Fridays with Phil

Life, family and unshakeable faith


August 2015

When you don’t know what to say

Do you struggle with what to say to someone when you know they have a terminal disease, a disability, a mental illness or even when they are facing a seemingly insurmountable challenge?

As someone living with Motor Neurone Disease, I find myself on both sides of the conversation, receiving comfort and offering it, so maybe I can help.

I think a good rule of thumb is to stick to conversation, questions and condolences that match your level of relationship with the person.

Just because someone is going through something doesn’t automatically give us license to extend beyond the level of our current relationship with them.

As a casual friend or acquaintance, I ask people, how they are going “today”?  It means they don’t have to answer what can be an impossible question: “how are you going?”  Unless that person has been cured, they probably don’t want to relive everything that they are currently facing in what they are going through. The word “today” allows them to remain focused on the present.

For those I am closer with, I may ask, how they are “feeling”? This moves a conversation beyond the factual realities of the situation and towards how they are coping, emotionally, spiritually, or mentally with what they are going through. Their answer could be about how they are feeling about the future or the courage they need to face each day’s challenges.  It may be as detailed as treatment plans and the potential side effects of trial drugs.

So for your sake, for their sake, only ask if you really want to know. 

It’s shocking some of the things people come out with when they don’t know what to say. I’ve had people invite me to go into a closet with them to pray and not come out until I am healed. Some have asked me if I am really that sick as I look so good. Others have suggested that a forty-day fast with lemon and water will cure me.

All well meaning I’m sure, but there are better things we can say and they are often the simplest things: How are you going today? How are you feeling? How can I help? I’m praying for you, I’m sorry, you are inspiring, we love you, we are proud of you.

These words acknowledge the seriousness of what they are going through and yet still inspire hope for the future.

If you get a response like “I’m doing great” or “this is a great day”, it is not necessarily a contradiction to the challenge they have, it could just be a reflection of them trying to have the best day possible and not dwell on their less-than-perfect situation.

It is always good to consider that a person travelling through a tough time is most likely digging deep to find the strength to be positive. You never know, they could just be on the brink of taking a leap of faith. Their breakthrough could be just around the corner.

Your words could make all the difference.


The victorious life

We all want victory.  I don’t know anyone who is happy about losing or being defeated.

However, the truth is that if we are living at all, we will have experienced times of loss and defeat.  Does that mean we are not victorious?

I believe that although we may have times of defeat, we can still have a victorious life where the rhythm of our life is victorious and where the theme or banner over our life is victory.

We can live in such a way that our heart is not discouraged from a single defeat, but is courageous knowing victory is measured over a lifetime, not over one day.

Michael Clarke has retired as Australian cricket captain at the end of one of Australia’s biggest Ashes losses.  Yet Michael should be remembered as a great cricket captain, for his triple century in 2012, his 161 with a fractured shoulder, his century after the death of Hughes. He is not to be remembered for a single loss, but for many victories.

How do we keep our heart victorious in the face of defeat?

Here are some keys:

1. Remember the wins of the past.  

Think about what God has accomplished in and through your life to date.  Psalm 103:2 says it like this, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”

One of the traps of time is that the further we get away from the work we saw God do, the more we are tempted to make it not such a big deal or even worse give ourselves the credit, rather than God’s provision and divine help.

It is important that we remember what God has done for us if we are going to walk in continued victory.

2.  Win the private battles.

To have victory in public, we need to win some battles in our own soul and spirit. This is the hardest battlefield at time because it takes more courage to change ourselves than to find fault in others.

Finding fault in others only superficially gives us a sense of victory. That’s why some people gossip because it’s easier than having to look at themselves and see areas that need changing.

Maybe, it’s time to look for any rubbish that needs removing and “take out the trash.” Maybe it’s time to get off the gossip train!

3.  Let God in.

Many people have a concept that God is looking for an opportunity to punish them. Nothing could be further from the truth.  God is in fact actively looking for opportunities to show Himself strong in you and through you.  When we are ready to win battles in our own lives, then God is ready and willing to help.

Be encouraged today, you can win in the end. Victory can be your hallmark even in the face of loss and defeat.


How much is my life worth?

Have you ever wondered if you can put a dollar value on life?

This question comes to life when you need to spend money to stay alive: treatments, medications, experimental drugs, and robotic devices.

How much would you spend? How much is 12 extra months of life worth?  $25,000.00; $250,000.00 or $2,500,000.00?

Disease, especially terminal illness, puts life on the scales and you are required to try and find the balance. Disease can require you to give life a dollar value.

In trying to find the balance, I’ve had to lean on my faith.

What I know to be true is that there is a difference between putting value on life and accepting the value that has already been established for me.

My personal significance and self worth is not based on what I might pay for extra days, but instead it is grounded in the amazing sacrifice and love of God for me that lasts for eternity.

God established how much life is worth by giving His all. When the disease of mankind, sin, separated man from God and asked God how much are we, humanity, worth to Him? His answer was “all of Me”!

Galatians 2:20 says that the life I live now is a life of faith established on the reality that Jesus gave Himself for me and He did it because of His love for me.

Money doesn’t and couldn’t begin to put a value on my life, Jesus has already done it by loving me and giving Himself for me.

In the same way, when we love people, when we give ourselves to them, we establish their value to us.  We affirm that they are significant and of great value.

How much do we spend to live?  How much do we spend to save those dying of hunger and thirst, without access to medications in third world countries?

If we take Christ’s example, then I guess it’s all of us: whatever we can and whatever it takes.

We do what we can when we can and as fast as we can. 

This is the nature of God to love life, value life and save lives. Our actions are motivated out of love for others, not at their expense. We live for their value, not our own.

Remember today that when humanity’s shortcomings put the ask on God to give us a value for humanity, to show us what we were worth, He established our value and worth once and for all, His life for ours, and that’s more than enough.


Me and my tattoo

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve attended four funerals.

Facing the reality of death’s certainty for us all, I was again reminded of the eternal hope we have as Christians.

In my situation, having heard from doctors there is nothing we can do, I want you to know that the hope I have in Christ is not dependent on what others can or can’t do for me. My God has already done it all.

When there is nothing doctors can do, there is still hope.

And now, every day I’m reminded of that hope. Why? Because my new tattoo on my wrist reminds me.

It’s an anchor.

The Bible says in Hebrews 6:19, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil…”

The anchor represents our sure and certain hope of eternal life.

My daughter got one too, this is what it meant to her:

It’s my testimony
It’s the only thing in life that is sure and steadfast. My faith.
He (Jesus) is my calm, strength, stability, steadiness in the storm.
He is immovable, unchangeable and secure.

His promise is sure. His love is sure.
He will not let go. 

The waves crash and the winds roar fiercely yet beneath the waters there is calm. Peace. Still. Beneath the waters there He is. My anchor. Heavy, strong, unwavering. 

He is my no-matter-what.
He anchors my soul.
Ever. Always. Sure.”

When Jess and I were getting our tattoos, the artist said we needed to have an anchor that was adequate for the size of our wrists.

I wonder in your life if your anchor is adequate for the size of life’s storms?

The anchor on a ship must match the demands of the sea, as well as the size, weight, cargo and necessities of the particular ship.

The same is true of each human life.

Your faith, your hope, your anchor, or that which you trust in, must be sufficient for all of life’s challenges and ultimately for its final challenge: death itself.

Just as every ship needs an anchor, so does every life.

Who is your anchor?
Who do you put your trust in?
Does your anchor give you calm?
Does it instil peace?
Does it cause you to know hope deep within your soul?
Do you even have an anchor?

It would be a foolish captain who went to sea without an anchor.

Be a wise person today and ask yourself this, “Do I have a trust, a faith, a hope that I can rely on and depend upon in both the calm and the storm?”

Don’t be shaken by the fact that your anchor can’t be seen.  An anchor is only useful when it is out of sight. That’s faith, that’s hope!

The Bible says, ”Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

When you can see your anchor then it’s doing nothing.

Our security is found in the fact that our anchor, Jesus, is far, far out of sight — “inside the veil,” in Heaven itself.


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