Fridays with Phil

Life, family and unshakeable faith


May 2014

Hello from Paris

Bonjour! Today I write to you from the streets of Paris. St Germain is buzzing and the sound of live music fills the air.

One thing I love about Paris is the “joie de vivre”, the “joy of living”, all around.

Parisians know how to enjoy the simple things: the joy of savouring a meal, sipping a glass of red, strolling through the Jardin du Luxembourg by kids playing with boats in fountains, and couples on chairs enjoying each other and the warm sun.

It’s a special place. But so is your life. So slow down and enjoy the simple things.

Let’s face it, I could eat cheese and bread in Australia, the difference is that here, I slow it down and enjoy the moment.

To experience Joie de Vivre in your everyday life, declutter and do what only you can.

When I was first diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, I had to decide what areas of my life needed to be left and what areas I needed to continue. Really it wasn’t that hard.

No one else can be a dad to my children or a husband to my wife like I can. No one else could take responsibility for my personal fight with this disease. However others could do pretty much the rest.

It may not need to be that drastic for you, but what are the things from your current task list that only you can do?

I’m not talking about the small details, I’m talking about the big rocks, the things that consume most of your time. Maybe you haven’t yet discovered what only you can do, trust me, it will be a worthwhile exercise.

Whatever it is, do it with all your heart.

If you’re a mum or dad, a friend or spouse, do your very best. There are no second chances at that. Do it well the first time.  To help you with that, this is something I picked up a long time ago and it has framed how I try to live my life as an adult:
1. Find out what you do well.
2. Do a lot of it.
3. Find out what you don’t do well.
4. Don’t do much of it.
5. Find out what others do well.
6. Help them do it.

Today marks my 21st blog. A big thank you to the 15,000+ readers across 60 countries who have taken the time to either read, share, or comment on these blogs.

Healthwise, I am doing better than the doctors expected. After thinking last year would be our final trip to Europe, we have decided to make the most of my mobility and take another trip. This time, we are joined by my late brother’s wife who has never been overseas.

I look forward to catching up with you on my return in four weeks and continuing this blogging journey.

By the way, in November I will be adding “grandpa” to my list of “what I can only do” as we await the arrival of our first grandchild to Jess and Kaiden.


Look for the stars while you take out the trash!

I am a Formula One fan.

Not only have I watched it for years but I’ve also been to the Singapore and Monaco Grand Prix.

There have been few rivalries in motor racing like that of Niki Lauda and James Hunt’s. Theirs is a legendary tale, now depicted in the movie “Rush.” It tells the true story of a fierce competition for the title of World Champion in the 70s.

Near the end of the movie, after Lauda’s infamous motor racing accident, which left him severely burned and fighting for his life, these rivals meet again. Lauda recounts his Doctor’s wise words,

“Mr. Lauda, may I offer a piece of advice? Stop thinking of it as a curse to have been given an enemy in life, it can be blessing too. A wise man gets more from his enemies than a fool from his friends.”

Niki Lauda with his wife and son shortly after the near fatal crash in 1976.
Niki Lauda with his wife and son shortly after the near fatal crash in 1976.

I love that line: “A wise man gets more from his enemies than a fool from his friends.”

I put it this way: “Look for the stars while you take out the trash.”

Lauda’s enemies were twofold: Hunt & his injuries.  My enemy is Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

It is a disease with no cure and kills 2 people in Australia each day, while another two are diagnosed. Its sufferers lose all use of their muscles, eventually being unable to walk, move their arms or hands, eat, talk, or breath.

I have this disease (it doesn’t have me) and I have friends who are further down the road than me. When I visit them, I’m looking into the mirror of who I may become, except for a miracle or a cure.

How much do you think that makes me value walking, eating, and breathing now? In this way, my enemy has somehow helped me appreciate what I once took for granted.

Before I was diagnosed with the disease, I hated the interruption of taking the bin out to the end of the driveway for pick-up the next morning. Now I am grateful that I can still do this chore. Not only can I take out the trash, but I can look up and take one more opportunity to see the stars.

I am in awe of the stars, to gaze at God’s handiwork even as I stand amongst the stench of rubbish, this disease, the frustration of my body degenerating: my enemy.

Some have fiercer enemies, deeper valleys, or more rubbish in their life than others, but maybe its also a longer, deeper, and wider opportunity to gaze at the stars and to consider the beauty in the storm.

Our enemy, whatever it looks like, instead of bringing evil, may just with God’s help bring some good.  What I am endeavouring to do in the midst of my challenge of MND is allow it to do what sometimes only an enemy can do: bring to the surface treasure once hidden.

I think if you allow wisdom to have its way you too can gain something from your enemy.

So walk slowly back next time you take the rubbish out and take a look up. And remember, “A wise man gets more from his enemies than a fool from his friends.”


MND Awareness Week (May 4-10)

Awareness is the first step towards a cure. You may want to also sign the “Five Rights Petition” or even give a donation to the MND Research Institute of Australia.

This week Scott Sullivan, the founder of this organisation sadly passed away. I’m sure the foundation would value any support.

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