Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Oh the Joy of October...

What? October is over? It just started, how can we be done with the month already? Maybe it's because we had so much fun. Yeah, that's it, that's why the October went so fast...and here's some pics to prove it!

Emma took me along for her preschool field trip to Hilger Farms. First we did some educational stuff, then a wagon ride, some snacks and finally play time. The weather was absolutely lousy, but we had a good time together, as always!

Emma got all dressed up for her school picture, here she is posing for her Mama.

We were requesting suggestions for pumpkin face designs, and Eli suggested this one!

Emma eagerly grabbed for the goopy guts; she had no problem showing Levi how it's done.

Levi has no intention whatsoever of sticking his fingers in the slimy pulp.

Ta-Da! Isaac is all smiles when it comes to carving his pumpkin.

Once Tara gave Levi a spoon, he was fine. Silly kid...

Tara and Emma designed the face together, and then Mama did the carving.

Isaac and I paired up for this masterpiece, he insisted on the big teeth.

Emma's pumpkin came from Hilgers - all the kids were allowed to take one home with them, we looked for the biggest one we could find. Isaac is holding a pumpkin that came from Grandma Simmons garden, and Levi is holding one that Papa Ger gave to us.

What? Eli is seven months old already? Unbelievable...

Ummm Sis, what are you doing? You're squishing my face!

Emma & Salma had a sleepover, and the plan was for Annie and Tara then to stay up all night scrapbooking...not that it worked out quite like that; Annie fell asleep next to Salma in an effort to help her go to sleep. Tara tried waking her up, but to no avail. Quite awhile later Annie awoke and snuck out of the house, and Salma and Emma slept like logs.

We did our traditional pancake breakfast, and for a special treat since Salma was with us, we put a bunch of M&M's in the pancakes: Yummy!

For Halloween, Emma wore the Snow White costume that Naomi lovingly made for her birthday. Emma has been planning to be Snow White for months, she is a very happy princess tonight!

We couldn't find dwarf costumes, so we settled on penguins instead! Happy penguins they are...; and let it be said that Tara came up with these two creative costumes herself, designed them herself, crafted them herself, and I think she did a fabulous job!
Levi is the Leaning Tower of Penguin... what's the point in posing normal?
You have to guess...
Isaac is doing the dramatic, "smile into the distance" look for this pose...
They loved lighting up their pumpkins, especially when it was dark, and they'd go stand on the sidewalk to look at them.
Ah yes, the happiest penguin of them all, Eli...
Ah, memories...
Ah, more memories...
Emma, Levi and Isaac handed out candy to the trick-or-treaters, and Tara and I hovered, Tara taking pictures, me just hanging around, and Eli supervising.

Once I left to go to Anchor for our neighborhood Maze and Soup supper, Tara and the kids went to Grandma Karens for some treats. Always a good tradition!

The Way of Anchor and Newbigin's Thoughts - Part Four

Newbigin applies his missionary experience gained during his decades in India to the ministry experiences of Christians in the neighborhoods where they live. In chapter 18 of his book The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, he asserts that the only interpretation "of the gospel is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it." He comments that, "Jesus did not write a book but formed a community."

He goes on to describe six characteristics of this kind of community that believes Jesus and lives by his words and deeds. The first one I wrote about in a prior post: it is a community of praise and thanksgiving, the second characteristic: it will be a community of truth.

The third: "it will be a community that does not live for itself but is deeply involved in the concerns of its neighborhood."

There is a danger for a local gathering of believers (aka "church") to fall into one of two dangers: they become too focused on living for themselves and view the neighborhood as an obstacle to their growth, or view the neighborhood as a potential customer to fuel their growth; either way the neighborhood is viewed through the lens of a church living for itself. The other danger is that the local church becomes so identified with the needs of the neighborhood that they abandon their faith in God for values and practices of their surrounding culture; they buy into the strategies and slogans of the powerbrokers and dry up their spiritual roots.

What "if the local congregation is not perceived in its own neighborhood as the place from wich good news overflows in action...?"

Anchor is a diverse church according to age, socioeconomic status, education, gender, family stage, and cultural peferences; we have over twenty zipcodes represented in our church directory of almost ninety family units. Which neighborhood does Anchor focus on? For awhile we focused heavily on the neighborhood in which our facility is located. We are glad to have ministered to so many of our neighbhors, but we realized we were neglecting all the other neighhborhoods where our people lived. How to think of the neighbhorhood where our facility is located and the neighborhood where our church (aka fellow believers) are located?

Here's how I think of it: the neighborhood in which our facility is located should be blessed as a result of almost a hundred families gathering each week for worship and service in that location week after week, year after year. There should be an overflow of grace that spills out of what occurs in our facility into the homes surrounding our "house of God", just as one would envision the twenty other zipcodes having neighborhoods being blessed by the homes of believers who worhip and serve where they live and work and play and learn and shop. The emphasis is not so much on which neighborhood should we focus on, but how do we help each believer focus on the neighborhood in which they spend their lives and have concerns and plan for a better future.

Anchorites should look around their neighborhood and ask God to help them see with his eyes, and then ask Him to give them the energy to work and walk with His hands and feet, so that we can fulfill his promises for the Ones He Loves where we live. God has placed us amongst people that he wants to rescue and restore and reconcile to Himself and One Another, and he does that through his followers who live in a neighborhood.

Yeah for the Boston Red Sox...I guess

Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox for winning the MLB World Series.

I really wanted the Chicago Cubs to win it, but they were pummelled by the Dbacks. So then I wanted Arizona to it the WS, but then they got shut out by the Rockies. Meanwhile, the BoSox and the Indians are duking it out all the way to Game 7; so then I'm rooting for the Indians. Tara thought it would be neat for the Sox and Indians to meet in the World Series, then my brother Jerm could say that he was in the ballpark of each team this past year; the two of us caught a Cleveland game in May, and Jerm and Maria saw Rockies game while we were traveling to CA through CO. But alas, the Indians bats went silent, and Boston prevailed. Tara and I decided to root for the Rockies, they seemed to be the underdogs. And they were. A sweep...yikes! Although I have never liked the Red Sox, having watched them in the playoffs, I was impressed. Despite my dislike, they were a fun team to watch; they could hit, they could field, they could pitch and they had som attitude. They could come back from behind, they could launch hit after hit, and they seemed to be having a lot of fun.

So, while I never rooted for the Boston Red Sox in the year, I have to admit that I enjoyed seeing them play really good baseball. After awhile, I kind of expected every hitter to get a hit everytime they were up to bat; once Drew hit his grandslam, he seemed unstoppable, and how about the outrageous ERA of Papi and Manny - especially with runners in scoring position. Jacobi and Pedroia were fun to watch, hitting doubles and homeruns when you'd least expect it - Jacobi hit two doubles in the same inning! And how about that was entertaining to watch Papelbon - so serious when he pitched and so ecstatic when he got the strike out!

Alas, MLB is over for the it's time to focus on NFL: Go Colts! They play the Patriots on my birthday weekend - how nice of them. I fear that the Pats will outgun Indy...but maybe, just maybe Bob Sanders and crew will put on a stellar performance. For my fantasy team, I replaced Indy with San Diego...not that I don't have faith, but last week the Chargers scored almost 25 points against Houston, and this week they play the Jags...I think they'll do better against them then the four dozen plus points NE seems to be accustomed to scoring.

Anyway, yeah for the BoSox; Go COLTS!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Who Is A Disciple?

Anchor has been refocusing on the vision Jesus set out for his Eleven Apostles: "go into your world and make more disciples." - Matthew 28:19 Here's the thing though, the more I delve into the actual words and practice of Jesus, and the closer I examine the recorded praxis of the early church, the more I am uncertain of who is a disciple according to modern standards.

Dallas Willard has written hundreds and hundreds of pages on the idea of being a disciple according to the praxis (implementation of ideas into action) of Jesus. On one level, what he writes is inspiring:
"Jesus is actually looking for people he can trust with his power. He knows that otherwise we remain largely helpless in the face of the organized and disorganized evils around us, and that we are unable - given his chosen strategy - to promote his will for good in this world with adequate power." - pg 16, The Great Omission.

He ends the chapter with this fascinating insight:
"But someone will say, can I not be 'saved' - that is, get into heaven when I die-without any of this (being a constant student of Jesus)? Perhaps you can. God's goodness is so great, I am sure that He will let you in if He can find any basis at all to do so. But you might wish to think about what your life amounts to before you die, about what kind of person you are becoming, and about whether you really would be comfortable for eternity in the presence of One whose company you have not found especially desirable for the few hours and days of your earthly existence. And He is, afer all, One who says to you now, 'Follow me!'" - pg 17

I like what Willard writes, but it is difficult for me to see how it plays out in the normal life of the normal Christian that I know and see in the world around me. The kind of focus, intensity, and commitment that Willard implies is necessary for the disciple to put forth as a response to the invitation of Jesus to follow him, well it seems overwhelming and extremely scarce. Not only in my modern times, but also within the pages of the New Testament, and Hebrew Scriptures for that matter. Being faithful to God on the kind of level that Willard outlines seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

In the Hebrew Scriptures it was the rare man and woman who was Torah observant; Israel was decimated in 722BC and Judah was deported in 586BC for their lack of commitment and love - and these are the people whom God dwelt amongst in a might way. In the Gospels the disciples commonly misunderstand the teachings and actions of Jesus; many of them walk away from him in the hard times, and the Twelve abandon him at the End. In the Epistles it seems that a few men are greatly skilled in making disciples and living out the way of Jesus, but the disciples they make usually stray soon after the leader has left. So is what Jesus calls forth, is what Paul calls forth, is what Dallas Willard calls forth the ideal for which we strive, but reality reveals that all will fall short - so therefore...what?

The reality of discipleship for most people who actually publically affirm belief in him (which is a minority of the population anyway) is that they barely have time for "church-stuff" in the midst of their regular life. They barely have time for reading Scripture, praying, or confessing sins. They try to do what is good and right in their own eyes, they confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, and they participate in church at some level. And always there are people around (the famed "20%") who are more devoted, more comitted, more spiritual, more observant, more etc. Are they the ideal, or is everybody different, is it just personality?

Who is a disciple? Is it only the one who constantly integrates all the teachings of Jesus into every fabric of his life? Or can a disciple also be the one who confesses with their mouth that Jesus is LORD and believed that God raised him from the dead; and then requests forgiveness when they sin and try to live as good as life as they can. What is someone if they have not completely integrated all the teachings of Jesus into every fabric of their life? Willard, Paul, and Jesus make it sound like the cost is high, the commitment 100%; but what are you before you get to 100%? How long are you allowed to take? What if you are not 100% committed when you die?

Maybe these are arcane questions, but the closer I look at the details of discipleship in the Scriptures, the less clear I am on who is a disciple. Willard adds great insights, Paul has good stuff to say, and Jesus' teachings are essential, but an initial read doesn't clear things up. So Who is a Disciple?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Anchor's Vision: To Make Disciples Who Make Disciples...

Nine years ago we held our first worship service as Anchor Community Church. Today is our anniversary, a good day for reflection; these are also good days for refocusing.

I was 23 when we started Anchor. I turn 33 in a couple of weeks. Anchor is such a different church, and I feel like I am a different pastor.

Plenty of people had lots of confidence in me to lead Anchor into existence and into the future, unfortunately I lost most of mine about a year into it, maybe less. A couple of weeks ago the confidence began to return.

What changed? For the first time I feel peace about our vision/purpose/mission/direction. I feel like it's something that we can really own as a congregation, that I can pour energies into without constant reservations about whether it is the right direction for us, whether it will bear fruit, whether it is sustainable, etc.

Not that our focus on making disciples is a totally new idea for us, I think most everybody would say that we have always had an interest in making disciples. But in my perspective, it was not something that we embraced as a church and committed ourselves to as a group. I do feel that our church is gaining momentum in committing wholeheartedly to making disciples.

We still need to work out our understanding of a disicple and how we will make those disciples; not that we have no idea, but we need to work through it together so that we have ownership together and can then commit together.

Some ideas that I hold strongly:
* being a disciple of Jesus is a way of life - an intertwining of orthodoxy and orthopraxy (right belief and right actions).
* part of being a disciple of Jesus is helping others be a disciple of Jesus- either becoming one for the first time, or helping them mature as a disciple.
* being a disciple of Jesus is mostly about doing and saying and believing what Jesus would say/do/believe if he were me as I go about my regular life in my home, in my career/vocation/job, in my school, my church, etc.
* being a disciple of Jesus is not primarily about worshiping each week in a local sanctuary, of being in a small group, of reading the Bible everyday.
* being a disciple of Jesus is not something that I can be/do by myself, it must be lived out with others; just as I must be helping another be a disciple of Jesus, I must be letting someone else help me be a disciple of Jesus, and I must be around others who are doing this as well.
* being a disciple of Jesus is something He calls us into; He calls through His Spirit, through Creation, through His Word, through fellow Humans and Disciples.
* making a disciple of Jesus is not meant to conjure up notions of industrial manufacturing, but rather of helping the people in your life who are responsive to Jesus to take their next step with him - which requires the need for understanding, of patience, of authenticity, of gentleness, of truth, wisdom, etc. We make disciples by helping people learn to trust Jesus with their whole life; this is not something done in a one-day seminar or a thirteen week program, it is done during the weeks and years that you go alongside them in their life.
* being a disciple of Jesus is for everyone who wants it, it is not best done by trained professionals, by over-educated theologians, or highly-committed moralists; the way of life that Jesus calls his disciples into can be done by anyone, since the only way anyone can live it out is by the power of the Holy Spirit.

So, how does Anchor go about being a "church" as we help one another be the kind of disciples that Jesus calls/commands us to be?

That's what we have to work out together...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

World Without End

Oh Joy! Ken Follett has brought surprise and delight to my life!

Monday evening I entered Barnes & Noble in Chicago to get a cup of Starbucks coffee for my journey home from my New Testament class. I do this every Monday, a nice routine, a chance to browse a book or magazine, and to start my trip home smelling like coffee and ink. As one walks in the two sets of double doors, there is always a display of recent hardcover books set right in front.

And there it was...I broke out into an enormous grin, I almost lost my breath...Ken Follett has written another book in line with his monumental The Pillars of the Earth. I set down my Starbucks travel mug and gently pick up the thick novel, goosebumps break out on my arm as I stare in delightful disbelief at what I am actually holding. I never expected Follett to write another story using the characters from "Pillars", so my surprise was magnified greatly!

I thought of calling my brother Jeremy right away, right there on the spot to share my delight with him. He is the one who introduced me to Pillars of the Earth, and I knew he'd be just as happy as I to hear this good news. But it was almost 11pm and he'd probably be in bed...I can't wait to tell him!

I've read rave reviews of "World Without End", I can't wait to buy it. If I don't get it for my upcoming birthday, then I'm going to buy it the next day. Don't know when I'll have time to read the 1000+ page story, but hopefully it will take me months - months and months of escape into a captivating story.

Part of the appeal of "Pillars" was the character Phillip, a wise and pious monk who cared deeply about people and worked diligently as a faithful servant of God. He navigated his way through the decades having to overcome unwanted obstacles - be it an evil bishop, a corrupt baron, a civil war, or petty neighbors. Phillip has been an inspiration to me, of living in a broken world, living with doubts, yet doubling efforts to do good in the name of God for his glory and our joy.

The books are so large, I'm not going to attempt to describe the plots, they are too complicated and wonderful for me to butcher them up to a compelling synopsis. Go to or and read the reviews. It is compelling historical fiction, it is just flat out great storytelling.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

It is time for you to act, LORD...


Sixteenth letter of the Hebrew Alephbeth

The poet of this psalm declares with humility and gratitude: "I have done what is righteous and just;" and I consider all your precepts right". It is refreshing to be around others who take to heart and live out God's commands. He knows what it is like to get pushback when one follows the LORD to intensely, "do not leave me to my oppressors" and do not let the arrogant oppress me." By focusing on himself, he acknowledges his own need for the LORD to deal with him "according to your love", which means "teach me your decrees." He knows himself, he knows that there is so many more commands to memorize and abide by - which is a sign of love and devotion to God and neighbor. He admits: "I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statues." I like that, an honesty about his own status - he doesn't always understand what God is getting at, and he doesn't always know what to do. But rather than get defensive, he stays authentic and seeks the LORD's help in obeying Him...which is the way it is supposed to work.

Then there is this interesting twist in the song: "It is time for you to act, LORD; your law is being broken." To some, they might point to the removal of the Ten Commandments from schools as a perfect illustration of our moral dilemma and need for God's intervention. Maybe. But I think the heart of his request is based on his experience - both personal and community: when the LORD's law is broken, unrighteousness, injustice, arrogance, poverty prevail. Israel was bound to obey the LORD's laws, it is what made them special - and when they disobey, they break the covenant, and thus are making themselves enemies of God - not a good position to be in. This poet wants to see God act in the hearts of the lawbreakers, that they might be saved and that those they oppress might be delivered. That is not how I typically pray, but maybe I should start...

He ends it with an appropriate line for me: "I love your commands more than gold." Do I? Have I a golden calf hidden in my home? Which takes up more of my attention: obedience to God or accumulation of material possession and financial sustainability? Jesus says: Seek first my kingdom and its righteousness, and I'll take care of everything else. Will he? I think of Zaccheus, who let Jesus into his home, and then at the end of the meal essentially said: "I will do what is righteous and just; I love your commands more than all my gold - therefore I hate all my wrong paths." Amen.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Family Farming

Family Farming isn't anything new, it's pretty much the only way it can be done. But with the modern industrial farming that has plagued the modern agricultural work, family farming is a novel idea. Christianity Today has an article this month "The Good Shepherds: A small but vigorous movement believes that in farming is the preservation of the world." The story intrigued me and has got me thinking.

The other day Brett, Lisa and I were traveling to Kokomo to visit Lisa's brother, and she was telling us about her husband Rod's new job with Norfolk-Southern as a dispatcher. He's in training now, but she was explaining the other day about a recent train wreck he described to her that involved a tanker of pickle juice. We had a good laugh about that - I never thought about pickle juice as something hauled by trains. It got me thinking - again - about how the food in my fridge got there. I know how it got there from the grocery store, but how did it get to the store? And ultimately, where did it come from and how was it created? I thought about the Vlasic Baby Midget pickles sitting in my fridge, and I wondered why the pickle juice that my pickles hibernate in had to be hauled in a train.

Monday on my way home from Chicago I listened to a sermon by Rob Bell, and he was making salsa to illustrate a point. He remarked that food must die before we eat it so that we can live. His ripe Roma tomatoes must be plucked from their verdant vine - and the minute they are plucked, they are no longer living, but dying. But the food that is good for us must at one point be alive, and then die in order to nourish us. Rob mentioned that any food that was not alive, if consumed will not nourish us: ie. Twinkies and Mountain Dew are not made from living food, therefore they bring you death by consuming them. Interesting.

Finally, last year I did a major paper for my Anthropology class. I researched the impact of low-wage earnings upon urban families. Food processing plants pay low-wages, and the author I read who studied and observed the impact of these food processing plants upon the workers and their families - the impact of the wages and the work environment - it is apalling. The whole slaughter and separation process of the meat - be it chicken, turkey, beef - is disgusting. Not because it involves blood, but because the animals are treated as non-living things, merely a product to be dismantled; and because the workers are treated as less than animals, with inhumane working conditions, complete disregard for how the cruelty to the animals impacts the soul of the workers. Eating meat has not been the same since.

Farming runs in the family for both Tara and I: both of Tara's parents come from farming families, and my dad comes from many generations of farming - my mother's uncles ran a chicken farm for awhile. Gardening is currently a mild hobby for me - I'm growing a small plot of strawberries, raspberries and huckleberries; a few tomato plants, and a bunch of flowers and herbs. It's more for fun than anything else. I do it because I was always impressed with how much food my dad could grow out of the many gardens he has lovingly created, so I guess in my attempt to be like my dad, I try to grow something tasty and beautiful. But what if this kind of stuff could be a way of life? Growing food that is good for my family, is created in a good way, that allows our family to work hard together in a good way, and it taps into my environmental concern - tending to the earth in such a way that respects it and draws out of it the surging life imbedded in the dirt.

Back to the article: the Lehrer family of Illinois started a sheep farm, the dad left the executive world to become a shepherd. It is hard work, but they feel the LORD drew them into that way of life as a way to be disciples and help make disciples. The Hansen family of Wisconsin has seen the LORD use them to bless others in very profound ways. Of course one doesn't have to become a shepherd or a farmer to be used by the LORD. But in a world where families are disintegrating, where our health is appalling, and our environment poisoning us - is there a way of life that nourishes our families, that blesses our neighbors, and sows beauty and truth as disciples of Jesus? Polyface Farms in Virginia is a successful example. Maybe someday...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Savoring September...'s been a long time since I posted anything. Sorry to those of you who actually check in on this blogsite every once in awhile. No good reason for not posting...I just didn't feel like it, and I was too tired at the end of the day to think - let alone write anything.

So, to make up for last time, I'm going to post almost three dozen pics of family fun in the month of September.

Every Labor Day Weekend we take the kids out to see Papa Ger's garden. It is located a couple of miles down the road from the house; some friends of the family owned the land and let Dad grow stuff on it - the family moved but the new folks don't seem to mind Dad's garden. Anyway, the kids love to see where real food comes from, and it's always neat to create a love for gardening in your children.

Besides growing corn - which tasted delicious that evening, accompanied by fresh tomatoes from the same garden! - Papa Ger also grows some pumpkins, so here the kiddos check it out. Soon it will be sitting on our porch with a light in it...

Tara and Levi taking a snooze beautiful! Neither of them were feeling great that day, so it was good to see them relaxing on Labor Day. Unfortunately for Levi, later that afternoon he would puke all over Aunt Shirley while I was trying to remove a tiny splinter from the wiggling foot of a screaming Emma; that was fun!
Eli and Isaac were tired, but they were not about to fall asleep. So Grandma Rozer had the taxing job of cuddling with them in the late afternoon. Rough.

Well here we are getting ready to give Eli his first bowl of rice mush. He's never eaten from a spoon before, at just over five months old, we think he's ready. Emma, Levi and Isaac are excited, their hoping to maybe help.
At this point Eli is just happy to be sitting in the high chair, a new experience for him. At least he's not ripping off his bib like his sister used to do. Tara told him to stop waving at the camera, but he just doesn't listen like he should.
Here we go - he seems a bit nervous about the experience, but Isaac is right there with him, telling him he can do it.
Hmmmm...tastes a bit blah, nice and creamy though, not sure about it though... could use some sugar and butter.
Hey, he likes it!

Emma met her teachers during her pre-school open house, here she is working on a craft project. She liked meeting her teachers and checking out her new room.

One of the very few times that Eli fell asleep while playing. Oh if only that would happen more often.

On the weekend following Labor Day the Twins Club always hosts a picnic up in Huntertown. Tara is a member, and though she doesn't get to the monthly dinners as much as she'd like, we always make a point to go this fun family event. Though it rained off and on, the kids had fun, they got animal balloons, multiple tatoos and face paints, glow in the dark circle thingys. I don't think of Levi and Isaac as twins, I always think of them as brothers, but they are twins, and that is something very special. It's neat to hang out with other parents of twins and swap stories. And it's good to meet folks who have triplets and more - kind of keeps things in perspective!

Emma on her first day at pre-school, Tara took her in - Emma is all smiles wearing her new dress and starting a new year of fun.

On one of the cool, beautiful evenings we roasted marshmallows for desert. Emma wanted to do it all by herself - and she did a pretty good job. And yes, that is a pic of a s'more on her shirt...we love doing s'mores.
Isaac was glad for some help, he was fascinated by the fire, much like his father is...
Levi was all smiles while making our s'mores!
Emma guarded the big mallows, Levi kept waving his stick around, and Isaac continued to munch on appetizers - those little colored marshmallows. I think they are trying to yell "marshmallow", or something like that.

Aren't they adorable!

While hanging around outside, Tara took pictures of some of the stuff I'm growing. This is a beautiful picture of my prized Huckleberries. I am growing them so that my Mum can make me a Huckleberry pie. Have you ever had one? Probably not. We used to eat them all the time in Canada. I tried growing some two years ago, but being a true novice, I only had two plants bear any fruit, so it was a very, very small pie that my Mum made. But it was still delicious. This year I have over a dozen stalks producing these round balls of deliciousness. I might get an almost normal sized pie this year. The key to harvesting the Huckleberry is waiting till the first frost, then you pick them (not the green ones, sadly they must be thrown in the fire where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth...) and boil them and then make a pie. Mum knows the secret, one day when I have proven myself worthy, she shall impart the secret to me. It was handed down to her by my father's mother in an ancient ritual. My plan is to become a proficient Huckleberry farmer - next year I hope to double my crop. Within five years maybe I can actually have enough berries to make a bunch of pies and enough to freeze - and maybe make a pie at Christmas, man that would be awesome. If things go right, I could be an exclusive grower of Huckleberries in the midwest region...or maybe I'll just stick to growing enough for a pie or two each year. I'm really looking forward to this pie, I've been waiting for it ever since I planted the seeds in mid-May. When's the last time you waited over five months for one pie? No pressure Mum!

Just a normal day at the Hallman home, Eli and Levi just sittin' around, relaxing.
Isaac likes to build stuff, he's rather proud of his project...though I'm not really sure what it is, not that it matters!
While the boys were having their own kind of fun, the girls got a little crazy!

On the 26th of each month, Tara takes the "Bear pictures", a series of photos with Eli and his bear. At six months old (hard to believe!) he did pretty good this time.
He can do two things at once now that he's so old - he can sit up and stick his tongue out at the same time!
What a charming smile!

Isaac looks so old and big in this picture! And he knows how to scowl...

One of my favorite reasons for being a dad...

And another reason I love being a dad... you gotta love the poofy hair. I'm not sure about who put the stickers on Levi...he could have been really bored, or else Emma could have been really creative.