Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Faith and Hope, and…?

This year in the office we are thinking a bit about what the meaning of Hope is. So here's a bit of a puzzle for you all (with no offense to the dear babies and family)

Last week, conjoined twins were born in London. They were named Faith and Hope. Today, the BBC reports that after the operation to separate them, Hope died.

Now what I'm wondering is what persuaded the twins' parents to call them Faith and Hope? And what determined which twin got which name? Did they have faith in Faith and only hope for Hope?

Did their decision about the names in some way determine the fate of the babies, or vice versa?

It intrigues me that Faith continues to survive while there turned out to be no hope for Hope.

I also wonder what happened to the third baby, Love, who never even existed. Is it because the greatest triplet is missing that the others are failing to thrive?

Monday, December 01, 2008

English: fluent

At work at the moment I am receiving the first few applications for one of the programmes that I will be running next summer. This particular programme is open to participants from all over Europe (and possibly even beyond) but will be run in English, and we are asking participants to apply in English.

One of the applications I received today declared itself to be from an applicant whose English was 'fluent'. Don't get me wrong, it was very good. But fluent it certainly wasn't. In particular because in formal statements of the applicant's experience I frequently found this word: "coz".

I've always wondered how one is supposed, on such applications, to state one's level in a language when the goalposts are not declared. After all, this particular applicant surely does have an English more 'fluent' than most of his(her) counterparts. Someone should invent a solid measurement of language level. And no, I don't mean an exam.

140-character creed

David Ker set up a challenge ten days ago. George followed suit, and Jane tagged me as one of her challenged few. So here we go. The idea is that I should create, in 140 characters (the length of a 'tweet' and worth c. 4€ to a translator) a statement that every Christian could confess, and such that, were someone to confess this sincerely, one would:
  1. Consider them to be a brother or sister in Christ.
  2. Believe that they are true believers and inheritors of eternal life.
I am also required to pass this challenge on to five people. I challenge:
Catherine, Cecily, Louisa, Iain and Daniel

Doubts about this exercise aside, I offer the following:

God is one, Holy, Mighty and Immortal,
who died for us, rose for us, and will return for us.
This is our God, and we are His people.


We are sons and daughters of God,
Inheritors through Christ of the Kingdom of Heaven.
One in the Spirit,
Channels of peace, hope, and love.

Life, death and Christmas cards

Probably, I shouldn't have been quite as enthusiastic about the snow in my last blog post.
Probably, it would have made no difference.

On Monday evening, as I was driving together with my colleague to Lyon on the "Autoroute Blanche" (so aptly named) we encountered some black ice (isn't it already clear that those two things don't mix well?!) and after hitting the motorway barriers three times, managed to emerge from a largely wrecked Peugeot in one piece. For which we were extremely thankful.

It was an adventure the full story of which does not need to be told here. Not least, it brought us to confront many thoughts that we wouldn't usually otherwise have. It brought me to reflect on all the blessings of my life, and on many happinesses that are taken rather for granted. And of course with that it made me think about the risks that we take every day. It's not as if we were recklessly driving at great speed. Nor, I suspect, were the 9 other drivers that day whose car ended up in the same state as ours did, in the same area of rural France. But chance, or whatever you like to call it (providence? God? fate?), decided that that day, we were the ones whose journey would not turn out quite as we had intended it.

It is probably the most strange experience I've had, those split seconds during which you realise that you are about to crash, and have absolutely no idea what is then going to happen, where you will be, how you will be, whether you will be.

Afterwards you have time to think. To think about all the "what if" questions. But in those moments you don't have time to think of all those, or anything except to be scared. Not scared of dying. Only scared of the million possibilities somewhere between status quo and death. Scared of the unknown.

Of course, we can avoid the unknown by avoiding 'all' risks but life is all about risks and reducing them too much just means we miss out on many great experiences. And sometimes, being 'sensible' doesn't stop you from coming into an encounter with all those things you would rather not consider.

Although this wasn't originally going to be a post about death, but rather about being thankful for life, it nevertheless reminded me of this year's CEC Christmas card. It's a controversial design, 1990s artwork, which draws a picture that must be intentionally designed to make disturbing links between life and death, love/happiness and evil/darkness. It portrays the nativity, in black and white. In the foreground, the baby, whose swaddling bands are distinctly skeleton-esque. It is watched over by Mary, hooded and with a blank face, a spectre. Behind, in the shadows of the stable, stands a 'shepherd', typical image of the messenger of death, with a staff. And to indicate that we are in a stable, in the back there is something like a 'fence', which appears as an instrument of eight daggers.

Should I assume that on Monday evening, such a messenger of death decided to play games with me? Might the shepherds be sent on missions by God to remind us of our earthly attachments?

If so, they got me thinking, for sure. But they didn't manage to worry me.