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Fridays with Phil

Life, family and unshakeable faith

Month

July 2015

It’s never too late

This week my Mum was promoted to heaven.

She was 95 years old and until her final days was active and healthy.  In fact, her last week saw her attend the Lifeline Brass Blokes Awards night (pictured above) as well as her great grandson being dedicated at Church.

If I had to narrow it down to what I am most thankful to my Mum for, it would be her lasting eternal legacy.  Let me explain.

She made some brave decisions at age 54.  After separating from my Dad, I remember how hard Mum would work to find cleaning jobs at night while offices were closed and even got her driver’s license, something she was proud of her entire life.

Not only that, but that was when she started a relationship with Jesus and became a Christian. This new life gave her hope, strength and joy.

I can remember Mum sitting for hours with her Bible, a notebook and studying with the help of audio teaching tapes and various resources.

Raising a teenage boy without his Dad in the picture, Mum knew I needed to have healthy male role models and she started taking me to Full Gospel Business Men’s breakfasts, prayer meetings and Church services.

It was at those meetings Mum introduced me to Christian men who were successful in their careers, had healthy relationships with their family and were not addicted to life controlling habits.

As a single Mum, she was laying the foundation for my future and it is because of her selflessness and courage, her commitment to Jesus, and even her ability to reach out and find help in her time of need, that I am who I am today.

If Mum had not been the brave person she was, I would not have met my wife Lenore at Church or raised my two beautiful girls in a healthy family environment.

Yes, my Mums’ legacy is having generational impact.

When I look back and realise that my Mum was my age and older when I was in my teenage years, I’m amazed at her energy, stamina and zest for life.  Right up until her last week, her life was full of blessing.

Mum made me who I am today because of the choices she made to raise me in the right environment.  She courageously turned my life around for the better.

What we can all learn from my Mum’s life:

It’s never too late to make a change for the better;
We need to do what we can and leave what we can’t to God;
Jesus never leaves us;
We need the help of others and we need to be a help to others;
God’s Word is life changing;
To live today with as much enthusiasm and energy as we have and get up tomorrow and do it all again; and
The last half can be the best half.

Thank you Mum, until we meet again.

Phil

I need help

When I was 13 years old my mum and dad separated, leaving my sister and I living with my mum in a tiny apartment. Each Friday I negotiated between mum and dad a weekly support sum given by dad to mum to help raise us. I hated it.

I clearly remember sitting with mum on one side of Epping train station in Sydney while dad sat on the other.  I would walk across the footbridge between them, back and forwards, communicating the terms of how much money mum would get for the week ahead.

At the age of 13, it seemed like dad was only providing for us, not out of love, but because of an unwilling obligation forced on him by mum. And I was mad at my mum that she couldn’t speak for herself and put me in the middle of them.

It’s only after decades have passed that I can see that I had drawn childish conclusions about both my mum and dad at that time. Those conclusions influenced reactions in my life, not only a fear during the early years of my marriage that Lenore would leave me suddenly, but also a difficulty in accepting help from others.

I grew up struggling to believe that when people did help it was out of love, not obligation.

I wonder what childish conclusions you may be living with to this day?

Today as a 55 year old who needs to rely more and more on the help of others, I now realise it was unfair of me to assume ill motives on others. There are people who are neither unwilling or under obligation that want to help and do help. I was the one with the issue.

Maybe like me, you need to acknowledge your own false conclusions.

What I now know is that my dad did love me and my mum was not using me. They had stuff going on in their lives that had nothing to do with me. My dad’s tough negotiating, for example, had more to do with his need for money to feed his addictions and pay his bills, not to mention his anger over mum leaving.

What about you? What childish conclusions about life and relationships are you living with?

Have false conclusions in your life stemmed from disappointments, from past experiences, or just incorrectly processing information?

Are you like me, reacting or responding to people and their actions from a dysfunctional mindset built upon false understandings and conclusions that have framed the way you now think?

You see, not only as adults do we need to put aside childish behaviours, but it may also be time to put away seeing life how a child sees life – recognising, there may be more to every story.

There is so much potential for our lives as we mature, not only in age, but in actions, and in how we perceive the world. I leave you with this verse today, 1 Corinthians 13:11:

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”

Phil

P.S. If you want to help me end MND / ALS, visit www.curemnd.org.au

Courage under fire

Tonight I am attending the Lifeline Brass Blokes Awards as one of five finalists.

This recognition is given to people who have been through adversity yet still find the time and courage to give back to their community.

It got me to thinking about courage. I wonder how you would describe a person with courage?  Are the only courageous people in our world the ones that are seen to do extraordinary acts of bravery?

I like to think of courage as something ordinary people like you and I can attain to each and every day as we go about our ordinary lives.  After all, many of the courageous actions of others are born out of circumstances they did not create but had to respond to the best they could.

In fact, sometimes the most courageous decisions we make are to do with matters unseen.

I think of Rugby players as strong people, running on to fields where they give it their all. I think of firefighters as brave people, running into burning houses to save lives. But what I think is most courageous is when those same people, not only face physical battles, but get real about their own internal challenges, their fight for integrity, or reaching out to help others.

Strength may come and go but courage has to do with what lasts: our mind, our heart, our spirit. The ability to be courageous is what we need to pass on to our children and our children’s children.

I think of my friend who before he was diagnosed with MND / ALS was a coal-miner, the breadwinner in his family.  He found his identity and purpose in being able to provide and protect those he loved, but disease has robbed him of his ability to function in that role.  Going deep beneath the earth required his skill and strength, but digging deep within himself to live, dealing with emotional pain and physical challenge, is what makes him courageous!

I think of another friend as she undergoes brain surgery for cancer with extreme resilience, but even more inspiring to me is how her and her husband show tremendous courage in the way they are living on such and emotional roller coaster through the journey of this valley.

Courage is about the ability to face our internal fears, challenges and setbacks.

It’s facing the fears of having to change the way you thought about life, its being willing to talk about things that you once could ignore or hide behind a brave face.

Courage is not the absence of feelings but the ability to face them and still engage in the present.  

The simple act of communicating your fears to loved ones and not repressing them may take more courage then racing into a burning building to save them.

People who reach out to the likes of Lifeline, a counsellor or loved one because they are facing haunting thoughts of suicide, or are living with depression, abuse or addiction – they are in my eyes courageous.  If that’s you, I would encourage you to reach out to someone. Yes it will take courage but I believe we all have the ability to show courage in the face of fear.

Courageous people:

  1. Admit they have a challenge.
  2. Realise they are not alone.
  3. Understand that the first step towards help is the hardest.
  4. Know that help is not a hand out but a hand up.
  5. Are committed to changing for the better.
  6. Face fear not suppress it.
  7. Open up to people they trust.
  8. Stay in accountable relationships.
  9. Pray; they speak of their anxieties to God the one who loves unconditionally.
  10. Stay openly honest and mindful of their challenges.
  11. Realise failure is a step forward.
  12. Hope for a better future.
  13. Make their fear less important than the desired outcome.
  14. Love themselves and others enough to change.
  15. Live in the present and not in fear of what may or may not happen.

Phil

Give your life!

Via Doctors Without Borders - Sudan
Image via Doctors Without Borders – Sudan

You may have heard it said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

What does laying down our life look like in this day and age?

Consider this: your life is made up of time, years, weeks and hours.  When you go to work, you get paid for the time you invest or for the services that require your time.  That time represents your life.

For many people, for every working hour of their life, an exchange of money takes place.  If you have worked 40 hours for $1200, then you have given one hour of your life for a return of $30.  When you spend $120, you have effectively given what represents four hours of your life.

In this way, the money you receive and the time you use represent your life. 

That said, I wonder what you are giving your life to?   What are you “laying your life down” for?

There’s no doubt that there are many good causes to donate to and many opportunities to be generous with our time and resources.   It seems the ask is louder the larger our population grows and the more our world finds itself in need of help.

What you may not have considered is that when you do respond to support these causes, you are doing something significant.  You are giving of your life.

If you give money to support a child in a third world country, you’re giving your life to better the life of that child.  It’s a beautiful thing.

If you have donated to researching a cure for illnesses, you give your life for those people suffering and the ramifications of that will outlive you.

If you dedicate hours a week to better the lives of others (like my friend who is on a pension but time rich), you lay your life down.

I would encourage you to not only see yourself handing over dollars or “helping out”, but see yourself investing your life into whatever you give to.

Most of us will not be called upon to lay down our physical life for another.  But there is a way that we can all lay down our lives for others.  It’s through living generously.

Every day we have the opportunity to be generous with our time, our energy  and our resources.

Not only are you doing a good thing when you give of your life for others, but I believe it’s in giving that you experience a personal sense of well-being. I also believe you will have a sense that your life is more meaningful as it is attached to greater purpose.

A survey of 2000 people from different socioeconomic backgrounds found that those who volunteered at least 5.8 hours a month and those who gave at least 10% of their income had higher levels of happiness, less depression and had generally better health (Smith and Davidson).

An exchange of generosity and love will in itself have a benefit to both the giver and the receiver. 

Next time you give your time, energy or money for the benefit of others, know that in your own way you are laying down your life – and there really is no greater love.

Phil

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