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Fridays with Phil

Life, family and unshakeable faith

Month

February 2015

Your most courageous decision

If you want to make it through a difficult situation, you have a choice to make: turn and run, or face it and chase it down.

In the book of 2 Samuel, chapter 23, the Bible tells the story of a man by the name of Benaiah.  On a snowy day, he chased his challenge, a lion, down into a pit and killed it.  Benaiah could have fled the lion but he literally overcame his challenge.

To tell you the truth, I have learnt more by facing the “lions” in my life than from running.

I believe that doing our best to face up to situations that life presents with no escape plan, and no “out” is the boldest and most courageous decision any of us could make today.

Even when you have no idea of how you are going to face the future or what you should do next, if God is with you, He can give you what you lack.  At the time of weakness or doubt, He can give you strength and wisdom.

You just need to decide, “Will I run away, will I lie down or will I face reality, and give it my best shot?

So if you have ever felt like a lion is chasing you down, don’t ignore it, hide from it, or pretend it’s not there.  Accept it, stand and face it.

Acceptance is the state of mind in which we find meaning from what we are facing.

For me, my lion is MND / ALS.  I decided early on to face it and chase it down.  There is only one option, no white flags, no retreating.

As I’ve said before “I may have MND, but MND won’t have me”.

I will not allow disease to destroy my soul or my spirit.  I have decided that if I will die anyway, which we all will one day, then I may as well live fully to the best of my ability until that day.

What’s your lion today?  Will you run from it or turn, face it, and chase it down?

Your lion could be an issue that you need to confront in your life, something you need to pick a fight with and change.

You see, sometimes the lion picks us and sometimes we pick the lion.  Sometimes bad things happen to us and sometimes we need to choose to fight a battle instead of live with the status quo.

In either scenario, what we do in this moment, how we respond, and our attitude are all up to us and will ultimately make an impression on the next moments, months and years.

Be encouraged today that in our most challenging moments we can discover purpose.  The lion wants to take from you but it can give as well.  It can give you a reason to keep going and prove that life is worth the living.  Anything worth living for is worth fighting for.

You can sit there and imagine a life without difficulty and without resistance but it’s nothing more than a fairy tale.  Or you can face up to your challenge, and determine to live and thrive, lions and all.

Take courage today,
Phil

The day my wife said she hated me

I remember the exact place and moment she said it.  It was early in our marriage, she had arrived home late after the train she was travelling home on broke down.  She was at her wits end in our marriage and in the heat of the moment, the words I extracted from my wife’s mouth were “I hate you.”

It’s strange how she has told me she loves me a thousand times since then and yet I can still remember the one and only time she told me she hated me.

Human nature is like that, we tend to hang onto the negative and let go too quickly of the positive.  Imagine if we celebrated the victories for as long as we sat in the defeats.

I thought that my marrying Lenore as a 19 year old boy was just too good to be true and sooner or later she was going to up and leave.

I treated her like she would, and my actions towards her were in response to that belief.

Ultimately, I got her to say what I believed she thought.  It was not what she thought or believed but I could not accept that she loved me and so I pushed her away.  There was no way, I believed, that this could be real and forever.

I’m sure there are reasons in my childhood that fuelled this emotion. I was afraid that one day I would come home and she would not be there.  It was what my mum did to my dad when I was 13 years old.  He came home from work and we had deserted him and our home (I now know mum had very good reasons but I was just a kid).

Even when it came to our finances, I was riddled with insecurity.  Lenore earnt more than me and I thought I wasn’t experienced enough or bright enough to handle our finances, so left all of that responsibility to Lenore.

I feared failure, not just in and of itself but also because of what it would look like.

I was incapable of believing my wife’s love for me because of my own fear and insecurity.

With those emotions manifesting on a daily basis, our marriage could not win.

Lenore was sowing good seed into the poisoned soil of my heart.

That’s why today my challenge to you is to not look at other’s responses or behaviours as much as you look at your own heart and behaviour.

If you can be honest about your own condition then maybe the good seed of others will find soil to thrive in.

I can tell you today, whatever state your relationships are in, you can overcome fear, insecurity and failure.  How can you do that?

  1. Realise that no one person on earth is identical and we all respond differently. You do not need to be a product of your past.
  2. Face your insecurities so that change can take place.  I had to share my fears with Lenore so we could work through them.
  3. Understand that everyone who lives and breathes will sometimes fail. Failure is just another way of moving forward in life.
  4. Marriage is the joining of two imperfect people and it can get better if you are willing to work at it. Sometimes that includes seeking help from a counsellor.
  5. Love yourself so others can love you.
  6. Find unconditional love in God’s love for you.

Three painful years of marriage out of 36 years was well-worth it.  Trust me, the plates will stop flying if you are both willing to change.  I am so thankful we did that together.

No matter your start, you can have a better tomorrow.

Phil

From theatre to theology

I was asked this week what I thought of Stephen Fry.  My first response was “who is Stephen Fry?”  After some research, I found he is an actor and an atheist who recently aired his views on what he would say to God if he were given opportunity, and it went viral.

For someone who does not believe God exists, he gave an impassioned and articulate response about this God he does not believe in.

He said God was “capricious, mean-minded, stupid” and “monstrous”.   He went on to say he would tell God, “How dare you. How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that’s not our fault? It’s not right. It’s utterly, utterly evil.”  “The God who created this universe, if he created this universe, is quite clearly a maniac, an utter maniac, totally selfish.”

I believe Stephen fails to recognise, not only that God exists, but who He is and misrepresents God’s very nature.

Funnily enough, even those who don’t believe in God, when faced with tragedy or evil situations, like a downtown café being held up by gunman, can be found turning to God in prayer.  TV commentators encourage it and vow to us that their prayers are with the sufferers.

When bad things happen, I’m so glad that I believe in a God who is not unmoved, unconcerned or blind to humanity and who does in fact respond to prayer, even our most desperate, ineloquent pleas.

I think that many turn to prayer because of a deep knowing that there must be someone higher than all of this: all of this sickness, all of this suffering, all of this tragedy.

At the same time, many people also choose to decide who that is and how they will respond to that perception.   It’s a kind of “make-your-own God” if you will.

Deciding who God is to you will be the defining moment in your spiritual life.

Stephen speaks as if this God he does not believe in is evil, unjust, mean and a maniac.  That measures his response to the world and God.

I believe that God is good, just, loving, merciful and patient, even in the challenge of a terminal illness (and even more so).

I know a God who in trial and pain is personal, caring, concerned and very much involved.  In turn, that measures my response to the world and to God.

I also believe that God has created all of us with the ability to know Him.  He wants us to know who He really is.  He showed himself to us through the example of Jesus and through the pages of the Bible.

Stephen may attribute at least partial blame for the evil in our world to a hateful God, whereas the Bible teaches that evil, rebellious angels, and men are the cause of evil.

Let me explain.  God created the earth and everything in it, including us.  It was created good and all animals lived together with no threat of life or fear from each other.  He gave man free-will.  Free-will means we have the choice to choose good or bad and it allowed angels and man to choose evil over good.  As someone once said, to blame God for the mess we now find ourselves in is like blaming the landlord when the tenants have trashed the house.

God’s will was and still is to redeem the world and all of creation back to His original intent.  He sent Jesus to reveal His redemption plan, healing and restoring the world.  Aren’t you glad God didn’t walk out on us?  Where the evil of man sought to separate us entirely from God, the love of God made a way in spite of it.

The very thing that Stephen would blame God for, God is actually working at ridding the world from and returning back to peace.  And I know many people have also committed themselves to this endeavour, to be the light in dark places, to offer kindness, compassion and humanitarian help.

I believe, there will be a time when children no longer die from bone cancer and hatred is no more.  This will be God’s doing not man’s.  Just because God hasn’t made His final move yet doesn’t mean He won’t or He hasn’t already begun.

Power always has the option to destroy or manipulate, but the power of God’s great love offers instead forgiveness, free-will and to extend humanity beyond this reality into another.

God secured for us a place free from all pain and suffering, and a way for us to be reunited with Him in heaven.  This is a place that Stephen may argue God should create if He was a good God.  Well, God already has and if we choose, our time spent there will be eternal.

When I take opportunity to speak to God, something I do daily unlike Stephen Fry’s imaginary scenario, I don’t offer blame or spite, instead, I can’t help but offer thanks, praise and adoration to the God who I have come to know.

Phil

P.s. Would love to hear your thoughts on your personal spiritual defining moments.

The Theory of Everything

You may have heard the name of scientist, Stephen Hawking.  He is one of the most well-known sufferers of a rare slow-progressing form of the MND / ALS disease.  He is also an avid atheist.

A name you may not be as familiar with is Jane Wilde, his now ex-wife, a strong Christian.

The new movie “The Theory of Everything” tells the story of their battle with ALS and how it impacted their relationship.

I have seen the movie and I have read his ex-wife’s book on which the film is based.

One thing that struck me about this couple is the way they lived polar opposite lives when it came to their faith.  While Stephen did everything he could to discount the existence of God,  Jane held onto her faith in God to make it through.

Not unlike Hawking, there have been times I have seriously questioned my faith in God.  Not in an off-the-cuff kind of way but honestly looking at why I believe what I believe, whether it is still relevant and if it stands the test of life and love

Yet time and time again, I have found that, like Jane, faith in a loving, good God is sustaining to this life I lead.

Jane discovered God, not in a cold calculated way but in the hearts and lives of others who also believed.  Her faith was personal, real and imperfect as it lived out in the lives of imperfect people.

I believe we all have what Jane and Stephen have: a desire to know how we arrived here and the meaning for our existence?

I don’t just mean the collective “our” but I mean “your” existence.

For me, the meaning of one’s life cannot be one that only flourishes in the good times when all is going well.  Meaning must also have its power and sustainability through the most difficult of circumstances in life.

We humans are spirit, soul, and body we have emotions that love and hate, that praise and condemn.  We are capable of the most beautiful and the most brutal.

Therefore, it is only right that our faith, our meaning for life itself must not just be a mental ascent but a spiritual enlightenment.

Jesus talks about faith in Him beginning in the heart.  The heart is that part of us that comprehends deep issues of meaning and existence.  It goes to the very centre of our will, emotions and who we are.

When you ask about the meaning of life and for your life the answer becomes your faith.  Your faith becomes your true north.  True north is what gives you direction, purpose, as well as your balance in life’s most difficult circumstances.

Today I encourage you to take time in your life to deeply explore the meaning for your existence: your theory of everything.

Phil

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