The more intelligent a woman becomes, other things being equal, the more judiciously she will manage her domestic concerns.  And we may add, that the more real knowledge she possesses of the great principles of morals, philosophy and human happiness, the more importance she will attach to her station and the name of a “good housekeeper.”  It is only the frivolous, and those who are superficially taught, or only instructed in showing showy accomplishments, who despise and neglect the ordinary duties of life as beneath their notice.  Such persons have not sufficient clearness of reason to see that “Domestic Economy” includes everything which is calculated to make people love home and feel happy there.”

I love that quote.  Unfortunately, I think way too many women in the world have come to view the home and their part in improving, developing, and managing the state of affairs at home as beneath their notice.  Instead, they seek to escape what they see to be the prison of home and seek to pursue a higher and more prestigious position in the world.

Truth be known, as instituted by God, the home is one of the highest and most honorable places we can ever give our attention to.  Why?  Because it’s in the home where we mold the next generate    on.  It’s in the home where true companionship is found in marriage, and true partnership is forged in accomplishing God's will for the family.  It’s in the home where efforts of hospitality are practiced, and true community is built with neighbors around the dinner table.  It’s in the home!  Why wouldn't a wife and mother want to build her library with books that equip her to one of the greatest and most influential God-commissioning tasks?

I love learning about women like Abigail Adams who it's told, though she personally had no formal education, she much availed herself to her family's library to master subjects most women never considered and in so doing not only managed her own home well but was able to serve and influence the less fortunate in teaching them how to better manage their homes.  To be fair, Abagail Adam’s also found ways to get involved in public affairs too, ironically enough in her advocacy for improved women’s rights.  Much of that was done behind the scenes through the unique influence she had of her husband, John Adams, who was the second president of the United States and, much like Washington and Jefferson balanced his public service with the management of his farm of Peacefield.

The point is, like her husband, Abigail sought to keep a good balance.  She sought to do her part serving public interest’s while still keeping her attention primarily on the home, devoting some deal of study to improving and mastering her management of the home.

Ladies, I’m not sure what your family libraries look like, but consider the example of Abigail Adams who made use of her husband’s books and no doubt had a collection of her own covering a variety of subjects.  It wasn’t all fiction novels, but I’m sure included books on marriage, parenting, cooking, agriculture, medicinal remedies, stewardship, even theology…

I believe we need more homemakers who are well read and equipped to best serve the interests of their homes—to best educate their children, to be their husband’s best advisors, to know the best ways to budget and shop and garden and cook and everything else a wife is privileged to oversee.  The wife who excels in all those areas will have give sufficient time to reading.

If there's one takeaway I'm trying to get across to all my fellow homesteaders out there, it would be this — yes, keep cultivating the soil beneath your feet, but don't neglect to cultivate the soil between your ears.  Build your library.  Read good books.  Never stop learning.  And then put that learning to use and find creative ways to make a difference, first to your family, and second to your church and community.

Family On Mission

Family On Mission

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself, “What am I working toward in life?”

A lot of businesses and churches will draft up formal “Mission Statements” to try and answer that question on an organizational level.  They also use “Purpose Statements” and “Vision Statements.”  Some will go even further and draft up a set of “Core Values.”

I won’t bore you with an explanation of all the nuanced differences between those different documents, but for the sake of this post, I'm just lumping them all together to talk about those written summaries that serve as a kind of 30,000 foot view of what a particular group of folks are working toward.

For example, Chick-fil-a's Mission and Vision statements are:

“To be America's best quick service restaurant at winning and keeping customers,” and

“To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.  To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-a.”

Those sound like decent business objectives to me.  I guess the only big question is, how useful are they?  At the end of the day, does it really make any difference if a company's purpose, mission, and vision are thought through and written out?

I found it very interesting to learn that when Chick-fil-a’s employees were asked what difference it made to them what their company's objectives were, 71% said it made a big difference in motivating them in their work.  In fact, the majority of employees said they felt Chick-fil-a's overall trajectory as a company was one of the reasons why they applied for a job there in the first place.

In addition to the motivation of its employees, a big reason Chick-fil-a's loyal customer base keeps returning to eat with their families isn't just the fact that they make great chicken sandwiches, which, I suppose, is a part of it.  But evidently, another big factor for the repeat business has to do with the well-articulated reasons Chick-fil-a gives for their existence in the first place.  It's something people who share and value the same interests want to support and rally behind.

In the same way a lot of businesses and churches use Mission Statements to guide them, what I want to propose to you is that such written statements can be just as helpful and useful for individuals and families as well.

You may think I'm crazy, and it may sound silly to you at the thought of drafting up a formal Mission Statement for yourself or for your family, but just hear me out on this.  Even if you never share it with anyone, I have found the benefit, especially when I'm neck deep in the trenches of my own personal to-do list, to be able to pull out a kind of pre-charted map to help me navigate where I'm trying to get in life.

If you want an example of someone from history who did this sort of thing and who took the time to write out a personal Mission Statement for himself, referring to it often, resulting in what I believe was a life well-lived, I can point you Jonathan Edwards.  Edwards was that great American preacher-theologian of the 1700s who helped spark the first Great Awakening revival.  Actually, I could point you to many different figures in history who at one point in their life sat down and wrote out contemplative statements defining their understood purpose for living, but Jonathan Edwards is a great example because Edwards didn't just draft up a short two or three sentence overarching mission for himself.  He ended up fleshing out such a purpose and vision for his life over some seventy personal resolutions to serve as a detailed guide for his every waking moment.

Of course, I don't believe a person has to outline 70 different resolutions, but I want to share with you Edwards' first resolution that seems to have served as a starting place for all the others.  He wrote,

"Resolved that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God's glory, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now or never so many myriads of ages hence; resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general.  Resolved to do this whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great so ever."

That may be a really old-fashioned way of saying things but hopefully you can see the overall direction Edwards tried to point himself in.  He committed himself to live his life chiefly for God's glory and to carry that out, regardless of his circumstances, in a way that best served his fellow man.

Some years ago I sat down and tried to write out a simple Mission Statement for myself, which I have honestly used and referred to on a regular basis to try and gauge where I am on the map of getting to where I'm trying to get.  There's no magic formula to writing these things out.  I just tried to think about what my different roles are in life as a husband, father, pastor and so forth.  So, I'm thinking categorically here in terms of the different hats I wear.  I also tried to think biblically in terms of having priorities that aligned with the same priorities the Lord assigns in the Bible.  But here's what I wrote:

"My personal life goals are to glorify God, by His grace, through the continuous pursuits of knowing him and becoming more like Christ, enjoying and investing in my wife and family, having a positive impact on my church and community, and living a peaceful and quiet life."

So, there you have it.  That's the 30,000 foot view of my personal life goals.  And I've also taken the time to flesh out those different categories and what my aims are for each to look like in practice.  I won't unpack all those extra details here, but the point is I've sought to be deliberate and to give the time and thought to define what I'm living for in life.

Whether it's for an individual or for a family, I'm proposing such an exercise can be very helpful.  For any fellow homesteaders out there, having a clearly written out purpose, mission, or vision can be particularly helpful since the homesteading family is in the unique position of their family being their business.  As entrepreneurs, it only makes sense to have a strategic objective of some kind in place.  And the purpose isn't just to have something to slap onto a brochure, or to bury away in a nightstand drawer, but to use it as a regular point-of-reference to remind you and to motivate you in what you're working toward in life.

I've personally found it useful to keep my Mission Statement tucked away in my notebook planner which has my annual calendar and running to-do list in.  Whenever I sit down to schedule something out, or map out a new project, or develop a new year's budget, I'm able to look back on this written statement to see if what I'm thinking about scheduling, or thinking about working on, or thinking about investing in even fits within my overarching mission.  I can tell you, adopting such a practice makes it a lot easier to know what to say yes to or what to say no to.  It makes navigating the day-to-day a lot easier.  Or maybe I shouldn't say "easier."  Maybe maybe a better word then that is it makes things a lot "simpler," because life can still be hard.  Life can still feel like we are laboring in the trenches, but at least we know the direction we're digging in and we haven't cursed ourselves with a life of aimlessness and uncertainty.

So here's my advice to you.  My advice is to go and get a piece of paper and start writing out a purpose, mission, or vision statement of some kind to help you define what you are working toward in life and then keep that written statement close by.  Refine it as you need to as time goes by and as the Lord continues working in your heart and mind, and as you receive better clarity hopefully as you're studying your Bible.  But then use it as a tool to help guide you in your scheduling, your projects, your budgeting, and even your relationships.

Don't be aimless, but be deliberate.

Homesteading to the Glory of God

Homesteading Hermits in Church History

Have you ever heard of a “hermit” before?  Dating back as far as the third century A.D., many Christians have adopted a hermitic or monastic lifestyle as a way of isolating and insulating themselves from the corrupting influence of an increasingly sinful world.  Actually, the practice can be traced back a lot further than that.  The historian Josephus reports on a group of desert-dwelling Jews who committed themselves to voluntary forms of seclusion, poverty, and religious practice as early as the first century B.C.  Some believe John the Baptist himself may have belonged in some way to such a community.  Prior to John, we can point to the solitary examples of several Old Testament prophets. Throughout church history there is an ongoing legacy of figures who choose to separate themselves from society-at-large to focus their lives exclusively in devotion to God.  I could give you a long list of names of those who chose to live in such a way, from Clement of Alexandria and Origen, to Anthony and Basil the Great, to Jerome and Augustine, Benedict and Francis of Assisi. During the time of the Middle Ages, Christian monasticism had become widely mainstream in the Catholic church with a handful of monastic orders in place, all adopting the same basic objective of honoring the Lord with their devote practices and manner of solitude.  They designed their lives to give concentrated attention to the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, singing, preaching, Bible reading, etc. Of course, monastic life was more than just sitting around and reading one's Bible all day.  Those who lived in the monastery could delve into other projects as well.  Scholasticism and artistry took off in many of these places.  They had the opportunity to read libraries of books.  They could write volumes and volumes of their own books to add to those libraries.  They could develop certain crafts, whether that was weaving or woodworking, candle making or whatever it was.  And then they could pass all of that knowledge down by apprenticeship and mentorship to the younger monks or nuns in their commune. One interesting feature about a lot of these monasteries is that they maintained their own gardens, vineyards, and other means of production.  In fact, some had become completely self-sustaining.  They learned to grow their own food and to meet their own needs.  Their self-reliance, again, was born out of an objective of being less affected by the sinful influences of society around them, which was ultimately born out of objective to live holy lives honorable to the Lord.

A Missional Approach to Homesteading

As I read about these sorts of figures in church history, I catch myself relating very much to the overall appeal of that kind of lifestyle—I suppose minus some of the vows that went along with it.  We won’t get into all of those.  But, as "homesteaders," it struck me how my wife and I have chosen to pursue a somewhat similar quiet, self-reliant life out in the country.  As I stopped to think about our reasons for leaving the city to break ground on our homestead, I admit, we've shared many of the same reasons that resonated in those early monasteries.  I imagine there are a lot of fellow homesteaders out there who probably think the same way, whether or not they've ever thought about the historical parallel. Like those early hermits and Medieval monks, we too have a genuine concern about the corrupting influence of culture around us, not only for ourselves but for our children.  We also have our concerns about the increasingly secular and socialistic approach to life and economy being pushed by the culture, and the ultimate unsustainability of that approach.  It’s made sense to us to step back a little from modern society and to return to some of those old-fashioned ways of life, including a more concentrated approach to the basic spiritual disciplines that are widely lax by so many. I’m uncomfortable to relate our homestead to a monastery or a commune, but, at its heart, we have the same chief end—to glorify God and enjoy him forever, as the old catechism puts it. Early on, Amy and I adopted I Thessalonians 4:11-12 as our inspirational verse to set the tone of what we’re trying to do out here.  Sometime, I think I’ll do an episode that tries to break down in detail what the verse is all about.  But to quote it to you, Paul tells the church to, quote:
“Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one."
Apparently, it is an intended Christian goal to aspire to adopt a simple quiet life, one relatively content, and hard-working, and self-reliant, as a way of setting a good Christian example to an unbelieving world.  There’s a lot there we could reflect on.  Again, I’ll save a full exposition for another day.  But, for our family, that’s a good model. One thing that should probably be emphasized here is the important balance that needs to be a part of such a way of life.  While we are told to aspire to a self-sustaining and sanctified life, notice how that life is meant to be lived, in part, for the benefit of those “outsiders” watching how you live.  In other words, we aren’t to be so isolated we have no contact with the outside world. In fact, if you compare I Thessalonians 4:11-12 to other Scriptures, we’ve got to acknowledge the objective for the Christian isn’t just to give their attention to concentrated forms of devotion and worship, but a concentrated effort of evangelism and outreach too. In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus tells his disciples,
"You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a stand and it gives light to all who are in the house in the same way let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father who is in heaven.”
I Corinthians 10:31 says,
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.
What does it mean to glorify God?  It means, in whatever you’re doing—no doubt, that includes the self-reliant, homesteading life—do that with a purpose to see God glorified.  And how will God be glorified?  One of the ways he will be glorified is by ensuring your approach to homesteading is done in a way that is mindful of Jews and Greeks and the church for the sake of seeing them all reconciled to God by the same saving Gospel that saved you.  It is by ensuring your approach to homesteading isn’t hidden under a basket in total privacy, but positioned on a lamp stand to offer a good source of light for others to see. So, there’s got to be a balance, right?  Yes, “live quietly and mind your own affairs,” and in the process, “allow your light to be visible to the world” for the sake of “seeing men saved,” all “to the glory of God.”  I argue, that balanced approach can’t happen if you are completely isolated and cloistered away in your own private compound out in the country. A biblical view of homesteading for the Christian must include an objective to bring glory to God not only in a homesteading family’s commitment to worship and serve him, but in a homesteading family’s efforts to see others committed to worshiping and serving him too. With all of that said, that's something we aim to do at The Kinnard Homestead.   In addition to living quietly, minding our own affairs, working with our hands, and being dependent on no one as 1st Thessalonians 4 says, we want to do all of that in a way that points others to the Lord.  That’s one of the big reasons we launched our YouTube Channel and Podcast, namely, to loudly proclaim Christ through the example of a quiet life…all to the glory of God. If you haven't already, we invite you to subscribe.
Shopping cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping