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

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

What's that for a solution?

Flames are rushing through the house. Smoke is dense everywhere. The house is completely destroyed by fire. The victims this time are a pregnant mother and her two children and another family, the mother pregnant with twins. The rest of the inhabitants of that house are lucky and safe. They are immigrants from Africa, probably half of them illegal.
This is the third time in five months that a Parisian house inhabited by poor African immigrants is destroyed by fire and many people dead. These poor (sometimes illegal) immigrants live in horrible conditions. No running water, no electricity, far too many people living in one house.

The French Secretary of the Interior, Nicolas Sarkozy, sees the reason for these fires in the fact that all these emergency shelters for the poor are overcrowded. Yesterday he came up with a solution: all these shelters should be closed.

Can anyone explain this? What is supposed to happen to the poor who live there? Who need these shelters? If they just crowd into other, maybe abandoned buildings, the risk of fire will surely not decrease... Or are they supposed to live on the streets?
(Source: FAZ)

French Quarter, New Orleans

Some more pictures from my trip last year. These are all pictures from the French Quarter in New Orleans.
At the moment this beautiful city is slowly filling up with water. But not just there, in so many other cities and villages, people have lost their homes, lost their belongings, are without power and food. At the moment, Katrina is supposed to have killed about 100 people. Numbers are rising.
Let us keep all these people in our prayers!

Who remembers Darfur

Catez at allthings2all is one blogger who really keeps Darfur on people's minds and hearts. She had the great idea of having Spotlights on Darfur regularly, so it will not disappear somewhere in the vast array of news, ideas and internet pages. So head over there and check out the spotlight!

When I prepared writing my post on Darfur, one thought struck me suddenly: who remembers Darfur? Who remembers the countless victims to slaughter, abuse, killings, rapes, arson and hunger? After being the newspaper headlines for a few days, maybe some weeks, Darfur has disappeared from the newswriters' maps. There is so much else going on: early elections here in Germany, flooding in Bavaria, "Katrina", bombs in Gaza, bombs in Bagdad, neglected children starving, economies failing, dictators in North Corea, dictators in Zimbabwe, nuclear weapons in Iran, nuclear weapons in Brazil ...
As the newspaper headlines chase from on hot topic to another or to a supposedly-hot topic, the people in Darfur are easily forgotten. And I can include myself in the group of those who shifted focus away. Not on purpose! But it happened. When I wanted to start reseraching for my post, I thought: "Wait a minute - I haven't read about Darfur in ages! I don't really know what's going on!"

It is so easy to get all caught up in daily life and all its joys and cares. And then to forget those who suffer. The people in Darfur are forced from their villages, their homes burnt, their crops destroyed. Men, women and children are murdered. Many women are raped, carried along by the militia as prizes and suffering sexual and other abuse over months. Children loose whole families, traumatized from violence forever. As of June 2005 2,96 million people have been affected by the crises in Darfur (source: Unicef). Almost half of these are children.
In the face of such misery and horror and such an immense need for help, governments and international Organizations try to help - but, I think, do not really know how to help. What to do? Obviously efforts sofar have not been very successful. But as I look at myself - I wonder what to do as well? What can a government do? What can we do? What can I do?

That is the question we all need to ask ourselves. Seriously and honestly. A first step is the decision to not forget the poeple in Darfur. But we cannot stop there. The question is: what next?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Memories of Louisiana

I was in Louisiana last September and had a wonderful time with my friends Tom and Leslie in Baton Rouge. Leslie and I also did several trips to New Orleans. I just hope they are save. "Katrina" did so much damage down there in Louisiana and Mississippi and other places. So here are two pictures of the beauty of Louisiana. The first is at Oak Alley Plantation, the other was taken during a sunset swamp tour. I will still post a few pics of New Orleans, but I don't have the CD here.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Good times after bad days

There are days where I feel that almost everything is going the wrong way. Too much reading still to be done for my PhD, my boss promised lots of work after his return from vacation, forms to be filled out (I seriously dislike filling out forms), it’s been raining for days, we’re nervous cause my beloved is expecting the written results from his bar exam (arrived today – they’re real good, yeah!!), unintentionally spending too much money, ...

But a quite nervous or stressed or bad mood can be changed by good times – and it is so easy to have good times! How often I forget that these cares are not what is important to me in my life (well, the results were important to us!). What is important: my beloved, my family, my friends and Jesus. And these give me such good times! Right in the middle of all that’s stressful or sad or crazy. Good times I had the last days:
Worship service last Sunday; vacation’s about over, so most people are back. It was contemporary worship Sunday and we had a wonderful time worshipping our Lord and enjoying each other’s company.
Scrapbooking with two great friends on Sunday evening.
A motivating phone call by a friend when I was really frustrated at work.
Always good times with my beloved!
Sitting in my room with my beloved reading 84, Charing Cross Road and drinking a little bit of Laphroig.
My mom coming over for lunch and good talks.
Dinner with some of my girl friends, laughing so hard.
Talking to a friend in hospital who just had her first child.
Despite of all the cares I first mentioned: life is wonderful!


First some really good news: my friends just had their first child, a healthy baby-boy (though about four weeks early)! That is wonderful and made me so happy.

Maybe that’s why these news hurt even more: the place is a courthouse in Hamburg, Germany. Today started the criminal proceedings against a couple who starved their child to death. And no-one noticed. The couple lived in an apartment building. Their only daughter (another child had been given up for adoption) lead a life worse than most prisoners. She was confined to her room, the door locked, the window darkened so no sunshine could enter. Her bed was a blanket on top of the bedsprings. No pictures, no other furniture, presumably no toys. And no food. She died at the age of seven, her weight: 9 kg. Nobody knows if she ever learned to speak or to walk. Nobody knows for how long this has been going on.
Her parents lived a “normal life”, hanging out in the pub and caring for their well-fed cat...

Can you imagine? It makes me so mad I feel like destroying something (don’t worry, I won’t) and so sad, I just want to cry.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

World Youth Day 2005

The World Youth Day is a Catholic festival for – as you guessed already – Catholic youths. Young people from all over the world pilgrimage into a city where they have mass, discussions, arts and concerts. And lots of fun.
This year it is in Cologne. Which is 20 minutes by train from Bonn where I live. And it is right now. As there are too many young pilgrims to house all of them in Cologne, both Bonn and Düsseldorf got their share. So Bonn is currently swarming with youth from all over the world. I love it. I participated in Christian festivals several times and I always truly enjoyed them. And none was as international as this one is! I’ve so far seen groups from Germany, Italy, France, Uruguay, Brazil, Latvia, Poland, the Philippines, Malaysia – just to name a few. Yesterday there was the opening mass in a park right here at university – 100 000 people attended according to the police!
My beloved and me went for the concert in the evening. So many people and so much fun. Especially the Italians keep the fun going. They are constantly singing... The Pope will arrive in Cologne tomorrow. I don’t think I want to be in Cologne tomorrow – 400 000 will probably be heading there.
I know many people wonder if these teenagers and young adults come for spiritual things or for fun. I am absolutely convinced that as much as they come for fun, they especially come for spiritual things. Festivals always include lots and lots of fun – and that’s a good thing. But I know from my own experiences at huge festivals that we always came to learn more about God and to worship him.
It is interesting to see it from a slightly different perspective. Not only that I am not Catholic, but I am also not a participant. So this time I see it from the perspective of the chosen city’s citizens. I still enjoy it.
And there are so many nuns here. Nuns have always fascinated me. It’s really interested to see all their different clothes, although I can never match them with any particular order; I don’t know enough to do that. But I enjoy watching them and the fun they have.
And even though I disagree with Catholics on more than one dogmatic question, it is wonderful to see so many people here to worship Jesus. The motto is: Wir sind gekommen, IHN anzubeten (We have come to worship HIM).

The picture is from the newspaper Bonner Generalanzeiger.

Monday, August 15, 2005

August giveaway

Tim Challies at challies dot com has a new giveaway. You can win a great CD set and a book. It looks really interesting!

August Giveaway

You can use this banner to get to the giveaway. But I will honestly warn you that by using it you will increase my chance of winning a little bit. Although I sincerely hope that this will not make you refrain from using it ... :)

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Interview with Agent Tim

Maybe several of you have heard or read about the situation of homeschoolers in Germany. Several parents in Paderborn have lost custody in educational matters of their children because of their insistance on homeschooling them. Also others are facing trouble with the legal authorities because of homeschooling. You might wonder why that is a problem. The answer is: homeschooling is illegal in Germany.
There have been quite some discussions on blogs, quite some concern and interest sparked.
After reading one of my comments on Spunky's blog, Agent Tim contacted me and asked if we could do an interview on homeschooling in Germany (legal situation, how does society see homeschooling, the government etc.).
This interview is up now, you can read it here. Make sure to head over and read it. And be sure to drop Agent Tim or me a line if you have any questions or comments or just to let us now if you liked it. I hope you will enjoy it even more than we did.

Thanks to Agent Tim for taking this up and providing a space for information and discussion!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

On the hunt

I'm prowling along the empty and broken lockers on the upper floor of the law faculty. But I cannot find it. An hour later I'm slowly walking along the Münster, checking all the low window sills. But, alas, I am still unsuccessful. I cannot find it here either...

I'm on the hunt...

By now you hopefully cannot wait for the answer. What I am hunting for - for a book.
BookCrossing seems to be new "game", spreading all over the world. But how do you play? You register a book at their website, paste the register code and instructions in the book, and release it into the wild. So you leave it somewhere where other people can find it and take it home to read. So it'S a fun way to share a good book. The finder will hopefully enter the code at the website, so you will know it's been found - and he will also enter later his point of release of the book. So your book might travel farther than you've ever been...

And you can also go bookhunting. People just leave some hints where they left the book and you can then try to find it. It's really fun - and exciting. Like a treasure hunt for grown-ups!
Books are left everywhere - on buses, in churches, on the streets, in parking garages, in banks ... everywhere imaginable.

I'm hurting though when I think about those several books somebody left in our beautiful park a while ago that haven't been found - it has been raining here the whole last week!

HT to my friend Megen!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Youthgroups in the spotlight – part 3

This is my last part on youthgroups (for the moment). The first one dealt with my own past and experience with youth groups. In the second I listed a few things that I see as rather critical concerning youth groups. But, in general, I think youth groups are a good and useful part of church life.

1. One of the criticisms is that youth groups are often mixed and contain Christians and non-Christians. Very often that is true and, as problematic as it seems and sometimes is, this is a wonderful chance for youth from non-Christian families to meet people with a different view on life, different believes, etc. It may be the only time in their lives (or at least for a long period of time) where they have a chance to learn about Jesus and what it means to be a Christian. This is definitely true for summer camps. I’ve been a leader at several camps and we always had very many youth that had had hardly any exposure to the Christian faith.

2. It is a good place for Christian teens to meet other believing teens and to form good and important friendships. Friends are very important to teenagers. I don’t want to say that friends should replace the influence of family etc., but it is just a fact that most youths at least care a lot about what their friends think/like/believe and there are things that msot of them will only share with their friends, not their parents. I met most of my best friends among the youth from my church and it was (and is still) wonderful to have friends who believe in the same things you do and with whom you can discuss spiritual as well as other questions. They just understand your basis. This is especially important for Christian youths whose parents are not Christians.

3. If the youth pastor/director/volunteers are mature Christians who really love the Lord, they can be wonderful role models. They hold such a different position fom parents in the youths’ lives. They are somewhere between parents and friends. They are a good place for the youth to turn to if he doesn’t want to ask either his parents or his friends.

And I personally consider it huge fun to discuss spiritual/biblical/life questions with youths. They are often so interested and they have so many questions. It can get very challenging, cause if they ask it’s probably the hard questions! It is wonderful to see some coming into an ever closer relationship with the Lord (through all the doubts and questions), and it can be hreatwrenching to see some coming so close and never taking the dicisive step. But it’s so worth it!

Monday, August 01, 2005

A hug to my friends

Just consider this mini-post a hug to you all. My friends mean so much to me. This includes my friends that I talk to/email with every day or once a week or once a month and those that I haven't talked to in a long time. Just know that you are incredably valuable to me.
It also includes all my "blog-friends". I love learning about your lives, families, ideas, faith ... , to discuss with you and just to have fun. Still hope to meet some of you in person in the future :)
It also includes my family - we're not just family, we're friends too.
And of course to the best friend I have ...

The tiny picture shows my friend Jess and me, I think at the dinner after their wedding rehearsal. It's her on the picture, cause she's a wonderful friend who just sent me an email about the importance of friends and she also sent me the first birthday card! It's my birthday tomorrow :)