My life and my thoughts - on faith, culture, politics, whatever comes to my mind

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Favorite children’s books

I have always loved reading and I guess that will never change. My parents used to read me lots of books and stories until I was able to read myself. When I think about my childhood days after school started, I mainly remember myself reading and reading. Already at that time I was a fast reader. I still am, so I always need new books to read. And I have always been interested in all kinds of books. I always wanted to read books (and actually did) that were for children older than I or on topics many people do not consider fit for a child. So already in an early age I read books – children’s novels – about the Nazi reign, the holocaust, child labor etc. But it has not harmed me. It made me aware of how the world really is and it gave me the ability to feel with others and care about what’s going on early in my life. But of course I’ve read fun novels and children’s detective stories and poems and and and... So I thought I’d share some of my many favorites here. I actually still read (good) children’s books. Very relaxing after a hard day of work :) . So here are some suggestions:

Picture from

1. Almost everything written by Astrid Lindgren (my favorite author). She is a Swedish author, born in a little village and later living in Stockholm (died a few years ago). Her books are a wonderful mixture of joy and sorrow, fun and work. “Her” children are not superficial, always happy characters, but got real depth and character. My favorites from her books: The Brothers Lionheart – a story about brotherly love, about courage, about loss, about freedom. Mio, My Son – a book with similar topics: parental love, friendship, freedom, helping others, overcoming fear and just lots of fun. Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter – lots of fun, overcoming fear, overcoming prejudices, life in the woods, reconciliation. All this sounds kind of very moral books, but believe me, they’re plain fun and adventure too! And then of course her children’s detective story: Bill Bergson, master detective (three volumes). I got that from my sister for Christmas just two or three years ago, cause I like it so much :)

2. Almost all children’s books by Erich Kästner, a German writer. Real good children’s detective story in Emil and the Detectives, situated in Berlin in the early 20th century. Also great: The Flying Classroom. The story is situated in a boarding school for boys. It’s about boarding school life, friendship and courage. One of the favorites of Markus (my beloved). Two more: The little man – about the adventures of a boy who is so small that he can sleep in a match box – and Lisa and Lottie. Identical twin girls get separated through their parents’ divorce while still babies and meet on a summer camp. They switch homes without telling their parents and try to reconcile them.

3. The four books about the March family by Louisa M. Alcott (Little Women, Good Wives, Little Men and Jo’s Boys) as well as Eight Cousins and An Old-fashioned Girl.

4. All the Anne of Green Gables books.

5. The whole Little House series (still love them, always wish my beloved could take me on a buggy ride :)).

6. The Children’s detective stories by Enid Blyton. I always wonder if she did anything else except writing ... My favorite was the Adventure Series (I really recommend those!). I also enjoyed the Famous Five and the Mysteries Series. She wrote girl’s books too. I’ve read both the Twins Series and Mallory Towers (about girls at British boarding schools).

7. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Although personally I recommend starting with the second volume, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It’s just so much more exciting that the first. The first is more to complete the series.

I’ll stop here, though I could go on for quite a while... Maybe I’ll post some more another time. I hope this brought back some memories for you as well. And maybe some recommendations to stack up your own children’s books supplies.

Haloscan comments

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog. I didn't loose your former comments, there still archived with the posts. I just have to figure out how to get them into the haloscan comments (or maybe I just won't). Anybody can tell me how?

Children arrested for giving to the least of these

I guess the headline I chose sounds already controversial and the topic most likely is controversial. As Terri Schiavo is starving in her hospice bedroom, people are outside demonstrating for her right to life and for letting her live. I do not agree with all the posters and slogans people are carrying and I do not agree with everything that is going on there (plans of rescuing Terri with force and guns...). But in my opinion, it is people’s right to voice their opinion this way and to keep drawing attention to what is happening to Terri. In a free country people are and have to be allowed to put their beliefs – be it religious or political, majority or minority views – into words and action. In general this action has to be legal though.
By court order Terri is denied of receiving water, no matter if it is through a feeding tube or the “regular way”. People are not allowed to go and see her either. Several times so far, protestors nevertheless tried to bring cups of water to Terri and have been arrested for it. This can be characterized as civil disobedience. According to wikipedia "Civil disobedience encompasses the active refusal to obey certain laws, demands and commands of a government or of an occupying power without resorting to physical violence. [...] In seeking an active form of resistance, those who practise civil disobedience may choose to deliberately break certain laws, such as by forming a peaceful blockade or occupying a facility illegally. Protesters do so with the expectation that they will be arrested, or even attacked or beaten by the authorities.” The motive behind civil disobedience is that whatever it is directed against is considered as wrong. The characterization as “wrong” can have political, social or religious backgrounds. Many protestors considers what happens to Terri Schiavo as wrong and not in accordance with God’s word and will. The symbolic act of a cup of water for Terri and the sure to follow arrest are their form of civil disobedience. To keep Terri before the eyes of the US society and the world (it’s all over the news here too). To make God’s command of caring for the least of these for His sake visible. I’m quite sure that at least many of them are sincerely trying to follow this command Jesus gave us when they try to bring Terri water.
I’m convinced that it is true for the children who tried to bring Terri cups of water and got arrested. I read about three of them on Ruthanne’s blog jellybeans & chocolate (go read it). I googled and found out that up to ten children have been arrested for similar attempts. (None of them had to stay in juvenile jail.)
This is a difficult thing, IMO. As I read Ruthanne’s post and some MSM articles (for example here) conflicting thoughts ran through my mind. There are a lot of things to be considered: the faith of the children; their own wishes; the fear of (voluntary or unvoluntary) influence by the parents; the fear of manipulation; the danger that the desires of the children are misused by adults; the question if parents should hinder their children in committing something illegal etc. And I am not implying that any manipulation etc. happened with those kids in Florida! But those are questions that need to be adressed.
I think it is a wonderful thing if believing children wish to follow up on Jesus’ teaching in everyday life – even if it has (very) negative consequences. We should encourage the desire in children to reach out to the least of these and to follow Jesus’ commands. Which is what those children wanted according to their parents’ statements. I wish I had the same boldness in living out my faith!
I also think that it is important that such a desire and especially the action stem from the child’s own will. If those two conditions exist, then I think those children should be allowed to follow up on their plan. Even if they are trespassing and might face serious consequences. Following Christ is not easy or without consequences. Christ never promised us it would be, but He called us to follow Him no matter what. The bible is full of examples of people who experienced this first-hand.
But if it was a case of manipulation, be it as subtle as it wants, I would have a problem with the children’s actions. If an adult was misusing a child’s honest faith and compassion, then I would probably not have a problem with the child’s action, but definately have serious doubts (or worse) concerning the adult’s behaviour.
Please excuse that I’m not very clear and elaborate here. I just wanted to share some thoughts and hopefully hear your opinions.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Living the psalms

You are Psalms
You are Psalms.

Which book of the Bible are you?
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Thursday, March 24, 2005

Rehabilitation for „waking coma“ patients

A friend of mine sent me this link (in German) as she knows that I’m concerned with Terri’ s situation and the life of people in similar conditions. Now, let me get this clear: I do not want to imply that Terri is in a waking coma, nor that she is not. I think waking coma (literal translation from German) might be what in English is called the vegetative state. I am a lay person concerning medicine, so I cannot evaluate CTs etc. But I care about people where many others – as we see now – would say they are “better off dead” (see Dory quoting a soccer mom in this post at the Wittenberg Gate). So I want to know more about those illnesses and conditions and how they effect the people suffering from them and if rehabilitation is possible. I guess quite some of you are interested in this too, so I will summarize the contents of the German link here (I beg pardon if some things will sound strange, sometimes translating isn’t that easy...). The source is a good German radio and TV station. And this post does not claim having all information about waking coma!

First: what is a waking coma?
The patients are unconscious, but their eyes are open and they have a waking-sleeping rhythm. They breathe by themselves, are able to feel pain and show physical reactions though they are unable to communicate with their surroundings. There are no prognoses if they will awake from this condition or not. Some do and heal almost completely, others stay severely disabled for the rest of their lives. What really surprised me: alone in Germany there are 12 000 (!) people in a waking coma.
What happened in their body and what does still work?
Those people suffer from raised brain pressure. The middle part of the brain – that controls being awake – gets damaged. The communication with the part of the brain responsible for communication and memory etc., the cerebrum, is disturbed. Therefore those people are called “Appaliker” (comes from the Greek and means more or less people without a cerebrum). BUT those people are not brain dead or unreachable. Different from brain death, their brain functions are only partly not working. They can hear, smell, see and even feel. But the cerebrum cannot put all the information together anymore.
Are changes to their condition possible?
Yes, they are. But the likelihood is low after four to six months.
Now: is rehabilitation possible?
Yes it is, but it is very slow and does not necessarily mean full recovery. According to the radio station's information a study by the neurologist Dr. Keith Andrews (Royal Hospital for Neurodisability, London) in 1994 showed that 22 of 43 waking coma patients could be released to living at home after rehabilitation in a special facility in London. (I tried to find the study, but haven't succeeded yet, he has published other interesting articles about the so-called vegatative state though.)
The first German rehabilitation center for waking coma patients was founded in 1989 in southern Germany. The basis is that communication with the patients is possible and that their condition will improve if they can participate in life. They need treatment by among others speech therapists, physical therapists and neurologists.
They especially use basal stimulation (I hope this is the right term!). Patients get stimuli from different sources starting on a “basal” level which means that those stimuli are easy and do not need prior knowledge or experience. This is the basis for “advanced” perception.

Have a look at the link above and take a good look at the accompanying photos. The 17-year-old girl is in a waking coma. From just looking at her, it is so easy to think that she does not perceive anything around her. It is so easy to say: Nobody would want to live like that! But then take the information above into account. All those things she can still "do". She most likely enjoys. And the (even if it is only small) possibility that she might recover, at least in part. Who are we outsiders to judge her life as unlivable, even if we have the best motives? This is not the brain dead person whose life depends on life support machines like the one keeping the lungs and the heart going. In cases like hers, the decision, in my opinion, should be for hope and for life.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Spiritual and physical starvation

Psalm 63, 1: Oh God you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

This is yesterdays psalm of the bible in one year curriculum I am reading with a group from my church. It spoke to me strongly yesterday, but today, as I was browsing some of my favorite blogs, it struck me hard - in a different sense.

People have condemned a woman to die. Terri Schiavo is sentenced to starvation and dehydration. Not for any criminal offense (which would not lead to a cruel death of this kind!). No, people have decided that her life, the way it is, cannot be worth living. Terri suffered brain-damage in the early 1990s and has since been cared for in a medical institution. She is not in a vegetative state and does not need life-support machines. But she receives food and liquids through a feeding tube. Since early on, her husband has tried to have this tube removed - which does not mean the physical removing of the tube, but putting a stop to giving Terri food and drink. For some more information see my post the value of life: or who can decide if someone wants to die.
After a temporary order not to remove the feeding tube yet and attempts to save Terri by her parents and politicians, Terri's feeding tube was removed yesterday. Her parents are even forbidden to try to feed her without using the tube (she might be able to receive food the regular way)! They were not even allowed to be with her anymore, at least not for the removal of the tube. According to Terri's lawyer, Terri started crying inconsolably when the lawyer informed her about the removal of the tube.

Terri will suffer a slow and painful death. We all know how it feels to be hungry or thirsty. But we can help ourselves or receive help from our loved ones. Terri cannot help herself and her loved ones are barred from helping her. Where have we come to? Where has society come to that this can be possible? We can only cry out like the Psalmist. Seek God earnestly and ask Him to come and help. To help this woman who is not only hungry and thirsty in a spiritual way like we are, but who is suffering from actual hunger and thirst because someone decided her life is not worth living...

For more concern, information and updates go and read allthings2all, the Wittenberg Gate,this post at walking circumspectly and this post at the evangelical outpost, the links they give and the comment sections.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

What I'm thankful for today

I don’t have that much time to blog at the moment, but I didn’t want to leave you with the same posts the whole time. So at Sora’s blog I read a list with things she’s thankful for and that struck me as a good idea. It’s so easy to forget all the good things God has given us. So here are ten things I’m thankful for today:

I’m thankful
that spring is finally here
for Markus
for my parents and my sister and the good relationships we have with each other
for my wonderful friends, here in Germany and abroad
that “my” book is finally published and for sale in stores any day now
that I already found a nice new apartment with a balcony and a real kitchen (rare in one-room apartments)
that we can go on vacation to southern France end of May
for my church and my church family
for discussions about faith with students asking all the tough questions
for a great small group that just doubled in size

Saturday, March 12, 2005

What's currently going on in my life?

This blog has mostly been about thoughts and issues lately, but I know quite some people read this blog who know me, but haven't seen or heard me in quite a while. So here is a short update for you and everybody else. And it's short cause not that much is really going on ...
I'm still working at university and writing on my PhD thesis. That one should be finished by September! That's the plan, at least... (I figured it out by now that books and thesises always take longer than you ever thought they would). "My" first book (I'm editing it with two friends and contributing parts of it) should be in the stores now any day!! Waiting can be so difficult - especially if I know it has to be in my mail soon. (Be assured, there will be an extra post on that event :)).
I am also moving, but only within Bonn. For the first time since 2000 I will be living all by myself again. I've shared flats ever since I left student housing. So that is exciting. And I like moving. Not really the act of moving, but planning a new home, thinking of a new piece of furniture, some new decoration item ... I have some friends at church who are really into decorating and I fear it's catchy ... Anyone of you has great ideas to share for a one-room apartment?
I have lots of pictures on my wall and in my shelfs, so I will need a new way to arrange them...
I still attend the American church here in Bonn. Since January I'm helping out with the youth, that's lots of fun. Reminds me of all those summer camps by my German church where I participated as leader. And I teach children's church - a whole bunch of 8 and 9 year olds. They are cute and fun and exhausting... I love teaching and I hope God will give me some more opportunities. For the moment I'm happy teaching children and university students - quite different groups!
And that wonderful person for which I bought the T-shirt in Texas (anyone remembers?) is still sharing life with me! :)
I'm sure there's more, but I have to look at an apartment for rent now. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

What you did for the least of these ...

Amy over at Amy’s humble musings is hosting the Vox Apologia VIII on the topic “the least of these”. This is my attempt to contribute something.
For a long time now the story of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25, 31-46) has come back into my mind on a regular basis. I first really started thinking about it after listening to the song “The sheep and the goats” by Keith Green (listen to it, sometimes a song brings home the point or the importance of something).
What happens in this story told by Jesus? Jesus, the son of man and our king, sits on the throne in heavenly glory and the nations are gathered before him. Jesus separates the people to his right and left like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. The ones on his right (the sheep) are welcomed into the kingdom prepared for them, but the ones on the left (the goats) are told to depart from him into eternal punishment. The difference is that the sheep gave Jesus food when he was hungry and drink when he was thirsty. They invited him when he was a stranger, cared for him when he was sick and visited him when he was in prison. The goats did not do any of these things. Both sides wonder – the sheep when they did do those things for Jesus, the goats when they did not do them. This is Jesus answer to the sheep: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Verse 40, NIV). Likewise he rebukes the goats: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me” (Verse 45, NIV).
The least of these. This is a central point in this story Jesus tells. The whole story of the sheep and the goats tells us the importance of a faith that is alive. It is true that we are saved by grace through our faith in Jesus. But a faith that bears no results in our everyday life is dead (James 2, 26). What are those results? Take a look at Jesus’ answers to the sheep and the goats. Works of love and compassion. Caring for hungry and thirsty people. Caring for the lonely, the ill and the imprisoned ones. Jesus tells us that our faith should lead us to taking care of the least of these.
Who are the least of these? The note in my NIV study bible says there are different views on who Jesus refers to, among them (1) all who are hungry, ill, etc.; (2) apostles and missionaries or (3) fellow followers of Jesus.
When I think about it, I understand the term as a mixture of those groups mentioned in the note. Of course the apostles and missionaries are included in the group of fellow Christians. So, are the least of these the distressed everywhere, no matter if they are Christians, or are they other Christians in distress. In my understanding, our love and compassion should extend to everybody. God loves everyone and wants to show his love and compassion through our actions to all the people.
But I think that we have a special “responsibility” to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our love for each other flows out of God’s love for us and is a testimony of God’s love to the world. John stresses this eloquently in his first letter (chapter 3, 11-24; chapter 4, 7-21). The responsibilities for the well-being of our brothers and sisters is repeatedly stressed throughout the New Testament. The least of these in the sense of Matthew 25 therefore are (in my understanding) our Christian brothers and sisters, who suffer from poverty, famine, want, persecution, war, loneliness, disability, abuse, human rights violations, the list goes on. And we should help them regardless of their position, their fame, their importance, their influence. Regardless of our affection or the lack thereof for them. These are criteria people so often take into consideration, before they decide to help someone. We as followers of Jesus should ignore those criteria. We are called to help the least of these - therefore all of them.
There are brothers and sisters who need our help. So for Jesus’ sake (see the sheep and the goats) we are called to help them.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Sharing wisdom over coffee

I love meeting my friends, spending time together over a cup of coffee or tea and talk. This is when we really share life. When we talk about what is going on in our lives, what is occupying our thoughts lately and what is going on in our society and the world. It is also a time to share advise and knowledge - about lots of things.
But I realized during this last week, that most women friends that I have coffee with are the same age and really often at the same point in their lives. Some are married already, some run a single household. Very few have children. Married life and especially family life is a whole new part of life. And it is so important. So we all need wisdom about that. (Jobs are as well! I just don't want to focus on that part now.) But it is not always found over that cup of coffee, cause my friends are more or less at the same point where I'm at.
In older times women used to spend more time with other women thorugh all the age groups. So wisdom from different stages of life was more easily and naturally imparted to ther women. We can all learn from each other, older from younger, married mothers from singels and the other way around. But we need the time to get together and share wisdom and coffee. There are women who would be great sharers of wisdom at my church, but we don't all kow each other and we are all so busy, it's hard to get together with them.
But I found my "coffeetime" with other women to share wisdom. And you know where? I found it here in the blogosphere. This may sound funny first. But there are a lot of great blogs out there by women sharing their wisdom about marriage, about family, about raising children etc. And when I sit in front of my computer, read their posts and join discussions in the comments section, it is (almost) like sharing a cup of coffee, have fun and get new ideas, more insights and a strengthening of my own beliefs (no matter if it is in agreement or disagreement). Even now though marriage and children are still in the future for me, I keep the wisdom they shared for later use.
So this post is actually dedicated. It is for my friends whom I share coffee and life with in cafes and in our homes. You are great. But it is also to those who share their insights on their blogs, my virtual coffee friends (if you don't mind me saying this). So, Amy, Molly, Jan, Shannon, Samantha, Marla and all those others that I'm still to meet, this is for you!

Friday, March 04, 2005

My guest: Jolle from Antwerp

Here we are again! It’s time to contribute some more to all those interviews going around in the blogosphere. Welcome my first guest: Jolle from Antwerp, Belgium!
As he settles in his chair, laughs a lot and fidgets a bit, I run through my questions. Hope this will be interesting and not too easy... Here they are:

1. What is the best thing about where you live?
2. Which is your pet plan for the future?
3. Which public figure has influenced you the most, for good or for bad?
4. What is you favorite song? Why?
5. What do you absolutely want to share with the fellow bloggers who read this interview?

Jolle's answers can be found here. Make sure you check them out!

If anyone else might be interested in being interviewed by me, just leave a comment “interview me”. The rules of this game can be found in my post the international blogger interviews.