Open to life, even with a 25 percent chance of cystic fibrosis
ALASKA, July 25, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Ken and Allison Howell were leading what they considered a “charmed life.” The newly married couple were part of a Pentecostal church where the “preaching was fiery, the services long and emotional, and the music pulled one from the depths of weeping to the heights of dancing.”
But the Howell’s first child Rees, born in 1994 — four years into their marriage — was about to turn their charmed life inside out, leading them on a difficult journey that would test their marriage, their faith, and the way they valued human life.
Rees entered the world after a storybook pregnancy and birth. But by the time he was nine months old, he had contracted pneumonia twice, a rarity for a child who was breast-fed.
Further testing revealed why. Rees was found to have cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease caused by two recessive genes passed on to him from his parents.
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a hereditary disorder which causers abnormally thick mucus to be produced, which often leads to serious respiratory infection. Havoc wreaked on the lungs by this disorder is the primary cause of CF-related deaths.
The Howells were devastated by the news, not only because of concern for their son, but also because of their participation in what Allison refers to as the “divine health-and-wealth-teaching church.” It was impressed upon members of that church that “divine healing is an integral part of the Gospel” and that “deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement, and is the privilege of all believers.”
“Although we were scared silly, we assumed that there would be some grand miracle for Rees to showcase God’s power,” said Allison who related her story to LifeSiteNews.com.
The Howells brought their son to “prayer warriors and healing services,” desperately clinging to the idea that his “sickness was from the Devil and that our faith in Jesus’ healing power was all that was necessary for his cystic fibrosis to go away.”
But the Howells had been set up for bitter disappointment.
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When Rees’ healing did not occur, the parents were led to believe that something was wrong with their prayers, their faith, their worship, or even with their trust in God. The leaders of the sect convinced the distraught couple they must be harboring a “secret sin” and that they “didn’t love God enough, didn’t love others enough, didn’t sing enough, and didn’t speak in tongues enough.”
For the first time, Ken and Allison began to doubt each other. They began to doubt God.
“The whole thing caused great harm to our marriage, as thoughts crept in of the other one being the hindrance to healing. Our relationships with God crashed.”
Ken and Allison ceased attending church services for a year, trying to sort out the spiritual mess which they found themselves in.
“We were angry with each other, angry with God, angry with our pastors and college professors, and maybe even angry with Rees,” she recounted.
A Turning Point
But the Howells did not want to give up so easily on their Christian roots. They returned to church services, wanting to pass Christian values on to their son.
But troubles in their church’s leadership led the couple to seriously question the matter of authority. What the couple discovered through reading and research led them to the door of the Catholic Church.
“We decided to investigate the Catholic Church’s claim to be the church founded by Jesus Himself. We bought books, lots of them. We rose early to read and spent our evenings reading. We interrupted each other. We shook our heads. We were excited.”
One evening while pouring over some books, Allison remembers turning to Ken and saying: “My God, we’re going to have to become Catholic.”
“We already are in our hearts and minds,” Ken replied.
The Howells were excited to discover the Catholic understanding of suffering as redemptive. They came to recognize that their son’s illness was not a curse from God, but a calling for him and for them to bear fruit by becoming united to the mystery of Jesus’ redemptive Passion.
Along with St. Paul, the parents learned to think of suffering as “complet[ing] what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church” (Colossians 1:24).
Ken and Allison desired to grow their family, but they were scared by the knowledge that a child born to them had a 25 percent chance of having CF.
“I remember wanting someone to tell me, when all we had was Rees, that it was OK to have more children,” Allison recounted.
However, as the Howells progressed in their faith journey, they came to realize that each life is a gift. They discovered in themselves a new attitude toward life and became open to having more children, even if that meant children with CF.
They realized that “no one is guaranteed tomorrow” and that health is not all what life is about. They recognized that every life, whether with CF or not, is imbued with a “spiritual component” that is “more real and lasting” than the elusive and ephemeral happy-healthy lifestyle that many people consider to be the reason for existing.
“All life is of value and all life is in God’s Hands, no matter how long or short, how fancy or poor, how sick or healthy,” they came to see.
The couple’s newly discovered openness to life was fruitful. John was born in 1997, followed by Clare in 2001, both without CF. Then came Ian, Ambrose, Luke, and Joseph, all without CF. Adah was born earlier this year and has CF.
All Children are a Gift
Some people think the Howells are irresponsible, or crazy, for being open to conceiving children who might have CF. But Ken and Allison simply smile and tell them that “every single life can have health problems, from the moment of conception and onward through all of life.”
“No one is guaranteed anything in life,” they say. They tell people that CF is manageable and that there are ways to keep CF kids healthy.
They also point out that a child with health problems, like a Tiny Tim, brings out the best in people.
“They have ‘something’ you can’t put your finger on. They tend to be wiser. They charge into life, full-force. They make the world a better place and they want to be here.”
The most important lesson Ken and Allison say they have learned from their CF children is that “all life truly matters.”
They have seen how their own family has blossomed and grown more closer by ordering their family life around the lives of their children with CF.
“We are very close, in part because of the necessary CF care which includes things like ‘lung clapping,’ where one must pat the CF person all over the chest and back to loosen the thick mucus in order for it to be coughed up.”
Up until Rees was 10, the Howells would “hop onto the couch” with Rees to do his lung clapping (pulmonary therapy) for 20 minutes, three times a day.
“When more children came along, they would join us in the activity. Now that we have another baby with CF, the other kids argue over who gets to do ‘lung clapping’ for Adah.”
While Rees now uses a hand-held device for his pulmonary therapy, Allison is convinced that the years of hands-on therapy with her son has “forged an enviable closeness” that she says is now paying off in Rees’ teenage years.
Life is Normal with CF Kids
Rees, now 17, recently graduated high school and is looking forward to beginning college this fall.
Allison says that she cherishes her son’s every accomplishment because she knows the struggle behind what he has done.
When Rees achieved a black belt in marshal arts, Allison could hardly contain from shouting out to the crowd: “Do you people know that he has CF? Do you know that it took him a year longer to accomplish this than it took other kids? Do you know that he has lung troubles and hospitalizations?”
Rees’ recent graduation ceremony for homeschoolers had to be planned around one of his hospitalizations. He was given permission to attend the ceremony only if a nurse accompanied him. “We all met him in the city, he processed, walked, received, ate, visited, and headed back to the hospital. No one knew that under his gown was a taped-up IV tube in his arm.”
Now with little Adah following in the footsteps of her older brother, Allison says that she has the routine down pat.
“The baby needs to swallow tiny pills that I mix with applesauce before each nursing session, and she needs her scheduled ‘lung clapping.’”
The Howell family likes to spend “as much time as possible” hiking and camping in their beautiful Alaska. On their family outings, Ken and Allison make sure to bring everything that their CF children require to take part in the adventure.
“Pills, the flutter valve, and applesauce can easily be tucked into backpacks, and when a nebulizer is needed, we have an electrical converter that uses the cigarette lighter in the vehicle.”
At the end of each day, Ken and Allison rejoice in the lives of all their children. While they love their CF kids “exactly the way they are,” they nonetheless “pray every day for the researchers who are working on a cure.”
“Every child suffers in some way, whether with CF or not,” they say. “All parents can do is hold them, love them, and help them. There is an awesome mystery to life.”
The Howells have come to a simple conclusion: “Life is precious!”
Texas AG to Target: Show me how you’ll protect women and kids from criminals
AUSTIN, Texas, May 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The latest backlash Target received as a result of its transgender bathroom policy was a letter from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asking the company to provide its safety policies to protect women and children from “those who would use the cover of Target’s restroom policy for nefarious purposes.”
“Target, of course, is free to choose such a policy for its Texas stores,” Paxton wrote in a letter to Target CEO Brian Cornell. He noted the possibility of the Texas Legislature addressing the issue in the future, but said, “regardless of whether Texas legislates on this topic, it is possible that allowing men in women’s restrooms could lead to criminal and otherwise unwanted activity.”
“As chief lawyer and law enforcement officer for the State of Texas, I ask that you provide the full text of Target’s safety policies regarding the protection of women and children from those who would use the cover of Target’s restroom policy for nefarious purposes,” Paxton continued.
More than 1.1 million people have pledged to boycott Target over its new policy allowing men to access women’s bathrooms. Opponents of the policy worry that it puts women and children at risk by emboldening predators, who may now freely enter women’s restrooms.
Target’s new policy is “inclusive,” the company claims, and they say “everyone…deserves to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally.”
“Texans statewide can no longer be silent on the issue of protecting the safety of women and children,” Texas Values President and Attorney Jonathan Saenz said in a statement Wednesday urging Texans to boycott Target. This is the first time in its history the pro-family group has called for a boycott.
“We need all Texans to understand that Target is using this radical change in their store policy to try convince people that our laws should be changed in this dangerous direction as well,” said Saena. “Our goal with this boycott is for Target to change its dangerous new policy, to raise awareness of the real threats to safety that these policies bring and to help businesses and lawmakers understand the significant opposition to such measures that is growing daily… Texans all across our state must join this Boycott Target effort before someone gets hurt.”
On Tuesday a male allegedly filmed an underage girl at a Frisco, Texas, Target fitting room. Police are searching for the man.
There have been numerous incidents of male predators across North America accessing women’s facilities and citing transgender policies as allowing them to do so.
Christians, America has reached a crisis point. Are you ready to take up this challenge?
May 5, 2016 (Albert Mohler) -- For nearly two and a half centuries, Americans have enjoyed the enormous privilege and responsibility of forming our own government—a privilege rarely experienced throughout most of human history. For most of history, humanity has struggled with the question of how to respond to a government that was essentially forced upon them. But Americans have often struggled with a very different reality; how do we rightly respond to the government that we choose?
To put all of this in historical perspective, the Framers of the American experiment understood that a representative democracy built on the principle of limited government would require certain virtues of its citizens. These would include a restraint of passions and an upholding of traditional moral virtues, without which democracy would not be possible. As the idea of limited government implies, the citizenry would be required to carry out the social responsibilities of the community without the intrusion of government and, thus, citizens would be expected to have the moral integrity necessary for such an arrangement. The Framers of the American Republic also agreed that it would be impossible to have a representative democracy and a limited government if the people did not elect leaders who embodied the virtues of the citizenry while also respecting and protecting society’s pre-political institutions: marriage and family, the church, and the local community.
Thus, the idea of a limited government requires that society uphold and pursue the health of its most basic institutions. When a civil society is weak, government becomes strong. When the family breaks down, government grows stronger. When the essential institutions of society are no longer respected, government demands that respect for itself. That is a recipe for tyranny.
Much of this was essentially affirmed until the early decades of the 20th century when progressivists began promoting an agenda that fundamentally redefined the role of the federal government in public life. By the middle of the 20th century, the Democratic Party had essentially embraced this progressivist agenda, becoming committed to an increasingly powerful government—a government whose powers exceeded those enumerated in the Constitution. At the same time, the Democratic Party also began advocating for a basic redefinition of the morality that shaped the common culture. By and large, however, the Republican Party continued to maintain a commitment to the vision of America’s founders, advocating for a traditional understanding of morality while also upholding the principle of limited government.
By the 1980s, the two parties represented two very different worldviews and two very different visions of American government. For decades, each party has acted rather predictably and in ways that accord with their fundamental principles. All of that, however, has now changed.
The 2016 presidential campaign has developed in an entirely unpredictable manner and, in many respects, represents a crisis in American democracy. This crisis is not limited to either party. Bernie Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont, has won several stunning victories in the primary season over presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. While it is still extremely likely that Clinton will become the Democratic nominee, Sanders support among voters represents a populist flirtation with Democratic Socialism. This pattern is something few Democrats could have imagined just one year ago. What this foray into Democratic Socialism represents, then, is a radical adjustment of the Democratic Party’s basic economic principles. Thus, even if Hillary Clinton becomes the nominee, the process will likely drag her even further to the left, eventually redefining the Democratic Party before our very eyes.
But if it is remarkable to see what is happening in the Democratic Party, it is absolutely shocking to see what is happening among Republicans. Traditionally, the Republican Party has established its reputation by standing for the principles advocated by the American Founders—limited government upheld by the health of society’s primary institutions such as marriage, family, and community. Yet Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party, represents virtually everything the Republican Party has typically defined itself over against. Clearly, both political parties are now redefining themselves. What is not clear is where each party will ultimately end up. What is also not clear is whether the American experiment can survive such radical political change.
As already noted, the American experiment in limited government requires that the citizenry and those who hold public office honor certain moral virtues and respect the institutions that are crucial for a society to rightly function. Yet, we now find ourselves in a situation where the three leading candidates for president show little to no respect for such institutions in their articulations of public policy.
This fundamental redefinition of the American political landscape requires Christians to think carefully about their political responsibility. Make no mistake; we cannot avoid that responsibility. Even refusing to vote is itself a vote because it privileges those who do vote and increases the value of each ballot. In truth, we bear a political responsibility that cannot be dismissed or delegated to others. Every Christian must be ready to responsibly steward his or her vote at the polls.
To put the matter bluntly, we are now confronted with the reality that, in November, Hillary Clinton will likely be the Democratic nominee and Donald Trump the Republican nominee. This poses a significant problem for many Christians who believe they cannot, in good conscience, vote for either candidate. As a result, Christians are going to need a lot of careful political reflection in order to steward their vote and their political responsibility in this election cycle.
Headlines from around the world tell us that other representative democracies are at a similar moment of redefinition. Political turmoil now marks the United Kingdom and also nations like France and other key American allies. Perhaps democracy itself is now facing a crucial hour of decision and a crucial season of testing. It is no exaggeration to say that democracy is being tested around the world; it is certainly being tested here at home. Yet if this is a moment of testing for democracy, it is also a crucial moment for Christian witness. This election cycle is going to be a particular test for American Christians—and we are about to find out if Christians are up to this challenge.
Reprinted with permission from Albert Mohler.
‘Sick and twisted’: Scientists keep embryos alive outside womb up to 13 days for experimentation
May 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Two teams of scientists have announced that they have been able to keep human embryos alive outside the womb for 13 days for the purpose of conducting scientific experiments. Some call the announcement the onset of a “Brave New World,” while others are petitioning lawmakers to lift sanctions that would keep scientists from experimenting on newly conceived babies even longer.
Researchers from Cambridge University, King's College, and Rockefeller University said in two separate reports that they stopped at 13 days only to avoid violating an internationally accepted law. At least 12 nations restrict the amount of time a newly conceived child may be kept alive in a laboratory to 14 days, the point at which scientists believe “individuality” begins.
The newest development allows scientists to observe newly conceived human beings after the point at which implantation in the womb would have occurred.
Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, one of the studies' lead researchers, said her team's breakthrough could advance embryonic stem cell research and “can improve IVF success.”
Some scientists have called on the international community to extend the amount of time such experimentation can take place.
“If restrictions such as the 14-day rule are viewed as moral truths, such cynicism would be warranted,” three experts – Insoo Hyun, Amy Wilkerson, and Josephine Johnston – wrote in a commentary published yesterday in Nature magazine. “But when they are understood to be tools designed to strike a balance between enabling research and maintaining public trust, it becomes clear that, as circumstances and attitudes evolve, limits can be legitimately recalibrated.”
Pro-life experts said the experimentation destroys human life and could lead to grave ethical dilemmas by extending the research.
“No human being should be used for lethal experimentation, no matter their age or stage of development,” said Dr. David Prentice, a professor of molecular genetics and an Advisory Board Member for the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center. “The 14-day rule is itself arbitrary, and does not assuage those who believe life begins at the moment of sperm-egg fusion. Moreover, allowing experiments on human embryos beyond 14 days post-fertilization risks the lives of untold more human beings, because it further encourages creation and destruction for research purposes.”
Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, called the experimentation “sick and twisted.”
“Science has undeniably proven that a new human life, with unrepeatable DNA, begins at conception,” she said. “There is no reason for experimentation on that human life and science itself should not be heralding thae fact that a tiny human being can survive now for two weeks outside of the womb, all for the sole purpose of experimentation.”
Dr. Prentice noted that embryonic stem cell research “has yielded no benefit thus far,” leading even its most vocal advocates, such as Michael J. Fox, to admit it has not lived up to its promise.
“If this research does not stop at 14 days, where does it stop?” asked Prentice. “This is a risky step which could encourage further eugenic attitudes and actions.”
Dr. Prentice encouraged Congress “to have a full and open debate on the issue of human embryo research before the research community moves further without oversight.”