Friday, September 5, 2014

A Cow Story from Stake Conference

One of the perks of being a general authority's wife is hearing the stories. My husband comes home from weekend conferences with all kinds of amazing stories from wonderful saints that we would never know otherwise.

Here is one of them. I think there are things in the story for children and things for you, the grouwn-ups, to think about.

From a Stake Conference in the Mountains of Northern California

It's a true story so it has that grainy feel of life that's the best thing about real stories. Personally I have always disliked those made up teach-a-lesson stories like the one about the little boy who offers to donate his blood to his dying sister, then says to the doctor, "Please Sir, when am I going to die?"

We should wait for the true stories. Though you've got to be patient to catch them, they are so much more powerful.

So....true story.
This last weekend my husband attended a Stake Conference in the Northern California mountains in a stake that is two hundred miles across and has 8 units, 5 wards and 3 branches, all small. It is probably not like your stake. It has a lot of what my grandmother called "the humble peoiple of the earth," several of them missing teeth.

The stake president, President M., is a cattle rancher who lives on 450 acres and has 200 head of cattle. That's a fairly small operation.  If you know anything about the math of cattle ranching, you know why the stake president also has a small construction business that builds about two houses a year. The ranch isn't for making money, it's for making boys into men. President M. has three sons and the ranch provides the raw materials for that: unremitting hard work that can't be put off or bellached away.

It's a lifestyle with definite benefits for raising kids. With all that work to be done, where's the time for getting into trouble of for sloth, i.e., video games social media, etc. The boys build muscles the wowboy way, by setting fence posts and tossing hay bales. Throw int the mix some construction crew time, and you get the picture. They grew up around barn cats, working dogs, cows and horses. They learned about sex, not from pornography, but from the life cycle of farm animals.  According to my husband they were three very impressive young men.

Stock photo of two very impressive young men...
I know I'm not supposed to covet, and I would certainly not have survived life as a farm or a ranch wife, but I still envy an environment that teaches character and hard work that way.  I never envy people with more money that I have.  I have more than enough for my needs and probably too much for my good. But I do envy people who raise their families on farms or working a family business.

Like a ranch family....
Mission Presidents love getting farm-boy elders from Idaho. Of course they do.  they work hard, don't complain, don't expect something or nothing and clean up after themselves. I look at my grown children and think they are amazing  But our life wasn't ranch life. There were a lot of sports practices (even some that required getting in a cold pool at 6 am, so I'm hoping that put some starch in a spine or two). There were semesters abroad, dance camps, sports camps and EFY. They swam in a sea of material stuff that they couldn't help but take for granted, like fish do water.

Everybody loves EFY...

...and Basketball Camp

...and swim meets and water polo games!

Once when I was a young mother praying about how to do this job of parenting--having very little modeling from my own upbringing to fall back on--I heard the Lord speak to me.  He said, "Teach your children how to work."

So there were a succession of chore charts and probably too much nagging, and a fair amount of guilt that I should have been tougher. Now they are all grown up and they are going to have to go beyond my limited mothering and continue to build their own characters from the stuff of their lives.  "God, lover of souls...Complete thy creature dear O where it fails, Being might a master, being a father and fond."  (With apologies to Gerard Manley Hopkins, who was probably not thinking of guilt-ridden mothers when he wrote this, but I think it can apply. From "The Valley of the Elwy," one of my favorites.)

But I'm getting off track. I want to tell you a story about a calf and a stake president and his son, who live on a ranch. Your children might njot this story because they likely have no idea what life on a ranch is like.

Each year there is a calving season, usually early spring, when the plan is for all the cows to have their babies within about a two month window so the people on the ranch can concentrate on helping them all be born safely.

During calving season the weather can turn dangerous for a newborn calf. If it is cold or windy a calf can easily get hypothermia.  It's got to get dry and warm soon, then stand up within the first hour to nurse so it gets the milk it needs to gain strength.

Everybody on the ranch takes turn checking the pregnant cows who seem ready to deliver throughout the night so there will be somebody there if help is needed.

Calving season=night rounds
One late Saturday night a cow went into labor and President M. was the acting midwife. The little calf came out all right but wasn't doing well. It was windy and he was weak and shivering. His eyes were rolled back in his head and he wasn't trying to stand. The thought went through Prsident M.'s mind, "I'm gonna lose this one." Toweling him off wasn't enough and momma cow was losing interest.

Give me a second chance....

By this time it was early in the morning and President M's oldest son came out of the house and joined him.  When he looked over the situation, he got visibly excited.

"I can save him! I'm sure I can save him!

He had just finished a sixth-month long course in Emergency Medical Traning at a community college in Sacramento.

"Dad! I know I can save him! I've learned about this! Let me try!"

"Weren't you trained to save people...not cows?  What's your plan?"

"We just need to get him in the bath tub. He needs to be in warm water that is exactly 110° to 112°

"The bathtub?" At this moment President M.'s mind snapped to that part of his life you might call boundaries in the life of a ranch wife. " I don't think thats going to work son. Your mom isn't going to be ok with a bloody, muddy calf in her bathtub." 

"Yeah, well....uh, ok, I got it.  Let's pull a trough into the garage. I'll hook up a hose to the water hearer, and we'll add hot and cold water 'til we get the temperature just right. You get the thermometer while I get the hose hooked up."

The boy's enthusiasm carried the day, so they went into action.  They filled a clean feedng tough with warm water at just the right temperature, and then they lifted the fading calf into it.  They had to hold him upright so he wouldn't drown.

Slowly but surely they watched a miracle. First he sto[[ed shivering. Then the calf's eyes came forward in his head and he began to observe his surroundings. Finally he straightened his legs under him and stood.

"Ok! Now we have to get him dry. Let's take him in the house and use mom's hair dryer."

Again the stake president thought of his marriage. "Son, I have to get ready and leave for some church meetings. This calf is in your hands.  Just don't use  your mom's hair dryer."  It was Sunday morning.

"Ok Dad."

An hour later the stake president was sitting in a church meeting when he got a text from his son. Attached was a "selfie" of his son and the calf in front of the fireplace--blazing away. It was thumbs up and all smiles from President M.'s son, who had indeed 'saved him. The calf was looking dry and chipper. The message was: "He's fine. I've taken him to mom. All well."

Wish I had the actual selfie...if I get it I'll post it.

Lessons from this story?

For little ones, it's a chance to appreciate the creation. What a miracle the birth of a calf is! A momma cow gestates her baby for nine months, just like we do, but her baby weighs ten times what a humabn baby would--anywhere from 70 to 85 pounds!

In a normal birth the calf stands up within the first hour and begins to nurse. The momma sow has strong maternal instincts that guide her to do what is best for her baby. For example, she licks her calf at birth, which stimulates its circulatory and respiratory systems, and gets rid off the excess liquid which keeps the calf wet and makes it susceptible to wind chill.

Sure glad there isn't a corresponding instinct in humans!

It takes all of the parts of the "giving birth to a baby cow" system to work.  God designed the whole system to allow his creatures to successfully give birth. That is what usually happens, but in this story, something did not go right and the baby was failing. Without the rancher's help, the baby calf would have died.

Birth is an amazing miracle. God has designed a world for us that is full of miracles.  We have to learn to see and appreciate them. And it wouldn't hurt children to think about the animals they depend on for beef, milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream? These things aren't really made in machines, they are made by nature, which was made by God. Needed perspective.

What are the lessons for grown-ups? Here's some that Nana sees...

Don't give up  on the weak ones! Sometimes we see one of God's sons or daughters and think to ourselves, "They're not going to make it. They're beyond help." They need someone who's committed and passionate about saving them, like President M's son.

Saving weak calves and saving weak souls--both take hard work. That work can be exhausting and can come at inconvenient times. Do it anyway. 

And maybe there's a lesson here about the relationship between the father, who's running a cattle operation, and the son who loves him and who is committed to the success of his father's purpose.  What is the work of our Father? And how passionate are we about helping in it? Do we get excited at the prospect of saving on of His little ones? Anyway, these are the kind of things that bear asking in a discussion of this story.

Here's a link to the story of a woman who seemed like a "bad bet." She was a leftist feminist lesbian professor of women's studies at an eastern university.  She was in a committed gay relationship and hated Christians. But a Christian pastor and his wife put in the work to befriend and get to know her. The results are amazing.  Interesting reading....

Here's some videos for the kids about cows

Birth of a Baby Calf

Love you,

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What Does Nana Know!

I was walking down the street in London some time ago and walked past a bookstore window. It was full of stacked copies of a single book--"The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence for Evolution" by Richard Dawkins. This man writes a new book every year or so to keep bludgeoning us, oops, I mean, instructing us, with all the reasons why we should believe the Darwinian Synthesis, that hypothesis (they wouldn't like that I used this word) that says that all life is the result of random purposeless processes that occur in the natural world without interference from any mind or intelligence. He has to keep doing this because over 40% of Americans don't believe him and he writes to tell us how witless we are.

You see, I'm with them. I don't believe that the mind-boggling complexity of the cell, the thinking processes we know as our minds, and the irreducible complexity of various living systems could possibly have come about by random, purposeless processes. I think they argue for huge amounts of information transference, for design, and yes, for a designer. When you see letters forming words forming sentences that make sense, you don't think that a random process created them. You think that someone created them. Where are the exceptions?

But what does Nana know?

It seems to me that Mr. Dawkins and his fellow travelers doth protest too much. They seems so frantic. Couldn't we  talk about this. Talk about all the pieces of the puzzle that don't fit very well  into his view of things and how they might fit better into another hypotheses?
No! He cannot talk to a doubter like me. I'm a science denier-It is very important for his ilk to marginalize any non-agree-ers because talking to us like we were intelligent thinkers with intelligent arguments might make people who hadn't made up their minds yet listen in on the conversation. And if there is anything Mr. Dawkins wants, it is to be in complete control of the conversation.

A Carving of a Stegasaurus looking thing found in Siem Riep at one of the 12 century Hindu Temples of Angor Thom
I took this picture.
They tell us things like these walked the earth 150 million years ago, give or take.
So how did they know in the 12th century?  Don't ask Richard Dawkins.
He might expire of exasperation. Because of course there has to be a naturalistic explanation. That's the beauty of defining yourself as always on the side of reason, and the rest of us always on the side of delusion.

I took this picture too. Looks Tyranosaurus-like to me.  But what does Nana know?

Because I doubt Dawkin's naturalistic, materialistic version of reality, I am not a "reputable" thinker and if "Intelligent Design" is mentioned, it must always be put in parenthesis. We are reminded that most of these American rubes think that the world and everything on it was created by God less than 10,000 years ago. Here's where they all snicker. "Mon Dieu! Can you imagine a country so backward! "

Well I'm sorry Mr. Dawkins, but lots of very intelligent people who know perfectly well that the world is very very old still don't believe your version of origins. But it is certainly much easier to shoot down a straw-man than argue against informed scientists who differ from you. So go ahead and imagine that we're all yokels chewing on hay. Me, I don't think the strawman technique, or name calling for that matter, is a very good substitute for actual evidence.

But what does Nana know?

When I went to London I visited the British Museum of Natural History. What a place! The great central hall looks a lot like a cathedral, don'tcha think?  Only up at the front where one would expect the altar to be, is a statue of Charles Darwin. But the stained glass, and the architecture of awe, it's all there, just like a church. In fact a lot of things about Darwinist believers remind me of "faith."

But what does Nana know?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Written Word: A Priesthood of Memory

Hello everybody. I'm not going to moan too much about the fact that it's been THREE YEARS since I posted anything on this blog. I just feel I should start up again.

What brought this on?
Well, the world is changing. (Cue the LOTR music, and shots of the Elves in hooded cloaks gliding through the forests, passing away from Middle Earth.)

And there is no getting around the fact that I'm changing along with it. I-- I am astounded to realize-- am getting old.

I suppose I always knew theoretically that I would get old. But I'm embarassed to say I thought I would grow old the way Jack Lalanne grew old... swimming from San Francisco to Alcatraz pulling a boat with his teeth when he was 70. 

But guess what? I'm no Jack Lalanne. I will be lucky to make it to 70 with enough teeth to pull the crust off a grilled cheese sandwich. I pull myself out of bed in the morning. I pull myself up the stairs every night. In short...
I'm feeling it.

 When I lived at Marks Rd I had a program running in my nervous system that said every day would be like this, family and kids, forever.

In 1976 Mary was born. In 2006 Ben left for Utah State. I was a mom at home for over thirty years. But now I've moved on. I live in Hong Kong of all things!

Not that I'm departing anytime soon. 
But departing I am. Grow old we must.
I'm hoping I will be at all their baptisms, (if Ben gets married soon) but probably I won’t be at all their weddings.

The baptism of my first grandchild-Nikolai Wilson Hales.

My husband says I sound morbid. Don't mean to.  I'm definitely not depressed or sad about growing old. If God designed it this way, He had a good reason.
I also prefer to be realistic. No matter how much one would like to slow down time, the torch always passes to newer generations. 

I could not be more enthusiastic about those newer generations coming along behind me. I just spent a month with them, including a glorious  week at the beach with all my children and grandchildren. 

It was so, so much fun to play in the water and the sand, and paint the granddaughters' toenails pink and collect shells. All that is wonderful and I loved it.

Old and Young

But I was seeing things differently. I could hear something ticking in the background that I'd never heard before. Now once I started considering realistically the fact that I won't always be here, my mind went in some new directions.

I find myself mulling this over: If there is a torch to be passed, what kind of torch will it be? What will I pass on of values, or of faith, and knowledge? 

One thing I know is that I don't want to fade from their lives completely when I die. 

I like what I've learned in the school of experience we call life. I have wrestled a few angels and have the wisdom and the limp to show for it. (Gen 32:24-30)

A marvelous depiction of Jacob's wrestle with the angel by LDS artist Brian Kershisnik
Certainly, my children and my grandchildren will have to learn about God by wrestling their own angels, but it is also possible to learn from earthly angels. 
What would I have done without Grandma Mabel's love of the scriptures. And her shining faith that "earth has no sorrow, that heaven cannot heal."
These things guided me. 

What's more important than 
the connections we have to the people we love?
I guess I want a way for those connections to continue.
And the only way is writing.

Writing lasts. 

Writing is amazing. Writing is like magic.
Writing lets us make connections between generations.

Writing is, in fact, the second of the God-given powers of godliness--the first being the power to multiply and replenish the earth.

You might even say it's the first priesthood, speaking metaphorically.

You see priesthood, if you go back to the ancient roots, is about being an intermediary between God and man.  That's what priests did. By using their sacred authority to act in God's name, they could secure blessings to the people and make sacrificial offerings for them. They brought blessings down from God, and they brought the people up to God through covenants and they linked the two. 

Priesthood is always about a way to link up God with his people. Priesthood, like writing, is all about connections. 

Now if you want to look at something very old in a new way, consider this scripture:

And then began these men to call upon the name of the Lord, 
 and the Lord blessed them;                               

And a book of remembrance was kept, in the which was recorded, 

in the language of Adam, 
for it was given unto as many as called upon God 
to write by the spirit of inspiration;  
And by them their children were taught to read and write, 
having a language which was pure and undefiled. 
Now this same Priesthood, which was in the beginning, 
shall be in the end of the world also. 
Moses 6:5-7

Does that fascinate you like it does me? What could it mean: "Now this same priesthood...?"

The Technical Stuff: Read the small print only if, like me, this fascinates you.
Being the textualist that I am, I combed through the Book of Moses looking for any previous use of the word "priesthood," or a reference to some priesthood-type activity, to see what Moses 6:7 was referring to. Whatever the word "priesthood" is talking about here, it should be found somewhere in the text nearby--that's the basic rule of scripture texts. You can't assume it refers to your own conceptions or what you heard in a talk.  But there is nothing else in the text that we typically think of as priesthood related. Aaron and Melchizedek were thousands of years away. Cain had just killed Abel. The human race had barely gotten started.
If you allow yourself to think outside the box and think of priesthood in a larger way, then conceivably the "priestly" things referred to are receiving the gift of writing from God, "writing by inspiration", "keeping a book of remembrance" (or, i.e., "a book of the things you want remembered" since the family tree was pretty stubby in Adam's day for this to be a genealogical record!) and teaching children to read and write.

In combing my memory banks, I recollect Hugh Nibley talking about this sacredness of writing and how it was originally something that priests did, and  was inseparably connected to the idea of sacred texts.  (Anyone want to give me a H.N. reference?)

I love this idea myself. Writing is sacred.  Of course like all good things, it can be used for other purposes, but think what this gift has enabled man to do.

It has given us a way to overcome death's stroke of finality, as we record thoughts that will outlast our physical time on earth, and remain for our posterity. It has given us a way to have the word of God as light and truth in our lives.

Animals Don't Keep Journals 
And have you ever thought about how the gift of writing separates us from the animals? They can’t do this—they can’t record their thoughts and feelings.  They can’t leave behind wisdom for their descendants. There is no Book of the Elephants, no Tales of the Walrus. 

Each baby elephant goes through the very same life cycle that her mother, and her great-great-great grandmother did before her. And each time, there is nothing new about it. Our hypothetical baby elephant won’t know the past generations' stories. She can only know the ones she knows, and must depend on what they teach her and her own instincts. She can take no credit for those either. She is what she is, a creature of the present, like all the elephants before her.

Elephants 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

Henry, Maude and Isla

To live a human life, not an animal life, but a fully human life, and to learn from it and write down what you learned so that it persists after you die is a sacred gift-- a priesthood indeed-- for it enables men and women to connect beyond the physical limits and boundaries that death imposes. 
I like to think of it as the Priesthood of Memory.

We are individuals with names and unique stories, each one of us distinct from every other human that has ever lived. We leave a trace, or should I say, we can leave a trace and we should leave a trace. Unlike the animals, we can leave a record of ourselves.

 Do we dare not do it?

(Not my actual hand....yet.)

So to Niko and Eva and Luke and Livi and Hazel and Finn and Penn and Faye and Georgia....

I have lots and lots of things I want to tell you. Anyone else is welcome to listen in.

But that's enough for today, my dears. Nana needs a nap.