Fridays with Phil

Life, family and unshakeable faith


March 2015

The three-minute challenge

I’m writing this at an airport.  I’m watching people say goodbye to loved ones and it makes me wonder what they are saying.

What I hope is that it isn’t the first time they have said it during their time with each other.

Did they wait until the last three-minutes they had together to say the most important and meaningful exchanges: “I love you”, “Thank you”, “I’ll miss you”?

So often that’s the case.  We have friends over for dinner, spend hours communicating, and it’s only at the door, saying goodbye, that we talk about our appreciation for their friendship and hospitality.

I was touched this past week when friends of 30 years shared on our first night together how much our friendship meant to them.  Unfortunately, these sentiments of love and affection are often left until departure or remain entirely unsaid.

Too often the most important exchange of feeling and relationship are left until our final moments together. 

I believe there is a better way.  What would our relationships be like if we started our exchanges with the most important and finished satisfied that we had communicated the important?

Don’t you ever wonder why you didn’t have intimate conversations earlier?  Tragically, many people never have them at all.

My challenge, our challenge, is to reverse the trend and use our last words first. 

I cannot remember my dad and I speaking deeply about our love for each other until we were both adults, and at first it was awkward.  But it became easier and now several years after his death I’m very glad I ventured out of my comfort zone to say what mattered.

Believe me, this has been one of my life’s biggest challenges.  I am naturally a reserved guy keeping my feelings of love and deep feelings of emotion to myself.  But I have had to learn to change.  I realise now that the love of others and for others needs to be communicated more easily and readily.

Life is precious and relationships are priority.

The richest relationships include conversations about the things that really matter.

I once read about a leadership development seminar where the facilitator asked people to give a three-minute talk to everyone imagining that at the end they would die.  I know it sounds morbid but it challenged them to focus on the important.

What would you say in those last three minutes?  And who would you say it to?

Now take that and bring it forward, to today.  Tell someone today you love them, spend three minutes writing them a card, an email, or giving them a call.

While I confess I’m not great at this, my friends have taught me something valuable, that if we get better at it, our lives will be the richer.  If it is something new to you, aim to start small, just say something.  The more you do it, the more comfortable and natural it will become.

Don’t leave it until last, until the goodbyes of life.

Use your last words first.


How to find your true self

Thankful for these mates who helped me have an awesome time at the Formula 1 this week.
Thankful for these mates who helped me have an awesome time at the Formula 1 this week.

It’s an age-old game: kids, and even dogs, running after and trying to catch shiny bubbles made from soapy water. And just when they catch one, it disappears.

I wonder if today you feel like someone chasing bubbles, or chasing things that seem like they are uncatchable.

There’s no doubt that one of the things humanity tries hard to catch is meaning. We all find ourselves at one point or another chasing significance, and the more meaningful point to our existence. Often, we find at those times, the more we chase, the more frustrated we become.

I believe we are meant to be people who use life to create meaning, purpose and significance, rather than endlessly search for it.

To use the example above, we are not created to chase bubbles, we are created to blow bubbles, to inject life and meaning into our very existence.

How do we do this? Find a cause to live for.

Your cause in life will give meaning to your life and will determine who you become in life.

As a young man, I was obsessed for many years trying to become the person who I thought I needed to be. This put a lot of my own focus on me: on what I needed, what I wanted, what I thought was of value to my process of “becoming.”

The more egocentric and self-seeking I was, the less I knew about my own purpose and meaning for being. The more self-help books I read, the more introspective I became.  As funny as it sounds, I was my own cause.

However, I’m learning more and more that life is not about me and who I do or don’t become in this world. Life is about finding someone else I can help become all they can be.

In other words, if we can find a cause where the focus is on others and not self, then we, by default, “self-actualise” (that is, we become the person who we are meant to be).

In the search to help others, we discover ourselves.  The cause creates a road to meaning which leads us to becoming who we are.

Find a cause greater than yourself and own it, make it your own.

Focus your attention on meaning and you will become meaningful, or full of meaning.  Fulfilment is found when we find meaning.

When we are busy with a cause, along the way we discover meaning and who we are. Even more than that, it has the power to create a better me and a better you.  You may even find within yourself many attributes that you were unaware you even had.

The more I look at the successful and significant people in my world, I notice that their focus is not in becoming a successful or significant person as much as it is about creating a better world for someone else. Giving meaning to others gives them meaning as well.

The Bible puts it this way (Philippians 2:3-4):

Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.
Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

You will find your life when you live a life for others, for a cause that you have made your own.


“Are you happy?” & other tough questions


I’m not sure if you have ever been asked that question but when you have a terminal illness, it can be a difficult one to answer.

Recently, I was interviewed by James Macpherson, an incredible pastor, leader and friend.

He asked me that question along with others, including my belief in a good God when faced with the challenges of Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

Are you happy?

This was my answer:  Many of us are familiar with the concept of “the pursuit of happiness.” I don’t think that you can pursue happiness or chase happiness down.

I think happiness comes from finding meaning and purpose in life.  If you discover meaning then happiness is a by-product.  If you’re chasing happiness, it can’t be found in the things this world has to offer.

Happiness, however, can be a product of you discovering why you are here and what is the meaning and purpose for your life.

When you discover meaning and purpose then happiness follows.

I have discovered meaning and purpose for my life and therefore the answer to your question is: “Yes” I am a person who has joy even in the midst of suffering, debilitating illness and pain.  There is a deep joy that bring feelings of happiness.

To watch more of the Q&A-style interview and answers to more tough questions, you can check it out here:

Have a blessed day,



In the meantime

I read every book I could find "in the meantime" waiting for my girls to be born!
I read every book I could find “in the meantime” waiting for my girls to be born!

When I was a child, I would ask my mum “How long until dinner?”  Her reply was “Later; in the meantime, you’ll just have to wait.”

Wait!” I thought, why not in the meantime, let me have some ice cream or break out the lollies.  The “meantime” felt like cruel treatment for a young, hungry boy.

You see, the “meantime’ is the space between now and the expected or desired outcome.

In the meantime is where most of us live and experience life.

  • Heaven is coming but in the meantime…
  • Healing is on its way but in the meantime…
  • A job is in my future but in the meantime
  • A life partner is around the corner but in the meantime
  • Children are ours but in the meantime…
  • Promotion is mine but in the meantime…
  • A new song will be sung but in the meantime…
  • I will own my own home but in the meantime…
  • Due to Motor Neurone Disease, I was given two years to live two years ago but in the meantime…

We all have to learn to do life well “in the meantime” because that’s where much of life is lived.

The “meantime” keeps us present, while still looking forward.

When Jesus was talking about his return to earth, He said in the meantime, don’t just wait but “occupy” or “do business” until He comes.

Sometimes from our perspective the “meantime” is a “mean” (as in a “nasty”) time.  However, I believe you can make the meantime a “meaningful” time.  You can choose to occupy that in-between space and do business with it.

The Apostle Paul was a missionary who was always on the way to somewhere else.  He continually found himself in between where he was and where he wanted to be.

Sometimes his “meantime” was a shipwreck, so he got busy saving people and healing those on the island he was stranded on.  Other times he would be in prison so he got busy talking to his fellow-inmates about freedom in Christ and also encouraging other Christians also in prison.

What do you do in you “meantime”?  What do you do in the place between where you are and where you want to be?

I have Motor Neurone Disease but in the meantime I’m doing what I can to live with meaning, purpose and obedience to God’s will.   I am doing my best to turn opposition into opportunity, by God’s grace.

Can I suggest it’s never God’s will just to sit and wait, like I used to as a boy for my dinner.  Instead, use your “meantime” to discover meaning and meaningfulness.

It may be as simple as reading a book or as intimate as sharing your faith.

When my wife was pregnant with our first daughter, I was a nervous young man.  I had no idea what I was going to do when the baby came.  In the meantime of the 9 months pregnancy, I read every book I could get on raising kids (there was no google back then).

Are you looking for a promotion?  In the meantime get to work early and don’t be the first to leave.  Are you looking for a life partner? In the meantime, who are you becoming?

Be encouraged, there is always something you can do to make the most of your “meantime”, on the road to realising all God has for you.


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