Monday, November 28, 2011

How Babies are made by God

I have been waiting for the arrival of our grandchildren for a while.  Now both of our children are expecting, my daughter in January and my daughter-in-law in May of next year.

Guess what, I am more aware of babies and see baby stuff everywhere.  My daughter sent me the link to this amazing video about the process of conception and the wonderful orchestration of the development until the birth.  I am in awe as to how God’s creation works so precisely and orderly.
Here is the link to the video:

I hope you can enjoy this presentation as much as I did.  The miracle of life is and always will be a phenomenon because of the slim chance for the sperm and the egg to meet.

As for now my grandchildren are only in my imagination but I know for sure that God has great expectations for this new generation.  Our children and grandchildren are our hope that what we did here on earth will not be in vain but rather is a stepping stone for a better future.  That’s something to be grateful for.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Appreciations for the Lives of Heroes

During this Thanksgiving week we want to give thanks for the many blessings our lives.  In this country we have many more things to be grateful for than any other place in the world.   
I want to take this occasion to appreciate the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and some other brave Germans who participated in the resistance movement against Hitler and the savage activities of the Third Reich.

I have often wondered why there was nobody who could see through all of the atrocities under Hitler and why nobody did anything against it.  I can’t remember to have studied any of this part of history during my schooling.

I discovered that there were quite a few organized activities going on (along with private individuals): some by ordinary citizens like the students of the White Rose group and others like some Christians under the guidance of pastor Bonhoeffer.  There was also the group within the military which was brought to our attention a few years ago in the movie Valyrie with Tom Cruise.

The White Rose was organized by a group of students, Hans and Sophie Scholl, and their professor, Kurt Huber, and others from the University in Munich which only lasted for a few months; all of them were executed in February of 1943.  The core group printed leaflets, and with the help of other students they were able to distribute them through many other universities all over Europe.

A few years ago, I watched the movie Valkyrie and learned about the brave action of Claus von Stauffenberg who attempted to kill Hitler.  He was part of a conspiracy organized by righteous officers and people in political offices. On July 20th,1944, Mr. Von Stauffenberg had placed an attach√© with a bomb in it which was to kill Hitler.  Unfortunately, the assassination attempt failed which resulted in the killing of almost 5,000 people who were connected to this cope d’√©tat.

“We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds… 
Will our inward power of resistance be strong enough to find our way back?”
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

During the same year the Valkyrie was filmed, a German producer filmed Agent of Grace
which was aired on public television here in the states.  Bonhoeffer was part of a group of German clergy who were opposed to the indifference of the church as well as the persecution of the Jews. He joined the political resistance to Hitler which led to his imprisonment in 1943 and his eventual execution on April 9, 1945, just a few weeks before Hitler committed suicide and WWII ended.

“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Why is the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)  so remarkable?  Mr. Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran theologian who was educated at various universities throughout Europe as well as at the Union Theological Seminary in New York.  It was there that he gained a deep love for the African-American spirituals.  His most influential writing is a book The Cost of Discipleship in which he expresses his firm belief in the need for a reinterpretation of Christianity for our modern world.  He made an important contribution to ecumenism which attempts to create a unified church and the efforts of world peace.  Even while in prison, with the help of some friends, he wrote letters which were posthumously edited and published as Papers from Prison.

“Action springs not from thought, but from readiness for responsibility.”
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Through study and deep prayer I am gaining a deep appreciation for my German heritage.  For more than 60 years that pride was not there within the German population.  History was looked upon with shame and guilt and nobody knew what to do with it.  The Church in Germany is like a sleeping giant with all its beautiful buildings which are showcases of incredible architecture, amazing paintings and sculptures, but no spirit.  That’s why the church needs to become aware and remember pastors like Dietrich Bonhoeffer because he had found that spirit in the church in Harlem, and at the UnionTheological Seminary in New York in 1930.  His insistent dedication in the service to Christ and his continuous loyalty to the members of his church took him back to Germany where he taught relentlessly in small congregations, first hidden from the Nazis, but later discovered and closed down.  Bonhoeffer, together Martin Niemoeller founded the Confessing Church which opposed Hitler and the Third Reich with their anti-Christian and anti-Jewish stands. Bonhoeffer singly recognized deeply the problem of his time.

During this Thanksgiving week I am grateful for men like him and others who truly walk their talk.  As one autobiographer, Eric Metaxas said recently: “We need examples of leadership like him today.”  If we truly want to make an impact and change this country, we need more than promising words.  I can trust any person who is willing to give their life just like Jesus did.

Don’t these people appear to be rebels?

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.’
~ Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Gettysburg Address


Gettysburg Address – November 19th, 1863
I believe it is appropriate for this November week to give reverence to an event which took place long ago.  At times it is more important to focus on a vision and on ideals than the reality especially when the reality looks bleak and discouraging.  With the media speaking of depression and recession we have to find something empowering to look at.

The Gettysburg Address moves us deeply with its powerful words, reminding us that we are all created equal, living under ONE GOD.  We have a responsibility to honor our ancestors and those who lived and died before us to carry on their hopes and dreams; and bring them into fruition.  Mr. Lincoln had a foresight beyond his time that’s why he is remembered and often quoted.  Here is his most important speech:   

Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.
We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow (sanctify)  this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
~ Abraham Lincoln, (1809-1865) 16th American President 
Historians have concluded that this speech had even greater significance than the war itself. It is such a short speech but so very engaging; reminiscing of those soldiers who gave their lives but also reminding us of our duty to this nation. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

I am Voting!

 At the end of 1999, I was sworn in as an American citizen. It was a very moving ceremony where more than 200 others along with their families and friends participated.  At the very end of the 20th century, right after Christmas, a long, worn-out application which I had put in 2 years before, was finally accepted.  During the ceremony all that worry was forgotten and I welcomed my citizen certificate with great pride.  That following year I was able to travel to Europe with my new American passport.
I am voting tomorrow because that is the whole reason I surrendered my German citizenship so that I can play my part here where I live.  Since one can only vote as a legal citizen, I decided to apply for citizenship after I had lived in the United States for more than 25 years.  It was a tough decision because now I had to choose if I wanted be German or American.  In life, we often have to make decisions.  To make good choices we need to inform ourselves about the issues at hand and weigh the pros and the cons.  We don’t have to know all the ins and outs about the voting process to voice our opinion, just like we don’t have to know about mechanics to drive a car.  Since my Green-card only allowed me work in this country, I chose to apply to become a citizen based on my husband being American.

“Look at the word responsibility – “response-ability” – the ability to choose your response.  Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility.  They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior.  Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling.”
~ Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Habit 1 Be Pro Active

What does it take to vote?
Only citizens of the United States of America are allowed to vote.  The history of voting has gone through a long process from only white males who were property owners to all citizens 18 years and older being eligible.  The first step is to register in your local state. Even citizens who live abroad, or are unable to go to the voting booths can register and vote by absentee ballots.
While I was waiting for my citizen application I had to study a simple curriculum about citizenship.  Normally, kids learn that during their school years.  I also had to answer some questions about why I wanted to become a citizen. I was taught the definition of democracy where voting constitutes our freedom.  In learning how to vote, we are giving a voice through which we can offer our opinion about how the country should be run.

“Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.”
~ Thomas Jefferson (1742-1826, 3rd President) – author of the Declaration of Independence

Why do we vote?
It reaffirms our convictions as citizens.  It encourages our civil responsibility to make a difference with the issues at hand.  It gives us a choice among candidates who wish to become government leaders.  It is up to each voter to locate available information through newspapers, media or internet about each candidate and/or issue in order to make an informed decision on what to vote for. The ability to vote exists as one of the most cherished Constitutional Rights. By avoiding to vote we give away our right to influence the government overall. Our right to vote has proven to be difficult to achieve for all races and genders throughout history. Fortunately, today, every citizen over 18 years of age has the right to vote in any election and, therefore, should exercise their vote.

“… government of the people, by the people and for the people.”
~ Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865, 16th American President) Gettysburg Address, ~ November 19, 1863

As Abraham Lincoln expressed, voting shouldn’t be an obligation.  We give the politicians power through our collective consent.  That gives us a social satisfaction and in fact, an emotional boost of influence.  Every vote counts. 

History of Voting Rights
1776   only landowners can vote (white men over 21)
1856   all white men over 21 can vote
1865   by the 13th Amendment of the Constitution slavery is outlawed in the U.S.
1870   by the 15th Amendment of the Constitution African-Americans were allowed to vote
1920   by the 19th Amendment women were allowed to vote
1962   Native Americans are allowed to vote in all states
1963/4 voting rights as civil rights
1971   voting age lowered to 18

November is a special months: starting with Election Day, then Veterans Day where we remember those who fought for our rights to vote, and finally finishing with Thanksgiving Day where we share in gratitude all of our blessings in a great feast.  All of these days remind us of our civic responsibilities and privileges.  I have never regretted that I became an American citizen because to this day I believe in the goodness of this country and the principles it was founded on.  Sometimes we just have to stand back and remind ourselves of our blessings.

We are living at a time of great transformation which some say we left the age of information and are now entering into the transformation age.  What are we transforming?  We are transforming ourselves into responsible human beings who are willing to stand up for their rights and become more pro-active. Everyone has the same rights; only with the power of our own mind can we exercise that freedom.