Living Social Justice

A blog about responding to poverty and injustice, everyday and in all sorts of ways

Archive for the tag “reflection”

A Hope That Never Runs Dry

How do we still hope when all earthly reason for hope is gone? Beverly Draper reflects on why self-reliance and positive-thinking can only take you so far.

There have been many occasions when I have been confronted with situations where people have lost hope. As a medical doctor, most often it has been in the context of an incurable disease and certain death. Paul was in his thirties when he was referred to the oncology clinic at Groote Schuur Hospital where I was working. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer but the doctors told him that he should not worry; the specialists would be able to treat it. He arrived in a very positive frame of mind and after the first round of chemotherapy, he did really well and resumed work. But a few weeks later, he started to get sick again and at his follow up visit it was obvious on his X-Ray that the tumour in his lung was growing and was now larger than ever and was spreading to other parts of his body.He was devastated because he believed that he had come to oncology for a cure.

One afternoon, he called me and asked me to come to his home in Pinelands. I arrived to find a man broken and confused. He asked me to level with him, knowing that I was a Christ-follower and that I would speak the truth. I told him that short of a miracle, he was certainly going to die in the not too distant future. I watched as Paul slowly moved his focus of hope from a medical cure and restoration of his physical health to hope of eternal life in Christ. He was able to find peace and place himself and his family in God’s hands, no matter whether he lived or died.

People who are self-reliant believe that their own talent, intellect, resources and connections provide hope for a future that holds the same or even better friends and family, education and the security of material possessions. In other words, they place their hope in things that make them ‘happy’. It is a hope that is earned rather than given. Many believe that a code of morality will bring security, or having a positive attitude will bring good things. Hope is placed in doctors, teachers, housing officials, employers or even government authorities to improve circumstances. Often this may happen – people get cured, promoted, receive bursaries or get paid out what is due to them. But where does one go when all hope is gone?

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Grappling with Gratitude

By Lindsay Carlin

Take a moment and think of all the blessings you’ve received over the entire course of your life. Yes, your entire life. Go back, far back. You could even start with that award you received in primary school and move on from there. Perhaps to this blessings list you add the fact that you have a roof over your head to protect you from the winter rains, or food on the table every night. Maybe you have clothing to choose from in the morning, or a car that will get you to work on time. You may actually have a job to go to every day. If you’re blessed enough to have friends or family to share your life with, don’t forget to add them. I bet the list in your head is getting pretty long, because the simple truth is that most of us have many reasons to be grateful. Why then is being grateful just so hard at times?

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Relinquishing power

By Deborah Hancox

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­A while ago, I heard about a well-meaning group from another land who visited a rural community in South Africa. They saw that the women were taking their laundry down to the river and would sit there for considerable lengths of time doing their washing. The visiting group quickly hatched and executed a plan to erect a water tower, and lay water pipes to the village houses to enable the women to do their washing in their own homes.

A while later, members of the group returned to find the water tower and associated piping in disrepair and the women once again doing their washing at the river. Surprised and somewhat annoyed, they asked a local woman what had happened. “Well, it’s like this…” she said. “We started using the piped water to do our washing in our own homes, but the women became lonely and frustrated. You see, when we go to the river together, and while doing our washing, we talk about our problems, our families, anything we are struggling with. So we decided to continue the practice of doing our washing together as this is a time when we listen to each other, and offer support.”

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Into the Stable this Christmas

Deborah Hancox reflects on what we can learn from the wise men’s Christmas journey. 

One of the iconic images of Christmas is that of the three wise men, or the three kings as they are sometimes known. They are only mentioned once in the bible, in Matthew 2:1-12. But they have captured the imagination of Christendom, and a mythology has built up around them. It is assumed that there were three, as they gave three types of gifts – gold, frankincense and myrrh. Different traditions have given them different names. Ours usually calls them Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar. Matthew tells us they were from the East. Tradition says they were from Arabia, Persia and India. One of them is always depicted as a Black man.

The wise men were doubtlessly wealthy and from the elite in their respective countries. Who else would have had the luxury to study the stars, discern what they meant and then spend time and money following one of them on a quest to find a new-born king. That is probably why, on arrival in Bethlehem, they had the confidence to visit the local king, Herod, and consult him about where the new king might be.

As they continued following the star, they arrived at a stable where they found a young couple (probably still teenagers) with their new born baby. Realizing that in this place, normally reserved for animals, they had found the king they were seeking, they knelt down and worshiped the baby Jesus. Maybe they also spent time talking to this young couple, from a different culture and class to their own. Listening to their story. Perhaps some anxious words from Joseph about … what now? Maybe Mary opening up about the real identity of her baby. No doubt the wise men were moved by the difficult circumstances of the young parents, the vulnerability of the little baby, and felt that they were in that place at that moment to respond in whatever way they could. So they gave Mary and Joseph valuable gifts that would have provided what they needed to escape the massacre on young boys that Herod would soon release.

I have never really identified with the three wise men, but as I think about them now, as I allow the familiar story of that first Christmas to play out again in my mind, I am challenged that perhaps I am more like them than I think. In a country where approximately 57% of the people live below the poverty line* (and many more struggle just above it), the fact that I have a car, a spacious house, a couple of university degrees, enjoy travelling overseas from time to time, puts me up there with the rich in our country. The question is, as I go about my daily life – seeking a good, long life of purpose and meaning, am I open to being led into unusual places, ‘stables with babies’? Do I stop and listen to those who are different to me, and hear the God stories unfolding in their lives? Do I see Jesus Christ present amongst the vulnerable people of our city and country? Do I to bow down before him and let my resources – time, treasures and talents – be used for God’s Kingdom purposes as he defends and helps the orphan, the widow, the exile and the poor? I feel freshly challenged.

So this Christmas, as we are reminded of the wise men –a picture on a Christmas card, in a nativity play, whilst singing a familiar Christmas carol – let us, like them, be filled with awe before Jesus Christ, our Saviour. And let us give all that we are and all that we have to him for his Kingdom purposes in 2012.

*Statistic taken from the Southern African Regional Poverty Network website (www.sarpn.org)

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