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Fridays with Phil

Life, family and unshakeable faith

Month

January 2014

Heaven, healing and the in between

My neurologist just put me through my least favourite range of tests since being diagnosed with MND / ALS.

These electromyogram and nerve conduction tests are gruelling and painful.

They involve the signals to and from my muscles and brain being measured by using electric shock.

Other treatments, like the 3 hour immunoglobulin infusions I have once a month, are a breeze in comparison.

Light exercise to boost my happy endorphins, a drug for MND / ALS patients called “rilutek” said to increase life expectancy by 3-6 months, juicing for breakfast, and  a cocktail of about 40 vitamins I have self-prescribed through my own research have all become a regular part of my life.

Taking it deeper, daily I pray and believe for Jesus’ life, light and love to flow through my body, bringing life to my motor neurons.

I read my Bible and meditate on God’s word and His presence in my life, bringing my mind into a place of peace, not worry.

Why do I do all this stuff? 

Why do I fight this disease with medicines and subject my body to research? Why do I hang my hope on the life-giving power of God’s word?

It’s because I believe in the power of prayer and the word of God that brings life and transforms.

I also believe that God has blessed man with wisdom and knowledge to appropriate healing through medicine.

Is there a tension between me doing what I can and believing God for a miracle?

Yes, there is a tension and for the Christian living in a fallen world: there always will be.

I personally walk the line between doing what I can in the natural, and believing God to do what He can in the supernatural.

They are not mutually exclusive.

We don’t disqualify God from intervening in our situation by relying on man’s advancement in medicine.

I believe God is at work in a number of ways in sickness and health through:

  • the supernatural intervention of Gods miraculous power
    (e.g. defying doctor’s predictions and seeing a medical turnaround. like people healed from cancer);
  • the process of regeneration in our body that has been created by God
    (e.g. the body healing itself from scrapes and bruises);
  • medicines and medical advancements of our time, a gift of God’s wisdom and knowledge to man
    (e.g. antibiotics to treat an infection, or radiation to treat cancer); and
  • the comfort and wonder of one day entering heaven and eternity, a place God has prepared with no sickness or sorrow
    (e.g. death of our physical body causing us to pass from this life to the next).

All are expressions of God’s love, care and kindness towards a world that will continue to struggle against sickness and disease.

If you are sick today, I would encourage you to do whatever is available for you to do as provided by God through medical advancement and trust God to do what only He can do.

This will bring you great peace.

Phil

Me and one of the legends from our MND / ALS small group
Me and one of the legends from our MND / ALS small group

Want more followers?

Want more followers?

The best leaders are those who know how to follow well.  In turn, they are supported by followers, who are leaders, who follow and so on and so forth.

Martin Luther King Jnr was a great leader because he courageously followed the dream in his heart, a dream of a better tomorrow for his children.

A byproduct of his courageous “follow-ship” was that many followed that same dream and that dream became a reality.

Jesus Christ, arguably the greatest leader in history, followed the leadership or will of His Father.  He also told others, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).

Here, He is saying: Follow me, as I also follow my Father, and I will make you leaders (that is, people, who others will follow).

Whether you are following a leader, boss, or dream, or whether you desire to become a great leader, boss, or dream-caster: be encouraged to follow courageously.

What does the courageous follower look like?

Firstly, they are risk-takers.    We usually structure our lives to reduce risk to an acceptable level.  However, courage requires a willingness to consciously raise our level of risk to follow without reservation and wholeheartedly. If there is no risk, courage is not needed.

Nelson Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.

Secondly, they are responsible.  Courageous followers discover or create opportunities to fulfil their potential and maximise their value to the team. They are not afraid to work hard to see their leader and team succeed.

Thirdly, they are willing to change.  Courageous followers see the need for transformation, whether in society, in organisations or in themselves.  They champion the need for change.

The sooner we get used to the idea of courageous followers supporting courageous leaders (who are courageous followers), the sooner we can change the world for the better.

I hope this has challenged you to be a courageous follower of others but also of dreams and visions bigger than yourself and your present reality.

I have a dream that one day there will be a cure for MND / ALS. For me to realise that dream I must courageously face the reality of this disease and be willing to take risks and be responsible so that awareness and finances can inspire research and breakthrough.

What is your dream or vision for your better future?

Ask yourself what steps of risk, transformation or responsibility are required to step out with courage today.

Phil

This is Newcastle Mayor Jeff McCloy and State MP NSW Tim Owen.  Leaders who are courageously bringing change to Newcastle city.  Passionate locals are joining in to make their dream a reality.
This is Newcastle Mayor Jeff McCloy and State MP NSW Tim Owen. Leaders who are courageously bringing change to Newcastle city. Passionate locals are joining in to make their dream a reality.

What I learnt from the Railway Man

When Lenore and I were in Sydney last week, we saw the movie The Railway Man.

It’s about Eric Lomax who is tortured, beaten and forced to work on the Thai-Burma Railway during Work War II.  This film portrays the power of radical forgiveness.

It is a true story that played on my mind well after I had left the cinema.

Too often we see people take out brutal revenge on others for even the smallest grievance.  Just this week in Florida, a man was shot dead because he was texting in a movie. Here in Australia, we have seen too many “coward” or senseless punches.

Could it be that we have become a society intolerant of others who make mistakes or let us down? 

I wonder if the unrealistic expectation we place on others to be perfect is escalating feelings of frustration and disappointment, ultimately taking the luster out of life.

None of us are perfect.  That’s the very premise upon which we need a Saviour who gives us grace in our imperfection.

Life really begins when we accept that and embrace the forgiveness readily available to all of us.  Psalm 86:5 says, “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.”

Perhaps one of the reasons that we fail to go easy on others is that we are too hard on ourselves?

We are our own worst critic.

We see the young lady tormented because she doesn’t have the body portrayed in magazines.  Likewise, we see the young man feeling inadequate because he doesn’t match up to the hero portrayed on TV screens.

Jesus tells us to “love others as we love ourselves”.  To live in the overflow of love towards others, we must first love ourselves.

To take it a step further, to live without harsh judgment towards others, we need to live without harsh judgment towards ourselves.

In this life of love that we are called to live, we simply can’t negate the need to forgive: others and ourselves.

As I watch my body becoming less than what I would like, due to MND / ALS, I need to be less condemning of my body and more forgiving of its imperfections in order to appreciate the present strengths I do have.

My forgiveness towards my body is not surrendering to its weaknesses, but rather giving me the strength to believe for better days ahead.  It is a grace that opens my life to God’s healing presence.

Forgiving those who have hurt you is not surrendering to the pain or accepting their behaviour, it is grace extended so that you too can be free to love others and love yourself.

What is it in your life that you need to forgive today so you can live a life free to love?

Phil

My beautiful wife Lenore enjoying Sydney in the Australian sunshine
My beautiful wife Lenore enjoying Sydney in the Australian sunshine

A thought for parents: be a catalyst for change

kids2

My children and I had as diverse an upbringing as you could ever imagine.
I was one of 6; they were one of 2.
I saw police frequently at my home; they never did.
I got my first job at age 9 to help support our family; they were blissfully unaware of financial responsibility at age 9.
I lived in the same housing commission home until I was married at age 19; they had travelled the world and lived in several homes by age 19.
You may be reading this and wondering, as I did, “how will I ever be a successful parent, given the upbringing that I have had?”
I can tell you from personal experience that even though your upbringing may have taught you more about what not to do than what to do, you can be the catalyst that brings lasting change, not just for your children, but for generations to come.

These are a few things I hope will help you (as they helped me) be that change:

  1. Find the courage to stay engaged in healthy relationships.   By doing this, you can expose your kids to examples of who they could become.  My mother, a single parent for many years, took me to a monthly men’s breakfast at our church and sat up the back while I interacted with men of great character.
  2. In the early years, I read whatever I could get my hands on with regards to parenting from reputable authors.  Having parenting resources on hand was an invaluable parenting tool.
  3. Don’t be scared to ask for help from another parent who you admire and who has gone before you. [Tip: initiate a coffee catch up, keep to the agreed time and foot the bill – this shows that you value them and their input].
  4. I prayed a lot. God wants to give you His wisdom and guidance in your daily parenting choices: you are not alone.  I also prayed for my kids while they slept.
  5. This may be a strange one, but have things in your child’s world that stay the same. I always wore the same “Kouros” aftershave.  I later found out that if I was away, my girls would spray some on their teddy bears so they could “smell dad”. I think these tokens of consistency can be incredibly stabilising to a child’s environment.
  6. There is no better way to set your kids up for success in their own marriage than to love your spouse wholeheartedly. Speak highly of your spouse, be best friends, and encourage them to reach their full potential.
  7. I never forced my own faith on my girls but I lived my faith day in and day out. They would see me reading my bible, making Sundays at church the best day of the week, and being the same man at home as at the pulpit. Today, they love church, and are secure in their faith.  Nothing blesses my heart more.

It’s never too late to be the change in your family.

Phil

Psalm 145:4: One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. 

Time to have your best year yet

I love watches.  I enjoy browsing the latest styles and checking antique shops for special designs.

The challenge of a watch is that it is circular, giving you the illusion that if you wait long enough this time will come around again.

The reality is that time is linear, in so much as it is more of a straight ongoing line, and it only moves forward, it does not stop and it does not replay.

As we are swept into this new year, time is something on many of our minds: we look back and we look forwards. But do we pause long enough to look at right now, this moment, this minute?

John Lennon wrote the lyrics:
“Before you cross the street take my hand.
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

In the same vain, Psalm 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

In order to embrace this moment, I think we do need to stare time in the face, including what has been and what may come.

In one sense, we need to let go of the time that has passed, let bygones be bygones. In another sense, the past is not dead at all – it has shaped us and made us, to a certain degree, who we are. We must deal with the past effectively if we are to live in the present happily.

We should also take time to dream, consider and prepare for the possibilities of what the future may hold. The future can give us hope for a better tomorrow and the possibility for change, if we are careful about the time that can be planned.

Time that is now

Today is all we have: “now” is the acceptable time. Although we live in this present reality, are we attentive to this present moment?

One of the byproducts of being given a shortened life expectancy is that you try and slow time down by savouring experiences.  It makes you increasingly aware of the 1,440 minutes allocated to each of us per day.  I think I am now more present in the moment, taste my meals, listen more carefully and experience the beauty of the moment.

It’s the difference between just eating a strawberry, and tasting a strawberry.  I encourage you to taste the strawberries this 2014!

To have a successful new year, simply string together a chain of successful months.  To have a successful month, string together a chain of successful hours: a chain of “now” moments.  For now is the time:

  • to apologise
  • to forgive
  • to make a change
  • to give thanks
  • to encourage
  • to pray
  • to choose love

The best thing that we can do to honour our past and prepare for our future is to live with everything we have in the present. This is your “Now” moment!

Phil

Watching the fireworks at Nelson Bay New Year's Eve. My friend Bruce to the left and Lenore to the right.
Watching the fireworks at Nelson Bay New Year’s Eve. My friend Bruce to the left and Lenore to the right.

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