Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Culture of Light or a Culture of Darkness?

This is part 3 of my series "Cultivating a Heart Open to Life." 

In one of my favorite books “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn, the author asks his reader to imagine what would happen if a man haphazardly built an aircraft, based on his own preferences and completely ignored the principles of gravity and aerodynamics. He might spend years constructing it, labor studiously over it, and invest billions of dollars into building a beautiful aircraft. Yet if, in all his planning, he neglects to follow the laws of gravity and aerodynamics it will never fly. As Quinn writes:
As the flight begins, all is well. Our would-be airman has been pushed off the edge of the cliff and is pedaling away and the wings of his craft are flapping like crazy. He’s feeling wonderful, ecstatic…What he doesn’t realize, however, is that this craft is aerodynamically incapable of flight. It simply isn’t in compliance with the laws that make flight possible—but he would laugh if you told him this. He’s never heard of such laws, knows nothing about them. He would point at those flapping wings and say, “See, just like a bird!” Nevertheless, whatever he thinks he is not in flight… he’s in free fall.

Fortunately—or rather, unfortunately for our airman—he chose a very high cliff to launch his craft from. His disillusionment is a long way off in time and space…. From his great height he can see for miles around, and one thing puzzles him: The floor of the valley is dotted with craft just like his—not crashed, simply abandoned... “Why”, he wonders, “aren’t these craft in the air instead of sitting on the ground? What sort of fools would abandoned their aircraft when they could be enjoying the freedom of the air?”
… But then he looks down again, and what he sees really disturbs him. The law of gravity is catching up to him at the rate of thirty-two feet per second—at an accelerating rate… He is disturbed but far from desperate. “I just have to keep going.” And so he starts pedaling with all his might. Which of course does him no good at all, because his craft simply isn’t in accord with the laws of aerodynamics. Even if he had the power of a thousand men in his legs- ten thousand, a million—that craft is never going to achieve flight. The craft is doomed—and so is he unless he abandons it. (Ishmael, pg. 106-107).
Quinn gives this analogy of the doomed airman to illustrate the point that there are natural consequences for not following divine and moral laws, just like there are natural consequences for not following the laws of aerodynamics. His point is that all civilizations (including animal civilizations) must obey divinely prescribed laws if they are to survive and thrive. If they ignore or disobey these laws then they are doomed to destruction, unless they abandon their course and change their behaviors.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Women who Delivered Moses

This is part 2 of my series "Cultivating a Heart Open to Life” 

The story of Moses is one of my favorites, mostly because his story is filled with incredible women. We are introduced to many of these women at the start of Moses's life and are shown several wonderful examples of women and men who, even though they lived in difficult times, had hearts open to life. In fact, it is through several sets of very personal individual choices that God was able to raise up a deliverer, Moses, and prepare the children of Israel to break away from a culture of oppression, slavery and darkness and restore them to the light, power and glory promised them by their Father Abraham. I think the story of Moses is an important one for modern day women and men, because it shows us first hand the power and blessings that come from cultivating hearts and lifestyles that are open to life, no matter what our circumstances or our challenges.

The first woman to advocate for Moses’ life was his sister, Miriam. The apocryphal book of Jasher states that when Pharaoh decreed that all male Hebrew children were to be thrown in the river that some men sent their wives away from them, so that they would not get pregnant, while other men kept their wives at home. According to the book of Jasher, Jochebed (the mother of Moses, Miriam and Aaron) was sent away from her husband, Amram, for three years. Yet, one day Amram saw that,
  “…at that time the spirit of God was upon Miriam the daughter of Amram the sister of Aaron, and she went forth and prophesied about the house, saying, Behold a son will be born unto us from my father and mother this time, and he will save Israel from the hands of Egypt. And when Amram heard the words of his daughter, he went and took his wife back to the house, after he had driven her away at the time when Pharaoh ordered every male child of the house of Jacob to be thrown into the water.” (Jasher 68:1-2
Miriam is our first example of a heart open to life. She didn't yet have children of her own, and probably wasn't even in a position to have them, and still her heart was "turned" to those spirits waiting in heaven. Later in life Miriam would be called a "prophetess” and would be a great spiritual leader in Israel. It seems that from a young age she seems to have had her heart and her mind set on things of the spirit, and so it was through her that God first planted the seeds that would later become the means of delivering Israel from slavery. I think her example is a powerful one because it shows that God speaks to young women, and that it is never too young to cultivate a heart open to life.

Monday, August 17, 2015

When it Comes to Having Children-- It is all about your Heart

This is  part 1 of my series "Cultivating a Heart Open to Life."

The Ancient Egyptians believed that after you died you would be taken before the God Anubis (pictured above with the jackal head) and your heart would be weighed against the feather of truth. If your heart was found to be lighter than the feather of truth it meant that your heart was good and you could pass on to your eternal inheritance. However, if your heart was found to be heavier than the feather of truth it meant your heart was not as it should be and you would be eaten by the Devourer, a part-lion, part-hippopotamus, and part-crocodile monster (pictured just below the right scale).

I have been thinking a lot about this Egyptian belief because, while obviously a bit absurd, the basic idea is grounded in truth. In D&;C 64:22 the Lord says,
“…I, the Lord, require the hearts of the children of men” 

and D&;C 137:9 He says,

“For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.” 

In fact, there are over 1,500 references to the “word” heart in the scriptures, many of them having to do with how our heart determines our relationship with God and whether we receive a blessing or a curse—or as the Egyptians would say-- whether we pass the test and gain eternity or are devoured by an evil hippopotamus.

There is one scripture dealing with hearts that I find especially interesting. It is found in Malachi 4: 5-6:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
When I read this scripture it always impresses me that Elijah’s job is to “turn” or in other words to “re-direct”, the hearts of the people to focus on the things that are most important to God. Elijah’s power is very specific and it is two fold: first, to open up our hearts with love for our fathers, those who went before us, and secondly, to open our hearts to our children, those spirits yet unborn.

Over the last several years I’ve been thinking a lot about this scripture and its ramifications for family planning and the creation of life. It mostly sprang from a desire to understand what the Lord wanted me to be doing in that area of my life. As I have thought about this (alot) I’ve noticed that in response to questions about family planning people often say, usually defensively, “Why do they care how many children I have or don’t have. It is none of their business.”

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Every Baby Comes with a Loaf of Bread Under its Arm

So I have happy news to share today! 

Farrell baby #5, who has been given the womb name of "Baby Otto", will be joining our family around the end of December! 

I'll freely admit that there are days when I think I must be crazy for having another baby, but I can't deny that this baby has been following me around for awhile. 

When I was pregnant with Tabitha Jon and I had the constant feeling that we were missing someone. When people asked how many children we had we would always say "four" but then have to quickly explain that one was on the way. We just felt like she was already a part of our family. We expected the "missing someone" feeling to go away when she was born, but it didn't. It just got stronger. So much that it was almost a daily occurrence to have one of us look around and ask who was missing. We even started to refer to "the baby" as a constant presence in our house, and our head count didn't feel complete until one of us would smile and say, "Oh, yeah we're missing the baby."  

Tabitha's pregnancy had been hard on me emotionally and physically and it scared me to think of having to go through it again. Also the idea of having another baby when I felt like I was barely keeping the four I had clothed, fed, and restrained from killing each other made me want to cry. I knew that there was another spirit ready and waiting to come to our family, but I wasn't ready to even think about another baby. In my heart I kept telling the baby to be patient with me, that I was willing to bring him to the world but that I was scared.  

Then several months ago Jon and I both realized, about the same time, that we hadn't "felt the baby" for awhile, and all of a sudden my heart changed. I realized that I wanted this baby. That I wanted that person to come to our family and that I wanted to be their mother. I was still scared, but the idea of missing out on this person, to have them go to another family and a different mother because I wasn't willing,  made my heart ache deep inside. 

I was too scared to actually "try" to have a baby, but I figured if it just happened then it would be too late to back out. I have been tracking my cycles with the Creighton Method for several years now and so I usually know when I am fertile and when I am not (it is an awesome natural family planning method by the way). When you are aware of your fertility signs it is hard to be "surprised" by a pregnancy or to "just let things happen" and so I tried to ignore them the best I could, but I still figured I was pretty safe. 

Then at the start of April I started to feel sick and for almost a whole week I thought I had the flu. When the second week started, and I didn't feel any better, I realized that this baby hadn't wasted much time in deciding to come. I'll admit that at first I cried alot and felt really overwhelmed. I REALLY didn't want to be pregnant again and was worried about how I'd handle another baby. It helped alot that when we told the kids they were really excited. Seeing their enthusiasm and imagining another little face added in among them brought me a lot of joy, and really helped ease my fears. I don't regret having any of my children and I knew that I wouldn't regret this one either. 

I am about 20 weeks already and I'm starting to feel really, really excited for this little person to come to my home. There is an old Spanish saying that "every baby comes with a loaf of bread under its arm." On the surface I think this saying is referring to the fact that there is always room enough for one more, and that life will always find a way to go on. Yet on a deeper level I think that what this saying means, at least to me, is that every baby who comes to the earth brings blessings, spiritual and temporal, for the mother, the father, the family, the community, and the world. 

Already I can feel the blessings this little person is bringing with them. I have felt my soul expand and my capacity to love and to submit to God's will increase. This baby has stretched and healed a part of me I didn't even know existed. It is amazing how much I love him/her already. I still have my moments (sometimes days) when I wonder if I am crazy and how a girl who never wanted kids will soon have 5 of them. But then again, I'm also starting to realize that I'm not in charge. 

God is... and when He sends down bread from heaven, who am I to say no? 

My  arms are open, my heart is expanding, and I am excited to get the best type of Christmas gift. My kids are convinced that this baby is a boy because so far our family has followed a boy-girl-boy-girl pattern, but I guess we'll just have to see. I don't have any premonition about the gender this time. Part of me hopes that it is my Luke, because I'd really like to meet him. But then the other part of me has fallen in love with the name Noelle for a little girl born at Christmas time. So either way, I think I'll be happy.