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Fridays with Phil

Life, family and unshakeable faith

Five qualities I can’t live without

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Another day in the office. Some of the great people helping me fight MND.

A while back, one Boxing Day, my son-in-law and I bought remote control helicopters. Well, mine has not been working for a while, and I find out, neither has his. Mine spins and flashes but doesn’t take off the ground. It doesn’t fly, which is what I bought it to do.

My son-in-law suggested recently that we should take parts from his and make at least one that works.

Because they are the same make and brand, this is a possible solution.

It made me think that much of our lives can be spent spinning and flashing, like my broken remote-control helicopter, but not really getting anywhere, not taking off, not flying.

Maybe the answer is getting the missing parts of our lives from others with a similar culture or DNA. Maybe the broken or missing parts we need can be found in others, in partnership and togetherness.

Maybe we were never meant to fly without the assistance and help of others.

When I was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and given only a short time to live, I knew if I was going to give this my best shot, then I would need to get some people on my team that thought and fought like me, so I could “fly”, if you like.

What will get you through the challenges of life and make you stronger, are people who share the same values and the same perception of your world. They don’t have to be the same as you, but would be willing to bring their unique parts to the table.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the multidisciplinary team of friends, family and professionals who have become a lifeline.

If you are going to be the best “you” that you can be, to achieve all that you have in your heart to achieve, then believe me, you will need others.

So what exactly do you look for in others? There are five great qualities that come to mind.

First: someone with answers.

A million people will find fault, find the one who finds answers. When I was choosing an Occupational Therapist (OT), I was looking for someone who had vision, foresight, a sense of mission and a positive outlook on life.  I chose someone who could see the challenge but was creative enough to come to me with answers.

Second: someone who is fruitful.

I want my team to show fruitfulness in what they do; they have results from past endeavours. I have a physio who is very new to the field but in the short time she has been a physio she has shown great dedication and already has great references.

There is a passage in the Bible when Jesus walked up to a fruit tree and cursed it because it didn’t have fruit.  The funny thing was, it wasn’t the time of year for fruit. So why was Jesus so hard on the tree? Perhaps because He knew this tree would not bear fruit.

Third: someone willing to be in alignment.

To get people moving in the same direction and in the same way may mean firstly identifying misalignments and then creating realignment.  When the tires on your car are aligned regularly, they last longer and give a safer and more comfortable ride.

When it comes to the people on my team to fight MND, I have to first address the misalignment that “I’m just going to surrender and wave the white flag.”  NO WHITE FLAGS on my team thank you very much.

We will acknowledge the reality but we will not give into it as having the final say.  When it comes to new assistive technology, it’s about bringing me more freedom, not less. I’m not afraid to adopt early suggestions from OTs, but the reason must be for longevity and freedom to live. The motivation for incorporating this technology is not because of a disability but because it will give me greater ability.  It’s only a small alignment in thinking. And it makes a big difference to me.

Fourth: someone who makes me feel good.

I’m not afraid to say that I want people in my life who make me feel good.  They are good for my mind and emotions.  When I have an appointment with my neurologist, naturopath, counsellor or doctor, I want to like them and their attitude.

God calls us to a life of loving those who don’t show that same love back, but that doesn’t mean we have to rely on them to help us fly, so to speak.

In hard times, you will need people you like. You may not want to necessarily holiday with them but you can honestly say that they are a nice person.

If you are thinking, “well I don’t know any nice people,” then maybe you need to start being nice. Nice attracts nice.

Fifth: someone of faith and courage

I want people on my team who can see beyond today’s limitations, someone who is not satisfied with the status quo, someone who finds better ways of doing things.

I want my team to be courageous enough to tell me when it’s not safe for me to drive, but at the same time, keep me driving for as long as I can.

People who encourage are people who put courage in.  It’s not just by their words, but by a sense of their being.  Sometimes, it is just knowing that they are with you. The net is made stronger and bigger by them being there.

There you have it:  five things I look for in people I do life with.  Who knows, it may just be part of the puzzle that keeps me going to fight MND.

Phil

It’s all good

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Single, Married, Sick, Healthy, Rich, Poor? Discover how to live with happiness.

Last week I was telling my psychologist how frustrating the changes in my body are. The simple things, like I have to wait for one of my sons to come over to carry salt to the swimming pool.

She said, “change will happen, sometimes we must learn to live with change being the new normal”.

What is the secret to a happy and content life?  I think it is learning to be content in whatever situation you find yourself in: single, married, sick, healthy, rich, or poor.  It’s a contentment that comes from within.

Philippians 4:12 says “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.”

Contentment is not conning yourself, psyching yourself up, or pretending you like what you really don’t like. That isn’t contentment — that’s fake.

Contentment is taking stock of your attitude and deciding that with Christ’s presence in you, you can cope! You can handle it! You are sufficient for the problem!

Contentment is not apathy, laziness, or complacency.  If you can change a situation, you don’t need to be content and lay in it — maybe you need to get up and do something about it.

Where you really need to master the art of a learned contentment is in the situations that you can’t control: those things that are beyond you.

I had a friend Bruce who was battling cancer and every single time I caught up with him, on his best days and on his worst, the contentment he felt was tangible.  Each time I asked him “how are you in here mate?” pointing to my head, or “how are you in here mate?” pointing to my heart, he would answer “it’s all good!”

My friend Bruce didn’t say that as a throw away line, he kept his peace in the midst of the storm.   His faith was unwavering and anchored his soul.

So how do you do that?  I have learned a couple of ways:

One is to avoid comparison.

There will always be people that make more money than you, who have greater opportunities than you have, or who have fewer problems. So what? That does not need to have any bearing on your own personal contentment.

Howard Hughes, a business magnate and Hollywood socialite, was once asked, “How much money does it take to make a man happy?” He said, “Just a little more.”

In stark contrast, the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:18, “We don’t look around at what we see right now, the troubles all around us. But we look forward to the joys in heaven.”

You don’t need to have what others have, be liked by everyone or have more than what you have now to be content.

I can’t afford to spend time comparing myself to other people or in the futile pursuit of more.   I keep my eyes on a far greater hope and purpose.

Another is to adjust to change.

Life is full of ups and downs — emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially. One thing is certain in life: change.

Change is going to happen whether you like it or not and we must be flexible because circumstances usually aren’t.

How well do you handle change?  Do you get frightened? Moody? Angry? Uptight?

Your happiness in life will be largely dependant upon your ability to adapt, adjust, and be flexible.

What is the secret of a content and happy life? Learn to relax, trust God, avoid comparing yourself and adjust to change.

Phil

(Originally published as The Secret to Happiness)

 

 

Will I Regret This?

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Regret. Just the word can make us feel squeamish.

I don’t want to have regrets, but I do.

I wish I didn’t have any, but the reason regrets are regrets is because there is nothing we can do to change them.

Or is there?

What if we could act retrospectively, after the regrettable, to diminish regret’s power and change our future for the better?  And what if we could take away regret’s potential before the regrettable even happens?

Finish this sentence, “I regret ____________________________.”

I know it’s uncomfortable. Maybe some have stopped reading.

Since you kept reading, I want to show you how regret doesn’t need to stay negative.

Perhaps it’s since being diagnosed with a terminal illness that I have become more aware of my regrets.  Everyone tells you, “don’t have any regrets” – the pressure is keen to be able to say you have none.  It makes us sound more courageous and confident, secure in every decision we have ever made.

But is it attainable?

I am beginning to realise that if I never had a regret: I never would have changed, I never would have grown, and I never would have admitted fault.

In fact, I think there are only two ways to live without regrets, and they are: 1) ignorant to our regrets, or 2) aware of our regrets.  One is pride, the other, humility.

Pride will not allow you to admit failure. Whereas, regret is a powerful change agent.

Regret can redirect our lives in the right direction.

If you live without having any regrets, then you have missed the opportunity to courageously learn and change for the better.

I remember when I was a young boy, I stole a lead pencil from the local Woolworths store.  I needed a 2HB pencil and for some reason, I thought the only way to have it was to steal it.  When I went home that night with my prize, I could hardly sleep.  I was so ashamed that I had stolen the pencil.

I regretted it.

Regret for what I had done made me sneak the pencil back into the store the next morning.  Even now, I can clearly see myself returning the pencil to its shelf.

I knew I wasn’t a thief by nature, but I had stolen.

My regret caused me to make a change.

Shame would have kept calling me a thief.  But acknowledging regret caused me to respond and that decision may have even changed the direction of my life.

Remember, shame will try to define you, but acknowledging your mistakes can REdefine you.

Regret motivates us towards change.  And, importantly, it doesn’t always have to be our personal regret to motivate change in us.

I have learned so much from other people who have admitted their regrets.

I remember talking to a man with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) who had lost the ability to eat and swallow.  He told me about how he had refused to have a PEG put in his stomach (a PEG is a tube passed into a persons stomach to provide a means of feeding when oral intake is not adequate).  Later, he came to a place when he wanted to get one but it was too late.  He had missed his window of opportunity and the anaesthetist would no longer allow the operation.  He told me he regretted not getting it when he was well enough.  Maybe it could have helped him lived longer.  I have learned from his regret and if the time ever comes for me to get a PEG, I will.

His regret will change my tomorrow.

Another friend was sharing at a leadership conference about how he regretted the way he treated staff as a young boss and how he used that regret to change his style of leadership and therefore the type of leader he wanted to became.  His vulnerability made me a better leader.

It teaches me that being vulnerable about our regrets can bring change in others so they don’t have the same regret.

Whose tomorrow could you change by your regret?

I believe there is no regret that can’t be turned into a life changing experience.

There is no regret, too small or too large, that can’t be turned around.

Speaking of the small, I remember getting a credit card interest charge of over $100.  I regretted missing the payment due date and not paying it in full.  Since then, I have never paid interest on my credit card. I pay on time and don’t allow the card to go above what I can afford to pay off at the end of the month.  Regret changed the way I did my banking and made me get knowledge about how the interest is calculated on credit cards.

I can say, I have no regret about being charged that interest as it has saved me being charged again.

If you learn from your regrets, then they are truly no longer regrets.  You take away their power.

What regrets can you learn from, and in doing so disempower, today?  

Let me encourage you that the more you learn from your regrets, the less regrets you’ll have.

So here’s to no regrets,

Phil

Permission to be your best

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I had it all wrong.

I never understood what it meant to be my best. Not just that, I couldn’t see courage, even when it was staring back at me.

This is a candid tale of sorts about how I found the roadmap to my best self, on the rocky pathway of courage.

Let me begin by saying that I look at people who do brave things, like firemen, emergency services, or our armed forces and I think, “that’s courage!” We don’t call these people courageous because of the outcome of their attempts. We call them courageous because they were willing to give of their best.  They put themselves on the line to save the lives of others.

Just the other week, we saw two young boys try to stop a man hell-bent on hurting innocent people. We called those boys courageous, not because they succeeded in stopping the man from killing four people, but because they did their best. They may have felt disappointment and failure, but we saw courage.

Funnily enough, courage is something we tend to see in others but rarely do we see it in ourselves.

We can dismiss it as unattainable because we may go through our whole life and we are never required to act courageously in such a public way.

This is where I had it all wrong. Courage is not only attainable for me and you, it’s also necessary to be the best we can be.

Let me explain what I mean. Because of the effect of Motor Neurone Disease (MND) / ALS on my body, I experience weakening of my muscles and muscle wastage, effecting my ability to speak, walk and eat as well as I once did. I am progressing slowly which I am very thankful for, but I still experience these effects.

This made me think that I was not courageous because I was not being the best version of myself that I had been. I was not as strong, or fit, or capable. I was not being enough or doing enough.

I thought I was only being courageous if I showed up when people wanted me to and I was positive all the time and completely doubt free.  I was courageous if I could perform how I thought a courageous person would perform.

And yet, here lays the dilemma:

When I see you doing the best you can, I see courage. But when I looked at myself, I couldn’t see it.

The raw truth is this:

I saw what you call courage in me as weakness.

I turn up with my failing body and you see courage, when all I see is weakness.

I speak of my fears and hopes and you see courage, where I feel humiliation.

I struggle with my faith and you see courage, but I am disappointed.

Then I began to realise that that is exactly what courage is.

When you are weak, when you are disappointed, when you are knocked down, but still, you turn up, you be your best self, you don’t allow those moments to destroy your ability to wrestle with your doubt, your pain, your vulnerability, your humiliation and unbelief – THAT IS COURAGE!

Friend, if you never have times of doubt, vulnerability, pain or weakness then you will never require courage to turn up anyway.

This doesn’t mean we won’t be a better version of ourselves tomorrow, but the beginning of being a better you, is accepting that who you are today is enough.

You cannot rise to a better you if you are always starting from a place of self hate and insecurity.

That means, I need to give myself the grace, compassion and kindness to accept that I’m doing my best today.  Will I fail, fall and disappoint? Yes!  But I was giving my best and so I get up and move forward, and have another go.

Recently, I was visiting with a young mum who has MND / ALS.  She has just received her wheelchair as her legs are failing her.  She told me about how she had caught a public bus in her wheelchair with kids in tow for the first time.  Let me say that again: a public bus, in a wheelchair, with kids in tow.

Look no further. This is courage. In her weakness, she is turning up and doing life the best she can.

So, what is courage?

You are courage, and I am courage.

Courage is knowing that life can deliver pain and even tremendous disappointment, and then turn up anyway.

Courage is moving forward through our weakness when we want to stay put or turn back the other way.

Courage is facing the reality of our limitations as part of the process of growth and life.

Courage is living a purposeful life, knowing that there is every possibility you may win or you may fail and fall.

Courage is knowing that you can accept either outcome when you have BEEN your best and will continue BECOMING your best.

There is a saying: “God is not finished with me yet.”  Well, it’s true, God is one hundred per cent not finished with you yet.

Take a deep breathe, and know you have permission to be your best.

And your best is enough.

With courage,

Phil

Why you need more hope

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There is no doubt that we all need hope to face the future. As we enter a new year, how can we live with hope for a better 2017, especially when we’ve been knocked down and need the strength to get back up again.

I want to share with you how I live with real hope while fighting this terminal illness called MND/ALS. It’s a question I am asked often. It’s how I explain the dynamic of my body getting weaker, but my spirit gaining strength.

One thing I know is hope is similar to love. We can sing about it and write about it, but to describe its essence is difficult at times.  We cannot put it in a jar to measure it or look at it.  The best we can do is reveal its impact on our external circumstances and expose its effect as it changes us on the inside.

Last year, I was able to speak 31 times, officiate two funerals, and raise thousands of dollars for critical research funds and to support those who suffer. I couldn’t do that without hope.

We can put our hope in so many areas: medicine, science, knowledge, people, time and the supernatural. Let me warn you sometimes our hope can be misplaced as well, like when we hope in things or people that are not tested or not trustworthy.  For example, if you are living in an abusive relationship, hoping that one day the person will change and yet time and time again they come back abusive and violent, then your hope is misplaced and even dangerous.   False hope can be fatal hope.

Hoping a bank will give you money to buy a home when you have zero deposit and no work is false hope. But getting up and going to yet another job interview is a hope that can be the first step towards having that home.

Hope does not discount reality, but faces it with courage to bring about change. I believe hope is powerful and necessary to live a full life to the best of our ability and even more than our ability. Hope picks us up and carries us through the most difficult of days.

Hope never surrenders to circumstances, but rises above them.  This can be very painful because, at times, it pushes us to our limits and into some uncomfortable places.  Even if that means leaning into the pain of what is and finding a way through. Hope, more often that not, does not carry us away from our pain, but through it.

Hope is having a positive expectation for a better future while at the same time having a real contentment with today. Hope forgets what was, acknowledges what is, all the while embracing what is next. It’s believing that things will get better, and a peace while you wait.

This is a big one because having contentment may look like surrender, but it’s far from giving up. It is a result of hope that is both present and future focused.

I would suggest if your hope does not produce a true sense of peace and comfort, then it is probably misplaced.

Hope also demands a response.  At times, it is an internal response that produces a quietness of spirit as we meditate on hope’s presence in our lives. For example, when my hope is of a spiritual nature, my response is trust.  It’s knowing that God has me, He has got this.

At other times, it’s an external response that brings about an action that moves us forward.

Therefore, when my hope is in science, then the demand is that I do something.  I take the medicine and actively look for whatever may help.  For me, it means taking approximately 40 supplements a day, importing drugs from France, subjecting my body to scientist’s research.

I also have hope in assistive technology that can help me live with as much independence as possible. I know these things may not cure me, but I’m hoping they help and slow down what can be a very fast moving disease.

When I was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, I was told there was no cure, but hope says there is a cure, we just haven’t discovered it yet.  Hope says, I will search the world and find something that may help. It’s an attitude of never giving up because who knows what opportunity may present itself tomorrow. It means doing all you can.

Did you know that Japan has already released a fully tested advanced drug to slow down the progression of MND/ALS.  It’s too expensive for most of us, but it is available.

My point is, hope keeps on looking, knocking and seeking.

Hope says, I will raise awareness and funds to help scientists discover new ways. This may mean that our hope is not just about ourselves, but about those who will come after us.

Our hope is wrapped up in a sense of legacy, making the world a better place for those who one day face what we face. 

What if the world was a place, where, when someone is told they have MND/ALS, the very next thing they’re told is that we have a cure for you.

Hope is a sacrifice at times.  It can look like people laying down their own agendas, comfort and freedoms for the benefit of others. Soldiers do it all the time. Or, think of all those who have died of cancer. In a very real way, their death has driven us to find a treatment and today, other people live because they died.

Hope never gives up. I have learned that focusing my hope in different areas does not mean a weakening of hope. I want to be spiritually, physically, emotionally and mindfully strong in this battle.  Hope, therefore, can be multi-focused without becoming diluted.

It’s like looking through a kaleidoscope, it is made up of individual colours coming together and producing a beautiful pattern with balance and poise.

I guess it’s similar to loving your first child and then when the second comes, you wonder how you can love two as much as you have loved the one.  You soon find that love is not divided up, it multiplies.  It’s the same with hope. Hope is not divided up, it multiplies.

I mentioned that hope can have a supernatural focus.  If you have every prayed, you have hoped in the supernatural. For me, that’s a hope that transcends this world and its limitations. I pray daily for the help of Jesus, literally, as simple as three words: “Jesus, help me.”

I choose Jesus to be the focus for my hope.  He is, if you like, the anchor of my hope.  When all other hope falls short or disappoints due to its limitations, I have a hope in Jesus to rise above all other hope.

Our world is fallible and imperfect. Drugs don’t always work, people don’t always turn up, weakness is real. But, my hope in Jesus is grounded on the belief that the same power that raised Him from death, is available to me. That God, by His grace can move at anytime and heal us of our sickness. Hope that means death has lost its power over me, my hope rests is heaven and eternity.

I will tell anyone who will listen about the hope Jesus brings, whether it be my psychologist, my neighbours and friends. I explain that the more I have relationship with Jesus, the more hope I have in my heart.  That my hope ultimately is that I would become more like Him and even one day be with Him.

Yes, put your hope in medicine and people but also find a hope that transcends all of these.  It’s a personal hope, it’s an intimate hope, it’s a hope that has real substance produced by faith, it’s a hope that prays “Jesus, help me.”  Why not give it a try?

Phil

 

That Christmas Feeling

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There’s no time like Christmas. 

For me, just the word “Christmas” conjures up feelings of happiness and family and presents and roast potatoes.

You may have heard it said recently, “Christmas is upon us”.   That is true.  But what if Christmas didn’t have to be something that came and went? Here today and gone tomorrow. What if Christmas could be, and was even meant to be, within us?

I believe that the message of Christmas is about what we get to experience in whatever current season or situation we find ourselves in – success, heartbreak, loss or victory.  

Christmas is a season we don’t have to wave goodbye.

The crux of Christmas isn’t the presents we do or don’t receive.  The crux of Christmas is that God gifted us with His presence.  

If we want it, that Christmas feeling, can extend beyond December and throughout the year. 

What does that look like?

The Bible says in Matthew 1:23, Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.

God with us!

Jesus came to earth so that He could make a personal relationship with God accessible to us.  In essence, so that we could know God with us, in our good times and bad.

For some of my readers, this sounds like a nice idea, but I realise that it can be difficult to understand if you are yet to experience it for yourself. 

For those who choose to believe the truth of who Jesus was and what that means for you, our belief moves the Christmas story from fable to fact, from the fictional shelf of our heart to the non-fiction shelf.

Our belief changes the way we see, changes who we are and even what we do.

While Jesus’ presence didn’t change God’s love towards us, it did change how we get to experience God’s love. 

What does that mean?

It means that we can experience God’s permanent presence in our lives.   

God doesn’t come into your life, only to leave you.  His presence is ever-there.  It is unchanging, uncapped, and undeniable.  It is meant to encourage you, to help you, to guide you, to prompt you, and to enable you.

God is still with you friend, He has not left you alone to fend for yourself.  He goes before you, He is behind you, He is in your future.  He is present.

You are never alone, you are never on your own. 

It is a gift, generous and undeserved, available to each of us.

What difference does it make?

The difference between the presents you may receive this Christmas, earthy and fleeting, and the gift of God’s presence, eternal and tangible, is astounding.

Our presents won’t last, but His presence is permanent.

Our presents won’t change the people we are, but His presence cannot help but change us for the better.

Our presents give us a temporary happiness, but His presence offers lasting joy.

God’s presence meets a deep need and longing within every person.  

God loves you friend, and He promises you peace because of that deep love for you.  

Know today that God’s presence comes with the promise of peace.

Have you ever prayed for things?   I have, and I still do, occasionally. But I will tell you what I want more than things.

I want peace.

I pray for God’s peace in my life, that I might experience it, and that I might become a man of peace. And I pray it for our world.

Nothing, literally no “thing”, can take the place of peace.

We need peace in our lives, and God is willing to give it to us, if we will only ask for it.

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” (John 14:27) 

An angelic choir sung at the very first Christmas, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14)

What is my first step? 

If you like the sound of a God of peace and love, a God who can be permanently present in your life, the first thing you can do is recognise your need for God and ask Him to come into your life, forgive you of your sins and fill you with His presence. 

That’s what I did and it changed my life.

I’ve learned that when I’m walking in God’s peace, being “right” just isn’t as important, arguing isn’t worth it, and loving is far easier. 

God wants to take you out of your stress, and out of your anxiety, and give you peace.

Simply put, He wants a relationship with you.  He doesn’t want to be remote and distant, he wants to be right with you, right now, every day of your life. 

That Christmas feeling is yours for the keeps, 

It is the very good news,

Phil

Give me life

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Sharing with Pastors & Leaders at our recent State ACC Conference

None of us always feel like doing the right thing all of the time, like giving of ourselves and like living for others instead of ourselves.  But, I wonder if it is the very key to experiencing the unforced rhythms of grace in our lives.

I wonder if as we nurture those who we encounter on life’s journey, we live with a greater sense of wellbeing.

Just from my own observation, the most giving people I know are also the happiest people I know.

It’s true that to live, we need to exhale, so that we can then inhale. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.

In the same way, we need to give, to receive. Give, receive, give, receive.

Not only is this a principle to live by, but it is a principle for life flow. It is oxygen.

In pouring out ourselves, we are not depleted, we are filled.  In fact, my motive for giving is partly the purpose it creates within me, the energy and life it brings.  I have found that a peaceful “inner” world (my mind, will and emotions) is greatly impacted by how I reach out into the “outer” world around me.

Living with Motor Neurone Disease (MND), Lenore and I have become actively involved in the MND community. We endeavour to offer words of comfort and care to those suffering and their loved ones and carers. It has forced me to face my own feelings in order to bring life to others. And I wonder if, in turn, it has given me back life.

By helping others through their suffering and giving of ourselves, we receive the ability, that is beyond ourselves, to stand in the face of trial.

 When we give to others, we are saying, “I have abundance, I have resource that is not based on scarcity.” For me, that abundance is the overflow of God’s love and care for me.

When we do not reach out and care, we start to believe we are bankrupt, we are saying “I give nothing because I have nothing.”  The truth is, we have nothing of real value or substance because we choose not to give.

Take gravity for instance. Even though it pushes against us, it is the very force that enables us to stand upright and walk on earth.            

When, in the face of the very thing that is pressing against us, we decide to reach out to others, our pain becomes the vehicle for God’s grace to reveal itself in and through us.

Today, I believe that your suffering and brokenness is an opportunity for God to reveal Himself.  In the middle of your pain, you can find joy because of how it touches the hearts and lives of others. But only if we choose to give.

When people tell me that my words and story are encouraging them in their lives, all I can say is “thank you.”  You see, it does as much for me as it does for them to know that my pain is not in vain, not fruitless or pointless, but has been used to somehow help others.

Einstein said it this way, “only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”  Jesus said, “it is more blessed to give than to receive”.

God established how much life is worth by giving His all. When the disease of mankind, sin, separated man from God and asked God how much are we, humanity, worth to Him? His answer was “all of Me”!

Galatians 2:20 says that the life I live now is a life of faith established on the reality that Jesus gave Himself for me and He did it because of His love for me.

In the same way, when we love people, when we give ourselves to them, we establish their value to us.  We affirm that they are significant and we are prepared to do whatever it takes for their benefit.

Every day we have the opportunity to be generous with our time, our energy  and our resources.

Not only are you doing a good thing when you give of your life for others, but I believe it’s in giving that you experience a personal sense of wellbeing.  I also believe you will have a sense that your life is more meaningful as it is attached to greater purpose.

A survey of 2000 people from different socioeconomic backgrounds found that those who volunteered at least 5.8 hours a month and those who gave at least 10% of their income had higher levels of happiness, less depression and had generally better health (Smith and Davidson).

An exchange of generosity and love will in itself have a benefit to both the giver and the receiver. 

Next time you give your time, energy or money for the benefit of others, know that in your own way you are laying down your life – and there really is no greater love.

Giving is oxygen. Remember to exhale.

Phil

Yes, No, Maybe.

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Who is on your team?  In business, in friendship, in marriage, in family, in sport, in life?

My “life team” is literally made up of people helping me live the best life possible.  It consists of people who are skilled in their area or profession, like neurologists and doctors, psychologists and pastors, friends and family.  And I like to think, I sit on the “life team” of a few people myself too, helping them reach their full potential.

The thing about team, mine or yours, is that it isn’t accidental.  It is intentional.  It requires an answer. Are you on board – “yes” or “no”?

Often, I will receive a text message a day or two before my next specialist’s appointment asking me to respond with a “yes” or a “no” as to whether I will be attending.

Interestingly enough, they don’t give me the option of sending “maybe” as an answer.

In the “yes” or “no” equation of life, “maybe” can be the most damaging of answers we can give.

“Maybe” frustrates, it wastes time, it procrastinates, and it is an indicator of double-mindedness.

Do you think this is a good idea? Maybe. Are you able to make that appointment? Maybe.  Would you like to come for dinner? Maybe. Should we buy the house? Maybe.

When my wife asks me if I want steak for dinner, she wants me to choose.  If I shrug and tell her “whatever,” I may think I am letting her choose, but I am really frustrating her.  The reason she asked me is because she wants my answer.  If I choose not to answer, I am not caring about something she cares about.  (By the way, she will be shouting a loud “hallelujah” to this revelation).

You will notice a person who is able to give a “yes” or “no” answer is someone who knows what they want, someone who knows what direction they need to take, and what their values and priorities are.

Imagine when driving, asking the passenger if the blind spot to you is clear, but instead of a “yes” or “no”, they answer “maybe.”  You would hesitate, or you would possibly proceed unsafely.

“Maybe” delays the decision-making process and uses up precious time, when a simple answer would suffice.

I have often found myself challenged by the verse in Matthew 5:37 that says, “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’”

So how do we become “yes” and “no” people?

They are two words we would all benefit from learning how to use effectively in our lives.

Like I’m sure you do, I like hearing the word “yes,” but I have also learnt how to become unfazed hearing a “no.”  (And when spending time with our almost-two-year-old grandson, let’s just say, hearing “no” is not uncommon!  It amazes me how quickly they learn that word).

The upside of “no” is that I know where I stand and can respond appropriately.  A “no” spoken with love and grace can be even better than a well-intended “maybe” or an empty “yes.”

I have learned that behind every “yes” is a “no” and behind every “no” is a “yes.”

Over the years, I have discovered that when a person said “no” to me, it opened up a door to someone or something else: it became another’s “yes.”  When we hear “no,” it can motivate us to find other ways and other people who are willing to say “yes.”

Security in my own soul realises that when someone says “no” to me, they are more likely saying “yes” to someone else or visa versa.

Sometimes I am asked to speak and I don’t always say “yes.”  In fact, my “no” has grown and grown as I have had to to say “yes” to energy and health and life.

I’m very aware, that my “no” holds consequences, but it doesn’t make me a lesser person. It just means that it results in a different outcome.

One of the best illustrations I can think of is Jesus in His humanity crying in the garden before His crucifixion, “Father, if there is any other way?”  Our Father said “no” to Jesus because He was saying “yes” to you and I.

When we encourage people to live their best lives: in family, in work, in health, the flipside is that we need to be comfortable with sometimes hearing “no.”

What about the golden word: “yes”?

Oh, she is lovely to our ears.  She represents commitment and obedience.   She represents ease and comfort.  When she is outworked, she builds trust, integrity and results.

“Yes” can be the response we give because of our guilt, ego, fear or confusion.  At the same time, it can be a response we give out of purpose, capacity, kindness and confidence.

In any team, including our “life team,” whatever that may look like for you: doctors, lawyers, advisors, friends and family, we need people who will say “yes” because they want to, not because they have to.  People who know how to say “yes,” not driven by fear of an adverse reaction if they say “no.”

In life, there will always be an “ask” put on us, especially if we are living large lives. The bigger our lives, the bigger the ask. That’s not a bad thing, but never lose sight of the fact that you hold the power of your “yes.”

Say “yes” to your priorities, say “yes” to your responsibilities, say “yes” to things that resonate with your own core values, say “yes” to building or repairing healthy relationships.

I’m mindful that a “yes” or “no” answer may come with timeframes attached, “yes, but not yet,” or “no, not anymore.”  In your life, it could mean saying “no” to something you have previously said “yes” to, or it could be saying “yes” but at a different time.

Give it a go!  Try it this week.  Be more decisive, and minimise the use of the word “maybe,” be gutsy when it comes to “yes” and gracious as you say “no.”

Phil

Nevertheless

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Over the winter months, my wife and I, and even our dog, have loved having a fire burning away.  There’s nothing like the crackling of timber and warmth of a fire.

The only problem is that when we need more timber, I am too weak to carry it.  I’ve had to ask a friend to do it for me.

It’s moments like those, one of many examples I could give, that remind me of my own disability.

When my physical weakness slaps me around, it can make me feel like less of a man than I once was.

You see, the more dependant we are on others, the less significant we feel.

The more of a burden we are, the less useful we feel.

The more help we need, the more helpless we feel.

The more it cost to keep us moving, independent and social, the less of a value add we feel.

Our disabilities mean we are less able.  Being less able makes us feel less useful or even useless.

And while my limitations are caused by a disease (MND/ALS) in my body, I also know that the wear and tear of life, disappointments, disillusionment, relationship breakdowns, negative mindsets, and even the reality of our humanity and aging bodies, can at times, all make us feel “less than.”

Let me encourage you on how I have been challenged to think of my own worth and usefulness in spite of my limitations.

I believe you need to know today, that you are “never-the-less,” no matter what life has served up to you.

Your disability, your limitation, your disappointment need not lessen you.

God has shown me that He always see us as “never-the-less.”

Have a look at this verse from the Bible.  In Deuteronomy 31:8 it says, “And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”

It’s a promise that no matter what, God will be with me always. He is my constant companion through the valleys and the mountaintops of life’s experience.

But it is even more than that.

The word I want to draw our attention to is “forsake.”

God not only promises not to leave us, but He also promises not to forsake us.

If you’re like me, for years I just took the words “leave” and “forsake” to be a repetition of the same meaning, just spelt differently.

But “forsake” actually means that God will not relinquish, resign, surrender, abandon, or reject us.

God will never leave us, but he will also never see us as less when we can do less or we feel less.

Friend, God says He will never retire, relinquish or reject you.  No matter what weaknesses you have or limitations you are plagued with.

One of the biggest challenges a disabled person may face is the feeling of being “less.”  Less when it comes to their humanity, their self worth, their belonging, and their value to the world.

Whilst we are inspired by the efforts and courage of many disabled people, we are less likely to be friends with them.  This can make them feel like less.

God says, no matter what your condition is, He can use you now.  You have meaning, purpose and usefulness.

You may have been abandoned by your spouse, retrenched by your boss, rejected by your community, but not by God.

When we believe it, we become empowered to live it out. We understand that in being human, we have intrinsic value placed on us by God Himself.

To be honest, until you see yourself as “never-the-less,” then others will struggle to as well.

I used to be the pastor of a thriving Church with an incredible team of people around me.  Today, because of MND/ALS, I could never have the energy to carry such responsibility and create the momentum that a growing Church deserves.

I am blessed because most of the circle of friends that I had when I was a pastor have responded like God responds to our increased weakness. They didn’t forsake me. They didn’t see me as less, but as “never-the-less.”

I have continued to speak in Churches and at conferences, invited by people who see me as “never-the-less.”  I’m sure if the day comes when I can no longer speak, God will have something else I can do.

In fact, you just being you and rising with courage above your disability into His ability for your life can be an inspiration to many.

Feelings of being less are closely attached to the reality of what we can no longer do (the focus being on what we’ve lost).

But when we realise that we are “never-the-less,” we focus on what we are able to do and more importantly, we feel that others see our strengths, not our weakness, our ability not our disability.

I have a friend who is completely paralysed and unable to speak, but who, through technology, disciples new Christians online, answering their questions and helping them discover who Christ is.

In fact, another friend, the same one who carried the timber for my fire, rang me before heading overseas.  He said, “Phil, can you do something for me?  Pray for me while I’m away.”

If you have people in your world who are unable to do what they used to be able to do, don’t forsake them.

Find ways to help them know they are “never-the-less” and believe it to be true of you too!

Phil

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