Fridays with Phil

Life, family and unshakeable faith


February 2014

MND: Pray for a Cure

Walking with great mates to help raise awareness and funds for MND research.
Walking with great mates to help raise awareness and funds for MND research.

Earlier this month, over 700 people walked the outskirts of Lake Macquarie to raise awareness of MND and help raise finances to find a cure.  The cure may be closer than we realise with the below article published Friday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

Your continued prayers that a cure be found sooner rather than later for the 1,800 people suffering with this disease in Australia, and many more around the world, would be much appreciated.

We do not give up hope.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Culprit protein in spread of motor neuron disease discovered

A breakthrough study has revealed how the fatal neurodegenerative disorder motor neurone disease (MND) is transmitted between nerve cells, and suggests the spread of the disease could be halted.

“The agent of spread has been discovered,” says Dr Bradley Turner, of the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.

Motor neurone disease is the name given to a group of diseases in which the nerve cells (neurones) controlling the muscles that enable us to move, speak, breathe and swallow undergo degeneration and die.

Typically, MND starts in a finger or a toe and then spreads. Gradually, it is transmitted throughout the nervous system causing paralysis and death – usually within 27 months. MND affects around 300,000 people worldwide and two Australians die from the disease every day.

“By understanding how the disease spreads in the brain, we can develop new strategies to combat the progressive symptoms seen in MND,” Dr Turner says.

The research shows that a misfolded protein can spread throughout the nervous system. The culprit protein is known as SOD1. The misshapen SOD1 spreads inside a living cell, from one neurone to another, like an infection. Importantly, the study reveals that “wild-type” or normal SOD1 can misfold and transmit between cells, which has implications for the common sporadic form of MND.

Published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, the study also shows the spread can be neutralised using antibodies. Antibodies bind to regions of misshapen SOD1, and block its spread. If SOD1 misfolding is the common culprit in MND, as the study suggests, then the antibodies could arrest MND progression, the researchers say.

No human clinical trials have taken place but studies in mice have been successful in blocking the misfolded SOD1 using antibodies and slowing MND symptoms.

The research could also have implications for those studying other neurological disorders  including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases where spread of misfolded proteins is implicated. These diseases may resemble the most common human form of prion disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).

This discovery is the culmination of several years of work by an international team involving Dr Turner at the Florey, Prof Andrew Hill at the Bio21 Institute, University of Melbourne, Dr Justin Yerbury at the University of Wollongong and Prof. Neil Cashman at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver,

For media enquiries: Amanda Place at the Florey 0411 204 526

How to grow, not crumble, under the weight of criticism

What's your recovery time when it comes to criticism? This swing has copped its fair share of critics!
What’s your recovery time when it comes to criticism?
This swing has copped its fair share of critics!

A young boy complained to his father that most church hymns were boring and behind the times. His father put an end to his son’s complaints by saying, “if you think you can write better hymns, then why don’t you?”  Isaac Watts went to his room and wrote such hymns as, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”

All of us have been criticised, or soon will be. Well, those of us doing anything anyway.  When someone starts with “don’t take this the wrong way” you can be on high alert that you are about to get criticised.

Criticism rightly faced becomes a means of personal growth, but wrongly faced causes us to become angry and defensive.  In fact, this can be true of all trials.

So how can we make criticism work for us and not against us?  How do we grow from it and not crumble under it?

We are going to have to remember who we are.  I find my identity in the fact that nothing can separate me from God’s love.  His love gives me intrinsic value and a sense of worth.  I know that through His strength, I can face anything.

We also need to respond with love.  Love is the greatest force on this earth and the best way to cope with criticism.   Love may not always change the situation but it can change you for the situation.  You may not always love the criticism but you can always love the critic. 

The best example of someone coping with criticism, with love, is Jesus.  To be nailed to the cross was the ultimate rejection and extreme criticism, yet his response was “God forgive them”.

On top of all that, we need to rate the criticism.  Ignoring it, or becoming upset by it, won’t ultimately help us.  If we can look beyond the critic, look beyond the emotion, and consider what is being said, we may actually learn something.  And that very something may just propel us forward in our destiny.

Whatever you do, don’t use one of my all-time favourite defences, “well, what would you know anyway?”  Trust me, it’s useless.  Imagine if Isaac Watts said that to his Dad.  Instead, hear the criticism and honestly weigh it up.

Finally, measure how long it takes from the point of reaction to the point of recovery.  Meaning, how long does it take you to recover from a challenge, upset or criticism?

The Winter Olympics is on right now and those athletes have trained against their personal best for years to make sure they were getting better and faster.  Time was their guage for success.

So if last year it took you days to get from being hurt to forgiving, from offending to saying sorry, from being blessed to giving thanks, but this year it only takes you hours, then you’ve probably grown against your personal best.  In this way, time can also be your guage for success.

Do “getting criticised” well.  You’ll be blessed by it.


The Secret to Happiness

Single, Married, Sick, Healthy, Rich, Poor?  Discover the Secret to Happiness.
Single, Married, Sick, Healthy, Rich, Poor? Discover the Secret to 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.

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 need not 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.


A few thoughts on poverty, grace and ultimate trust

Speaking with small business owners in Kinshasa, DR Congo
Speaking with small business owners in Kinshasa, DR Congo

Most of my trips overseas have been to visit, and hopefully help, people who are suffering far worse conditions than those in my homeland of Australia.

The poverty I have seen in parts of the world like Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria and DR Congo is extreme and can be crippling to families and communities.

To try and paint a picture of this poverty with statistics, according to the World Bank, the Gross National Income per capita in the DR Congo is $220 compared to $59,570 per capita in Australia.

However, in the midst of the massive challenge that is poverty, I have observed people who have chosen to have trust, hope, faith and love towards Jesus.  This heart attitude sets their life on the path of looking for answers, not giving in to the trial.

What has always struck me is that even in their suffering, they seem to understand that circumstances are not always a good measure of God’s goodness.

God is still good.

They have taught me that, even when it is difficult to see or understand any reason, true love for Jesus is manifest in deep trust in times of trial.

God is still in control. 

I believe the reason for this unique life-giving perspective is that they are courageously lifting the word of God and the name of Jesus above their circumstances.  They are choosing to graciously respond and not react to daily struggles.   They respond with the grace that God provides daily and daily respond to God’s grace!

If you’re facing your own challenges: sickness, addiction, relationship breakdown or whatever it may be,  it is not just about whether you can believe God to fix that problem, but do you believe in the goodness, love and grace of God regardless of what you face?

The only way I know how to do this, while waiting for God’s provision, is to live with the presence of the Holy Spirit at work in my life.  It is what causes me to say, “His grace is sufficient for me.”  This is not by your own might, will, or power but by God’s Spirit, the great comforter.

God is still with you.

Psalm 136 says over and over again that “God’s mercy endures forever.”  Some translations say “His love endures forever” or “His kindness endures forever”.  The word “endures” tells us something: to endure implies that there will be tribulation, trial or persecution to overcome or to outlast.   It also tells us that God’s love, mercy, and kindness never quits!

Have you ever wanted to quit?  I’m sure you have, as I have at times, however strength is found in the fact that Jesus will never quit on you.

God is still for you.

Can I encourage you to do a heart check today – like my friends living in extreme poverty, is your heart open towards God, trusting his mercy, love and kindness, relying on and responding to Jesus’ grace that is all-sufficient?

Live in the slipstream of His grace today.


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