Fridays with Phil

Life, family and unshakeable faith


January 2015

Where’s my healing?

Sometimes I sound more together than I really am.  There are days it takes all my grit to keep living with hope and not default to focussing on my own pain, whinging all the while, or trying to escape it even just for a moment.

I don’t want to die and I don’t want to miss out on a thing.

That said, I am well aware that my pain could be another’s gain. I wonder in your life if your pain could become someone else’s gain.

We can choose to try and run from our pain or we can choose to embrace it and take the view that even in our suffering, maybe others can benefit.

This week at the Australian Open tennis, a commercial was aired [via].  It starred tennis players bringing awareness to the MND/ALS disease and the need to find a cure.  I love that!

Some say that MND is incurable but it’s not, we just haven’t found the cure yet.

I know it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking of ourselves when we go through difficult times, but if we can move beyond that, the potential to help others is enormous. 

For me, that looks like doing whatever I can do to not only seek my own healing, and not only dwell on my prognosis, but also, to wholeheartedly support the quest to find a cure.

It’s not unique but it can be hard.  I see people all over the world deliberately putting the needs and safety of others before themselves even when I’m sure they have their own issues to deal with.

Most people with MND today realise that the cure may not come in their lifetime but what they do today could indeed save the lives of thousands tomorrow.

Like many diseases that were once incurable, a cure starts with awareness, that brings funding, that provides research.  And dare I say it:  our attention depends on the number of people the disease kills and who those people are.

So yes, while there are days I wonder “where is my healing?” I am more likely thinking about how good a cure would be.

I don’t think the discovery of a cure is any less a miracle and gift from God than what can and does take place in an individual’s life.

When I see doctors in third world countries operating on the blind through removing cataracts, it’s a cure but it is also a miracle for the person who can see again.

When I witness children who are infected with H.I.V. surviving through medicine, it is miraculous.

I get excited when through medicine, counselling, surgery, and science, things that were once impossible become possible.  It blesses me to see mankind trusting God to show them His mind on things and where disease once stole life, now millions can experience wholeness.

Just this week I read that according to The Lancet, in Australia 86 per cent of people with breast cancer are still alive five years after diagnosis.  This is thanks to more funding allowing for more research and early detection.

In our waiting and in our suffering, let’s always remember that there is someone else we could help, there is a cause we could further, a hand we could lend.

Waiting with you,


The stupid things I’ve said

When I was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND), I noticed that people didn’t know what to say and even close friends struggled to communicate with me.

I know how they feel, as I have been there myself, wanting to offer words of comfort to others but not knowing what to say.

So here are a few things my experience has taught me that may help you communicate with those who are struggling. It may be a terminal illness like me, or it may be a dream not yet realised, a broken relationship, or a dead-end.

A classic comfort we offer others is to compare their situation to those who are seemingly worse-off. For example, some have said to me, “well you could have been hit by a car and already be dead”. I get the premise, but in reality, this has offered no comfort.

I have heard of others who have lost a child or spouse and were told they should at least be thankful for the short time they had together. This is something only they have the right to say. When you feel like your world has just ended, there are better things that could be said.

Comparing to a “worse” event brings little comfort.

Another classic: “there must be a reason for this because everything happens for a reason”.

The problem with this is often it is impossible to figure out a reason why someone is experiencing a tragedy that has derailed their hopes and dreams and impacted their family and finances.

Whatever you do, don’t suggest that the reason is that it could be God testing them. This is hard for me to fathom. The God I love and know would not and does not reward those He loves with life’s harshest conditions, like poverty or a terminal illness.

Yes, maybe in the midst of the challenge we can give what is happening to us some meaning but that’s a very personal thing that no one else can assume on the sufferer.

My hope is that anyone who is suffering would ultimately be able to give what they are going through a sense of cause and purpose, as I have experienced, even while going through the valley.

In the same vein, to those searching for something to ground tragedy in, I have heard it said or inferred, “maybe its because of something you have done.”

This old chestnut suggests that bad things happen to those who have done something to deserve it.

I’m sure we can all recall areas of our life that are far from perfect so when tragedy does come, it’s not hard to blame yourself or think that maybe somehow you deserve it.  I’ve been there, and I recommend getting out quick because it’s a dead-end.

Christ came to bring grace, He stood in the gap, and where we deserved death for our sin, He offers life.

Sure, there are consequences for all our actions: we’ve all heard it said, the smoker increases their risk of getting cancer, and the overeater increases their chances of getting heart disease.  However, we should never think that an undeserved or tragic circumstance in life is some sort of divine punishment.

The good news of the Gospel is that God is a God of grace not of karma.

They are a few things I won’t be saying, now, these are some great things I have experienced:

  • I’m washing my car this weekend and I’m coming to wash yours as well!” – Be specific when offering to help.
  • Boy you look so tired today, are you ok?” – Be real, don’t lie.
  • I’m coming over to mow your lawn, no need to come out, just wanted you not to worry when you hear the mower?” – Show kindness, expect nothing in return.
  • Hey, I know this is serious and you could die but I’m in this battle with you.” – Acknowledge how bad it is but give your support.
  • I’m so sorry” – Acknowledging loss can be as simple as that.
  • “I love you”, “Thank you”, “I appreciate you”, “I am praying for you” – Waste no time saying the things that matter.

So when we don’t know what to say, let’s err on the side of just being there, and putting ourselves in the shoes of the sufferer before we speak. This is love.


A simple thank you

I have discovered something about thankfulness, and it’s this:  the more thankful I am, the more thoughtful I am.

For many of us, our default isn’t to think about how our life affects others, how our words lift or wound, how our actions impact our “neighbour”.

But we’re meant to, it’s how we are created to thrive.  We are at our best when we love others as we love ourselves.

So how does thankfulness make me more thoughtful?

In my life, I have noticed that each time I thank God for being able to walk, I am drawn to pray for those who for the first time will be placed in a wheelchair and never be able to walk unassisted again.

When I thank God for my meal, it triggers thoughts of those that have no food, or those who require a feeding tube and don’t get to taste different flavours.

Thankfulness is a tremendous trigger for praying for others.  It’s a springboard that launches me beyond my selfishness and towards empathy – to care, offer a kind word, or do a good deed.

The Apostle Paul gets it, he writes in Philippians 1:3-4, “Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart.”

Amazing.  Perhaps at the root of selfishness is an ungrateful heart.  Perhaps a disregard for what we have breeds contempt and dissatisfaction with this very day God has graced us with.

When we are not thankful, we are not fully aware of what we have and we become unaware of the needs of others.

Thankfulness and gratitude develop thoughtfulness and compassion for others as we appreciate what we have.

I visited a man this week who had a teaching/research position at Macquarie University for 6 years, 20 years at the University of New South Wales, and 4 years at the University of Newcastle.  A Senior Lecturer on Earth Science, he travelled the world climbing and studying volcanoes.  He was married in 2013 with no diagnosis of MND.   Today he cannot move his legs or arms, confined to a wheelchair and is only barely able to talk, quickly losing this gift as well.

As I thank God for the slow progression of the disease within my own body, I cannot help but be thoughtful about those who are suffering much worse.

When you thank God for what you have in life, it triggers a prayer for those who don’t have and that in turn causes compassion to rise up, insisting we do something about other’s needs.

Why don’t you try thanking God for what you have and see where it leads in praying for others?

When thanking God for your marriage, it may lead to you pray for your spouse.

When thanking God for your children, it may lead you to pray for their future.

When thanking God for freedom, it may inspire prayer for those who are in prison simply because of their faith.

When we are unaware of what we have, we are also unaware of what others don’t have.

I’m not thankful for MND in my body but I try to be thankful in the midst of my MND.  Sure there are moments when I grieve what I can no longer do, but I try to keep them to moments and short ones at that, whilst focusing on what I do have and can do.

What are you thankful for today and where will it lead you…to thoughtfulness?


P.s. This year’s “Walk-to-defeat-MND” will be held on February 15th.  I would usually start my own page to raise money for this initiative, however this year I am asking those who would like to, to donate as part of “Phil’s Team” to these guys:

8 of Lake Macquarie’s professional beach lifeguards are setting out to challenge themselves on a 130km board paddle from their own Blacksmiths Beach to Sydney’s Bondi Beach. 100% of the money they raise will be going straight to the MND research and awareness. 

The 8 Lifeguards that will be paddling are Lucas Samways, Danny Napper, Rory Chapman, Luca Chapman, Rory Tanner, Sam Earp, Jake Ingle, and Troy Ham… legends!!

Know it all?

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Knowledge is a wonderful thing but the right response to knowledge is a better thing: wisdom.

I would say that most of my mistakes have happened, not through lack of knowledge, but how I used the information I had.

For example, when I was managing Kmart in Blacktown many years ago, I was chasing a man who stole goods from the store.  I knew he had run up the stairs of the car park and so I followed him.  When I approached him, he grabbed me and tried to throw me over the edge of the three storey car park. Fortunately others saw and pulled him off.  I knew where he had gone but I was foolish in my response to this knowledge.

Our response to knowledge is the difference between wisdom and foolishness.

What knowledge or truth do you have today that requires you to act and respond well?

You may know that someone loves you deeply but your response to that love is to take advantage of it, to continually test it and manipulate it for your own end.  That is foolishness.

Without right response, knowledge is a dead-end.

Even the Apostle Paul in talking about how God is kind and merciful (i.e. knowledge) says, just because He is, doesn’t mean we should act as fools and test him (i.e. response). Romans 6:1-2 says, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!…

I have many friends with MND (also known as ALS) who all have the same knowledge about this disease available to them but their responses have varied.

For example one of the symptoms of MND is losing the ability to swallow and therefore being eventually unable to eat food.  The answer to this from a medical platform is to have a PEG attached to your stomach so that you can get food directly to your stomach via a tube.  The problem is you need to get this attached months or even years before you need it or your body is too weak to have it attached.

I have seen people say “no” to the tube for many months then change their mind and say “yes” only to be told its too late.  They responded, but the timing wasn’t right.

It challenges me on how important the right response to knowledge really is, it could even be the difference between life and death.

In your life, it could mean saying “no” to something you have said “yes” to, or it could be saying “yes” but at a different time.

Procrastination is usually loud.  Doing nothing is often talkative.

Whereas, wisdom is active, it is sure and it is often quiet.

I like this quote: “We can be knowledgeable with other men’s knowledge, but we cannot be wise with other men’s wisdom”  ~Michel de Montaigne.

I believe wisdom is ours for the taking if we master our response to knowledge.


The Dirty Truth

Look around you. Everything you see came from the raw materials found in dirt.

You’re sitting on, living in, driving and eating a product of dirt.

When we look closely at dirt, we find many things: manure, air, moisture, dust, nutrients, hard things, rocks, minerals and resources.

To us, dirt is something we want to wash off straight away.  In its rawness, we often don’t see its potential or beauty. It’s just a pain and an inconvenience.

Dirt is messy.  Likewise, our world is not perfect and neither are our lives. They can be messy.

One thing we can count on this New Year is that dirt will appear in our lives.

Our first reaction will be to want to wash it off and get rid of it. But, let me encourage you, God can take our dirt, what we see as inconvenient, even painful, and make something beautiful with it.

In fact, consider this – humanity originated in the dirt!

The Bible in Genesis 2:7 says, “God formed Man out of dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life. The Man came alive—a living soul!”

Isaiah, a prophet of old, said we are like clay on the Potter’s wheel, in the Potter’s hand.

So, don’t be so quick to remove the dirt from your life before God gets a chance to show you His handiwork.

God can take our imperfect, messy and muddy lives and show His genius and masterpiece.

He is famous for making beauty out of ashes, creating life from dirt.

Corinthians. 4:7 says “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.

We are earthy and imperfect vessels carrying hope and God’s light to a messy world.

Our prayer this year, from the imperfect to the Perfect, may simply be, “Take this dirt and let it live, let it carry Your presence and breath Your excellence on it.”

You see, we all have cracks, we all have hard pieces and dead things in us. Dare I say, we all have smelly manure in our lives.  It is humanity’s common factor.

None of us are perfect. No matter how hard we try, we never will be.

If we allow others to see our imperfect lives, it may just be what God uses to let them see that God is not looking for perfection.

Allow your imperfections to be a means to connect with others who also know they are imperfect.

In doing so, we release the light of God through our lives. We could very well inspire faith in others. Our cracks could reveal the treasure of Jesus’ perfection and excellence within.

Something worth sharing.  Someone worth seeing.


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