Author - Tim Kinnard

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A Look Back on 2018

This past year has been full of many new beginnings for all of us in the Kinnard family…

We kicked off 2018 celebrating E.'s 10th birthday with a special father-son trip to St. Louis and Chicago as a way of launching E. into the world of double digits.  The special trip included going up into the St. Louis Arch, visiting the St. Louis Science Museum, riding the train to/from Chicago, eating Chicago pizza at Geno's, and many other memorable activities. This begins the new tradition of a special “surprise” trip for each of the kids when they turn 10.  Already the younger ones are throwing out ideas of where they want to go or what they would like to do in anticipation of their special trip with their “Papa.”

The spring months brought with them many outside adventures.  We were able to finish a “tall yard” with a 6 ft. fence to secure our new flock of chickens.  Along with this new area, post holes were dug to create a pasture paddock in our large backfield for grazing our future flock of sheep.  Shaun and Daisy (sheep) were then purchased and brought to their new home on the farm with the hopes that come next spring, we will be welcoming at least one new little lamb.

Amy and the kids were able to rototill a large piece of field and plant a productive fruit and vegetable garden.  The boys loved getting their hands dirty and helping in any way possible with digging furrows, planting seeds, weeding, watering, and helping pick.  H. also got involved with picking the vegetables and helping Amy in the kitchen canning.  Along with the vegetable garden, everyone was involved in helping to plant and cultivate the additional apple trees placed in the orchard and the new blueberry and blackberry bushes added to the fruit garden in the front courtyard.

Summer months were filled with more outdoor projects and fun including having cement sidewalks finished around the front of the house and courtyard.  This of course added to the fun of riding bikes on a new smooth surface instead of gravel.  The kids enjoyed bike riding and swimming in their 3-ft pool just about every chance they could.

As fall approached, more improvements were made to the homestead and we were able to finally launch our Kinnard Family Homestead website (www.www.thekinnardhomestead.com) to begin selling products from the farm.  Along with the sale of farm-fresh eggs and garden plants, Amy's baked goods, candies and jelly have been a hit as well as her hand-painted signs.  We were also able to partner with a co-worker at the law firm who knits amazing blankets and hats.  As the farm continues to expand, we will be able to offer even more homemade items to the public and partner with other crafty individuals and small homestead.

One of our biggest projects and needs was having a loafing shed built so we had a permanent shelter and lambing shed for our growing flock of sheep, as well as a new storage shed for farming supplies. Our old 10x10 storage shed was then emptied out and converted into the new chicken house which allows us room to double the size of our current flock up to 50.

When A. turned 7 in October, he was then allowed to increase his responsibilities like his older brother E.  Both boys are now taking piano lessons from their oldest cousin and helping Amy volunteer at the Fishnet Food Ministry four hours a week along with helping feed and water the animals on the farm.

One of the biggest changes for the family came mid-fall when Amy and I realized that I. needed more help in his communication and schooling than we were able to provide him homeschooling.  We began looking into taking a sign language class as a family and ended up at the Arkansas School for the Deaf.  When we were told that students with cognitive delays were also allowed to attend ASD, we went as a family to tour the school.  Everything we were praying for and desiring for I. to receive educationally was laid before us.  All the times we had anguished over I.'s hearing difficulties which have affected his speech, God was preparing the way.  It took a while to get all the testing done, but once everything was completed, I. was un-enrolled in homeschool and registered at the Arkansas School for the Deaf which is a public school.  He now receives speech therapy daily instead of just once a week and an almost one-on-one teacher student ratio.  In just the few months he has been attending ASD, he has learned to use almost 50 signs which he then uses at home to communicate his needs/wants without aggravation. His personality has calmed so much, and he has matured at an unbelievable rate to the point that even his doctors have commented on the positive changes in him.  The icing on the cake in all this is that the signing class that we were originally going to sign up for as a family and pay to attend is part of I.'s enrollment—free of charge!  In fact, the school requires family members to attend at no charge so that we learn what I. is learning.  Praise the Lord!

The end of 2018 brings with it the biggest change of all in that I will be switching my job position to part-time at the law firm to allow more time for ministry and family.  While moving "down" the corporate ladder may seem backwards to many in our culture, I consider it a promotion to be able to spend more time with my family, albeit we will be living on considerably less.  From Amy's and my perspective, time is more valuable than money.  Being home more to help Amy homeschool the kids and investing more time into homestead projects so the farm (and, therefore, our kids) grows more productive is beyond price.  In addition to more time at home, this change will provide more time to invest in the church.  Whether that be sermon preparation, visiting shut-ins, more meet-ups with members of the church, or simply staying on top of the church's administrative duties, I'll be able to do more pastorally than I was able to do working full time.

Again, we have seen God's hand at work in so many ways this past year leading us.  The year 2019 is sure to be full of many new adventures!

With love,

Tim and Amy Kinnard
E (10), I (8), A (7), H (5), and D (2)

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Farm Hands Companion Faith and Farming Interview

The Farm Hand’s Companion Faith & Farming Interview

Farm Hands Companion Faith and Farming Interview
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About Farm Hand's Companion

In the below interview, we hear from Gary McWiliams ("Pa Mac"), a respected conference speaker, fellow homesteader, and the creator of the Farm Hand's Companion website and YouTube Channel. It is a privilege to know Gary and a blessing to receive his experienced counsel in the joint areas of faith and farming.

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1. Describe your farm/homestead.

The best description of our small farm and the type of farming I’m demonstrating on The Farm Hand’s Companion Show, would be that of a “subsistence farm”. This type of farm was prevalent in the first half of the 20th Century, and represented those who farmed and performed a number of other tasks and chores that they lived or “subsisted by”. Though many did occasionally sell some of their goods or produce commercially, their chief aim was to provide food and comforts for the immediate needs of their own family. Many of the things they did, the tools they used, and the methods they employed are my main interests and passion...and the focus of the FHC Show. Now having said that (and with all honesty) my family and I are NOT making a living solely from what I produce on the farm, but the things I’m able to produce do contribute a great deal to the things we eat throughout the year. Some of my main enterprises currently include garden produce (for eating fresh and/or canning), chickens, eggs, cow’s milk, honey, beef, and a good deal of pork. (Don’t get between me and a barbecued rib.)

2. Why did you choose to begin farming/homesteading?

It was the kind of living I was brought up around. I grew up in southwest Arkansas, on the same 40 acres that my Daddy’s daddy, the original “Pa Mac”, farmed and lived on from about the 1930’s till he passed from this world in 1972. My parents (though not earning a living as commercial farmers, but having both grown up subsistence farming and continuing to live the lifestyle of the southern traditional farm) passed on to my brother, sister, and me a knowledge of country ways that had been taught them, as well as good work ethics and biblical teaching. My Daddy taught my brother and me all about hand tools and woodworking. We had the self-sufficient surroundings of southwest Arkansas country life back in the 1970’s: raising livestock like chickens, cows, and the occasional hog, as well as workin’ a big vegetable garden. Like most young ‘uns, I was a lot older before I realized “the enjoyment of hard work” was not the contradiction I sized it up to be. That didn’t stop my parents from sticking a hoe in my hand and pointin’ out which row of beans was “mine” for the next hour. Lookin’ back, I now know that you can love things without liking ‘em, and even without realizing you’re loving ‘em. Then at some point, the day comes when you realize...you like ‘em. I can’t tell you when exactly that happened for me, but that’s where I find myself today all the same: I like “loving” farming.

3. In your experience, what has been the hardest part of farming/homesteading?

Findin’ the time to do everything that needs doin’—when it needs doin’. But through proper organization, that problem can be overcome...or at least greatly minimized.

4. What have been some of your biggest mistakes or failures in farming/homesteading?

Tryin’ to manage too many enterprises while attempting to master ‘em at the same time. (It ends up bein’ the biggest of discouragements)

5. In your experience, what has been the best part of farming/homesteading?

The challenge of resourcefulness. On a farm, there’s usually always a need for tools or materials; and that lack of tools or materials can be an obstacle between you and success. The easiest way to overcome these obstacles is to simply go buy what you need. But to me personally, it’s satisfyin’ to see what little you can get by with, by usin’ the materials or resources around you. This is what resourcefulness is. Really, it’s relyin’ on ideas—some old ones, and some right out of your own brain. But the real power behind resourcefulness is not merely havin’ the right materials to work with, but in one’s desire to accomplish things with whatever materials are at hand.

6. What have been some of your biggest breakthroughs or successes in farming/homesteading?

Firstly, earthworms (or night crawlers) and the realization of what I call the “Little Kingdom” in our soil. The best thing that ever happened to my gardening or raising of vegetable crops is the realization that I’m not nurturin’ the crop or the soil as much as I’m nurturin’ the things that live in the soil...and their “king” is the worm. When that kingdom is thriving, all is well elsewhere, too.

Secondly, homemade lumber, or supplyin’ your own wood needs by acquirin’ the skills and tools to learn to use your own trees well. (And yes, there are ways to make lumber without a sawmill.)

7. Describe what you believe are the key elements to successful farming/homesteading.

An attitude of “can do” must be developed and maintained. Sometimes folks new to homesteading can be overwhelmed or intimidated by the mass of homesteading knowledge so readily available on the Internet through blogs or videos. And when they see somebody doin’ things so well or successfully they think, “I’ll never be that good so why try?” But think of this: Birds fly, fish swim, and humans “tend” the earth; it’s natural. Your chicken, goat or tomato plant doesn’t have access to all that knowledge either; in fact, you’re all startin’ off together. A lot of people might know a lot more about certain facets of homesteading than you—but nobody can love it like God created YOU to love it.

And don’t be intimidated by mistakes—they’re the biggest part of learning. Thomas Edison said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

The aged Thomas Jefferson once wrote: “Though an old man, I am but a young gardener.” You’re never too old to learn something about the vast field of homesteading. In fact, become a diligent student of nature and your husbandry efforts. Journal everything (planting dates, harvest dates, animal births, weather, etc.). It’ll be useful reading to you later (and priceless reading to your grandkids).

Lastly, time and resource organization/management are key elements to successful farming. A big part of that is makin’ and usin’ “to do” lists. I keep a running list (sometimes a very long one) of things that need doin’ around the farm. Just about every morning, I have a meetin’ with myself to go over the list and check at least 3 things that I’d like to have done and able to mark off the list at the end of the day; things that if marked off, will represent to me a day well used. Havin’ a list helps you to consistently prioritize the things that really matter. If this is not done, too many minutes, and then hours, and ultimately days will be wasted by bein’ filled with activities that should have waited until more pressing tasks were done. The second part of good organization/management is that of “a place for everything, and everything in its place”. Have a place for everything you need, and have it where you need it. Sometimes the majority of my thinking is used in figurin’ how I can do everything that needs doin’, and take the least number of actual footsteps to do it. The third organizational strategy is that of “seasonalizing” farm or homestead tasks. When we break down farm chores and give them “times” of the year where they fit best, it helps to simplify the sometimes “overwhelming-ness” of farming. For example, I use a lot of firewood in winter. But I don’t cut wood all year. I try to cut it up at the end of summer when the gardening slacks off. I also butcher hogs in the freezing-est time of the year, when I want to do practically nothing else. I try to gather in mulch materials for the garden in May and again in September. If I were to do all these things all the time, I would soon be overwhelmed and moving to the city. Well, it wouldn’t get that bad...but you get my point. In doin’ these things seasonally, I actually look forward to each of ‘em, and am happier than a pig in mud when I get to do ‘em.

8. What would your biggest piece of advice be for first-time farmers/homesteaders?

Starting only a few enterprises (perhaps no more than two or three at a time each year), startin’ ‘em small, and then if need be, increasing a particular enterprise only if it’s been mastered well. If you’re a homesteader, I know you...because I know me; you’re interested in only about a thousand different homestead enterprises that you’d probably like to try some day. But the reality is, to start too many enterprises at the same time, and to start ‘em too big to boot...ends up bein’ the biggest discouragement to homesteading you could dream of. But thankfully, the opposite is true: To start only two or three enterprises modestly, all the while learning to master ‘em well, and then increasing their output the following year becomes the biggest boost and encouragement. Better to start with a 10 foot by 10 foot garden done well, than to have a 1,000 foot by 1,000 foot garden that is overrun with weeds to the point you don’t even want to go outside to see it. Next year, your 10 foot by 10 foot garden can be 20 foot by 20 foot (and chances are, your wife’ll have to run you out of it to get you to come in for supper).

9. What role does faith play in farming/homesteading?

There exists a wrong attitude toward farming and raising crops and livestock that even we Christians can be guilty of: That of “taking” from the soil—rather than “asking what God is willing to provide for you out of the soil”. We tend to look at soil as just another tool like that old hatchet we’ll keep usin’ till it finally gives up and the handle breaks. Perhaps we should be more diligent to nurture the soil and put more back into it than we expect to take out...and then leave the results in God’s hands. For example, take the harvesting of trees. Some YouTubers get on to me in the comments sections of my videos about cutting trees as if that’s bad stewardship; their problem is they’re (whether they realize it or not) tending towards worshipping the creation rather than the Creator. If we read what the Creator God has revealed in His word, we see that His material creation is a gift to us to steward and use. There’s worship found in the using of a tree, as much as there might be sinfulness in the indiscriminate cutting and wasting of too many trees; but how many trees are too many for me to cut? That’s for the Holy Spirit to tell each of us individually—the same as it is for Him to tell each of us how many helpings are too many at supper. There can be gluttony out in the woods as well as the supper table.

10. What role can a farm/homestead play in serving the Lord?

Thomas Jefferson once wrote that the "Cultivators of the earth are the most virtuous and independent citizens." Of course he was speaking in a generality, but saying that those who husband the earth on their farms tend to have a more honorable character (virtuous) and are more self-sufficient (independent). I would agree with him on that. I half jokingly say that God has planned 51% of the things you grow, raise, or produce on your farm to work out well...and I consider that success. God has engineered our successes and failures for our good. The hardships encountered on the farm or homestead certainly builds a virtuous character. As for the self-sufficiency, there’s no better place on earth to learn that if something on your farm is gonna get done, it’ll have to be by you; but allow me to explain what I mean when I say “self-sufficient” or self-sufficiency in general: It’s NOT sole-sufficiency, i.e., the hermit attempting to live with no outside resources whatsoever. That type of total sole-sufficiency may not even be possible. God’s design often allows for (if not always allows for) the fact that we need others—and they need us. Homesteaders are ever seeking MORE self-sufficiency, but with the understanding that whatever degree we are successful, even that has been granted to us by the hand of Providence, and He often uses others toward that end (and masterfully so). The practice of good husbandry on the farm or homestead also makes for a good citizen, which the Bible most certainly advocates in Romans chapter 13. Self-sufficiency is closely tied to independence, and independence requires liberty, and liberty requires personal responsibility. The self-sufficient lifestyle is perhaps one of the greatest mediums for nurturing these concepts and these concepts are the opposite of Socialism (which is ultimately mass dependency). We have a real problem today: “Doing” for one’s own self (instead of waitin’ for someone to “do” for you) is becomin’ way too rare, perhaps because the farming and homesteading lifestyle is way too rare. Think about this: Many of the more liberal folks among us would perhaps get all worked up and upset about feedin’ animals in a wildlife preserve. They would maintain that to feed bears, for instance, would ultimately result in the bears becoming dependent on sandwiches and chips from tourists rather than foraging for their food as they’re designed to do. Well, I would agree with ‘em on that. I wouldn’t want a mean hungry bear comin’ up to my truck lookin’ for a free handout. But these very same people who would get worked up over this would probably support the feeding of children from one to two meals per day in school at the expense of a state or federal agency. Yet this would serve to foster a generation of kids that think they’re owed sustenance by someone other than themselves or their families. Then that child will more than likely grow up to be an adult liberal with an “everybody-owes-me” mindset. And what if that liberal-minded adult runs for and is elected to a government position? I’d rather take my chances with wild hungry bears. America not only needs homesteaders livin’ the self-sufficient lifestyle, but teachin’ their kids self-sufficiency as well.

Warning: Good Doctrine vs Good Counsel

Under this same subject of “What role can a farm/homestead play in serving the Lord?”, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a caution that many a well-meaning Christian homesteader needs to take heed of; and that is a prideful attitude towards self-sufficiency that is so tempting for those of us who’ve chosen that lifestyle for our families. I have many good friends and close brothers and sisters in Christ that have no desire to raise or grow their own food or be self-sufficient. We who love the homestead life seek more and more of it—and often look with bewilderment at those who don’t. But it’s at that point that we may be tempted to make our lifestyle a point of “good doctrine”, by erroneously suggesting (or even implying through our words or actions) that folks who don’t feel the way we do about homesteading are not living Biblically. Some Christian homesteaders even go so far as to say that others who don’t grow their own food are in sin for not doing so. I see this attitude in various degrees pop up in Christian homesteading chatrooms and conversations, etc. I had a wise pastor friend point out the centrality of the issue. These well-meaning Christian promoters for self-sufficient living, he said, are “confusing good doctrine with good counsel.” For example, I might feel that all believers should at least be aware of the fact that they one day might need to be somewhat familiar with, for instance, self-sufficient food production, in the event they need to provide for their families during hardship (mass economic depression or some such event). I might even suggest that to those folks, which would be my “good counsel” to them. But I would err to suggest that they, in neglecting their development of homestead skills, are void of “good doctrine” and therefore “in sin” for not heeding my advice. The Christian farmer should be happy in his or her homesteading, but at the same time be careful not to make our self-sufficient lives a measuring stick for everybody else.

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Money, Possessions, and Eternity

I have read a lot of material on the subjects of Christian stewardship and general money management.  While most have been helpful, none of the resources I've looked at so far have satisfactorily provided as comprehensive a treatment (both theologically and practically) of this important topic as Randy Alcorn's Money, Possessions, and Eternity.

How a person views matters of ownership, wealth, giving, saving, investing, debt, and other related matters all comes down to how they view life. More specifically, it comes down to how a person views life in relation to eternity. Either this life is all there is, and so we are all free to spend it in whatever ways make us happy, or this life is the prelude to something greater, which means we should spend our lives with an appropriate concern and long-term perspective for what follows.  Alcorn writes,

"The key to a right use of money and possessions is a right perspective - an eternal perspective. Each of our lives is positioned like a bow, drawn across the strings of a cosmic violin, producing vibrations that resound for all eternity. The slightest action of the bow produces a sound, a sound that is never lost. What I do today has tremendous bearing on eternity...The everyday choices I make regarding money and possessions are of eternal consequence."

I am still learning how to best apply this "eternal perspective" in life, but the influence of the basic theological motivations and practical disciplines promoted in this book has already been tremendous.

Book Description

"What does the Bible really say about money? This completely revised and updated version of the classic best-seller provides a Christian perspective about money and material possessions based on the author's painstaking study of the Bible. Randy Alcorn uses the Scriptures to approach this often touchy subject head-on. Thought-provoking arguments challenge readers to rethink their attitudes and use their God-given resources in ways that will have an eternal impact. Alcorn deals straightforwardly with issues of materialism, stewardship, prosperity theology, debt, and more."

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Nine Marks of a Healthy Church

As a pastor, I've talked with many Sunday visitors at our church who were looking for a new place to worship. The reasons for their searching range across the board.  They may have recently moved to town, or had a bad experience with their former church, or started feeling burdened to fill a pew after so many years of absence.  But in the limited 5 or 10 minutes I have to talk with them before or after a service, the conversation usually gravitates toward what they are looking for in a church.  The reasons for that can also cover a wide spectrum.  Some say they are looking for a certain kind of music, or ministry program, or commuting distance, or social demographic. Others say they are hungry for a certain kind of teaching, whether that be something "relevant and down-to-earth" or, in the opposite direction, more "academic and meaty."   I remember one man, who happened to have a higher-level education, tell me that what he was looking for was something appropriately suited toward his advanced intellectual needs, which our church apparently couldn't offer.

There are a lot of different things a person can prefer to have in a church home, and not all are necessarily bad things to want, but the whole conversation begs the question, "What criteria does the Bible say we should be looking for?"  If the church community is something God has instituted, what does the Lord of the church have to say about what specific attributes a Christian should hope for in a church.?

In his book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, which I highly recommend every church member (or church-home seeker)  read, Mark Dever examines nine important marks to look for, and/or to promote, in a church.  Though there could obviously be a longer list of important attributes to mention, the nine marks Dever points to are some of the most neglected, and therefore, desperately needed in churches today.  In the book's foreword, David Platt, makes the following comments:

"As a pastor swimming amid a sea of principles and practices for church health and church growth, this one book has impacted and influenced my understanding of the church far above any other.  Such impact and influence owe to the fact that this book is grounded in God's Word.  The nine marks contained here may not be the marks you would immediately identify as central in the church.  You may think some of them are questionable and others of them are controversial.  But brother or sister, these nine marks are biblical, and that is why they are so valuable."

The nine marks all healthy churches and church goers need to have a biblical understanding, and, in turn, right application, of are: (1) Preaching, (2) Biblical Theology, (3) The Gospel, (4) Conversion, (5) Evangelism, (6) Membership, (7) Discipline, (8) Discipleship, and (9) Leadership.

Book Description

"You may have read books on this topic before—but not like this one. Instead of an instruction manual for church growth, this classic text offers tried and true principles for assessing the health of your church. Whether you’re a pastor, a leader, or an involved member of your congregation, studying the nine marks of a healthy church will help you cultivate new life and well-being within your own church for God’s glory."

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