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The Lenten Season

This year I have decided to observe Lent. This is a first for me. My family has no history of acknowledging the Lenten season. Noel Piper's book Treasuring God in Our Traditions gave me the idea of using the weeks before Easter to focus upon God.

Noel says that Lent can provide several weeks of considering God's work in our lives through Jesus. She explains it in this way: "Tradtionally, Lent is a season of sober, realistic reflection on our own lives and our need for a Savior. It is a time for turning away from anything that has kept us from God and for turning or returning to him. It is a time to pray that God will renew our love for him and our dependence on him."

Noel suggests that it can be helpful to have some kind of fast, from a food or an activity. I have decided that during the Lenten and Easter season I will have a break from my blog. I will still be moderating comments, but I will not be making any more posts until after Easter. Noel points out that fasting is "not just turning away from something for a while, but it is also turning toward God." She suggests that the extra time "added" to our lives through fasting can be used for various God-centered activities such as:

  • Considering the depth of our sin and the heights of God's love for us in Christ.
  • Remembering Jesus' wilderness temptation and considering our own temptations
  • Praying for people we find difficult, or for the salvation of a family member

My life at this time is very full. I have many new circumstances to adjust to, some of which are difficult. The Diploma of Education I am completing has a heavy work load. Dave and I are getting used to having a long distance relationship, rather than seeing a lot of one another. I am trying to work out how to glorify God in the midst of this. For that purpose I need time with God to praise him, concentrate on his character and works, repent of sin and seek transformation.

I also need God's help to sort out my priorities in relation to family, church, domestic concerns, study and prayer. At this time, I am sure that blogging is not at the top of the list of God's priorities for me. I hope that I will come back to blogging refreshed and able to have a clearer focus in relation to what God wants me to achieve through my blog. May God bless you with a deeper understanding of his character this Easter.


Poverty, Crime and Security

One of the many things I appreciated about visiting South Africa was being able to see poverty. This is a strange thing to appreciate. However, since I come from a country where affluence is almost completely pervasive I have little appreciation for the way most of the world lives. In Australia, even the poor are generally rich by world standards. I want to grow in my understanding of the world as a whole, and my commitment to living as a Christian in it. Part of that is understanding poverty better.

Much of what I saw of the lives of poor people in South Africa, I saw while we were driving. For example, I took this picture in Zululand.

This picture shows the small rectangular houses many people live in, as well as the more traditional round huts. As people become more prosperous, the sometimes build houses next to their huts, as the following picture shows.

I was able to see the vast differences in housing between rich and poor even as I arrived in the plane. From the plane, we could see some suburbs with very tiny houses and others with houses that resemble those most people in Australia have.

Beggars and "car guards" were the the other ways I was exposed to poverty while I was in South Africa. I had never seen so many people begging before, many of them with children. If I had not been travelling with a native South African, I am sure I would have given away more money! However, Dave believes that it is best to give to organisations that help the poor as it is very difficult to know the true situation of someone who is begging.

"Car guards" are a phenomenon I had never heard of before. They are men who stand on the street wearing flourescent vests and "help" you park your car. They also "help" you by watching your car to protect it from being stolen. For this service, they come to your window asking for money. People also approach your car window when you stop at traffic lights, trying to sell you everything from fruit to sunglasses.

South Africa has a major crime problem. As a result, those with more money have invested heavily in security. Everywhere you go you see tall fences topped with barbed wire, and every house seems to have a big sign on the fence displaying the name of the security company that protects the property. Whole suburbs are walled off, and they have a guard at the gate who checks as you drive through. In some cases, you have to give details such as your name and number plate.

Since I was mainly in contact with white people who were relatively rich, I heard many stories about their experiences with crime. It seems that having the security of money can make you more insecure and less at peace, because you are more of a target of crime. Perhaps those who have less money actually have more security. However, it is not just white people or wealthy people who are victims of crime. One story in the newspaper while I was there reported on the rape and murder of a little girl. The weeping family pictured were black, and she was their only child.

I am grateful to have been able to visit a country like South Africa, and have more appreciation for the safety, wealth and security of my own country. However, I do not think that exposure to poverty necessarily imparts a greater sensitivity to it or a stronger gratitude for wealth. God is the only one who can impart true care for the poor, and who can lead us to the correct solutions to poverty. God's word helps us to put poverty into perspective. While many of the people living in the small houses I saw are much poorer than I am, by basic standards they have enough food and clothing and they have shelter. The Bible tells us that we are to be content with this much. We should want everyone to have these basics, and we do need to work toward that and toward helping people to be able to have more than the basics.

Dave and I had many discussions about poverty while we were away. One thing we talked about was the fact that even in the face of poverty, it is not wrong for some people to have more than others. We don't want everyone to go and live in tiny houses. We want more people to be able to live in houses like those we enjoy. It is not wrong for people to enjoy what they have worked to achieve. At the same time, there are levels of wealth and waste that seem ridiculous. While it is not wrong to enjoy God's gifts, and to try to help the poor to have the capacity to enjoy them too, it is wrong to live indulgently. Discerning the difference between enjoying what God has given and living a self centered and wasteful life is difficult at times. Again, only God who can show us how to live in a way that pleases him.


Susan marvels at God's abundance

I enjoyed Susan's recent post Abundance. It is an excellent reminder of God's abundance toward us, and it is very sweet in relation to Susan's romance as well :). Susan is so absorbed these days, she is taking a break from blogger. What a wise woman. One day I might follow her lead!


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