Fridays with Phil

Life, family and unshakeable faith


April 2017

Five qualities I can’t live without

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Another day in the office. Some of the great people helping me fight MND.

A while back, one Boxing Day, my son-in-law and I bought remote control helicopters. Well, mine has not been working for a while, and I find out, neither has his. Mine spins and flashes but doesn’t take off the ground. It doesn’t fly, which is what I bought it to do.

My son-in-law suggested recently that we should take parts from his and make at least one that works.

Because they are the same make and brand, this is a possible solution.

It made me think that much of our lives can be spent spinning and flashing, like my broken remote-control helicopter, but not really getting anywhere, not taking off, not flying.

Maybe the answer is getting the missing parts of our lives from others with a similar culture or DNA. Maybe the broken or missing parts we need can be found in others, in partnership and togetherness.

Maybe we were never meant to fly without the assistance and help of others.

When I was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and given only a short time to live, I knew if I was going to give this my best shot, then I would need to get some people on my team that thought and fought like me, so I could “fly”, if you like.

What will get you through the challenges of life and make you stronger, are people who share the same values and the same perception of your world. They don’t have to be the same as you, but would be willing to bring their unique parts to the table.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the multidisciplinary team of friends, family and professionals who have become a lifeline.

If you are going to be the best “you” that you can be, to achieve all that you have in your heart to achieve, then believe me, you will need others.

So what exactly do you look for in others? There are five great qualities that come to mind.

First: someone with answers.

A million people will find fault, find the one who finds answers. When I was choosing an Occupational Therapist (OT), I was looking for someone who had vision, foresight, a sense of mission and a positive outlook on life.  I chose someone who could see the challenge but was creative enough to come to me with answers.

Second: someone who is fruitful.

I want my team to show fruitfulness in what they do; they have results from past endeavours. I have a physio who is very new to the field but in the short time she has been a physio she has shown great dedication and already has great references.

There is a passage in the Bible when Jesus walked up to a fruit tree and cursed it because it didn’t have fruit.  The funny thing was, it wasn’t the time of year for fruit. So why was Jesus so hard on the tree? Perhaps because He knew this tree would not bear fruit.

Third: someone willing to be in alignment.

To get people moving in the same direction and in the same way may mean firstly identifying misalignments and then creating realignment.  When the tires on your car are aligned regularly, they last longer and give a safer and more comfortable ride.

When it comes to the people on my team to fight MND, I have to first address the misalignment that “I’m just going to surrender and wave the white flag.”  NO WHITE FLAGS on my team thank you very much.

We will acknowledge the reality but we will not give into it as having the final say.  When it comes to new assistive technology, it’s about bringing me more freedom, not less. I’m not afraid to adopt early suggestions from OTs, but the reason must be for longevity and freedom to live. The motivation for incorporating this technology is not because of a disability but because it will give me greater ability.  It’s only a small alignment in thinking. And it makes a big difference to me.

Fourth: someone who makes me feel good.

I’m not afraid to say that I want people in my life who make me feel good.  They are good for my mind and emotions.  When I have an appointment with my neurologist, naturopath, counsellor or doctor, I want to like them and their attitude.

God calls us to a life of loving those who don’t show that same love back, but that doesn’t mean we have to rely on them to help us fly, so to speak.

In hard times, you will need people you like. You may not want to necessarily holiday with them but you can honestly say that they are a nice person.

If you are thinking, “well I don’t know any nice people,” then maybe you need to start being nice. Nice attracts nice.

Fifth: someone of faith and courage

I want people on my team who can see beyond today’s limitations, someone who is not satisfied with the status quo, someone who finds better ways of doing things.

I want my team to be courageous enough to tell me when it’s not safe for me to drive, but at the same time, keep me driving for as long as I can.

People who encourage are people who put courage in.  It’s not just by their words, but by a sense of their being.  Sometimes, it is just knowing that they are with you. The net is made stronger and bigger by them being there.

There you have it:  five things I look for in people I do life with.  Who knows, it may just be part of the puzzle that keeps me going to fight MND.


It’s all good


Single, Married, Sick, Healthy, Rich, Poor? Discover how to live with happiness.

Last week I was telling my psychologist how frustrating the changes in my body are. The simple things, like I have to wait for one of my sons to come over to carry salt to the swimming pool.

She said, “change will happen, sometimes we must learn to live with change being the new normal”.

What is the secret to a happy and content life?  I think it is learning to be content in whatever situation you find yourself in: single, married, sick, healthy, rich, or poor.  It’s a contentment that comes from within.

Philippians 4:12 says “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.”

Contentment is not conning yourself, psyching yourself up, or pretending you like what you really don’t like. That isn’t contentment — that’s fake.

Contentment is taking stock of your attitude and deciding that with Christ’s presence in you, you can cope! You can handle it! You are sufficient for the problem!

Contentment is not apathy, laziness, or complacency.  If you can change a situation, you don’t need to be content and lay in it — maybe you need to get up and do something about it.

Where you really need to master the art of a learned contentment is in the situations that you can’t control: those things that are beyond you.

I had a friend Bruce who was battling cancer and every single time I caught up with him, on his best days and on his worst, the contentment he felt was tangible.  Each time I asked him “how are you in here mate?” pointing to my head, or “how are you in here mate?” pointing to my heart, he would answer “it’s all good!”

My friend Bruce didn’t say that as a throw away line, he kept his peace in the midst of the storm.   His faith was unwavering and anchored his soul.

So how do you do that?  I have learned a couple of ways:

One is to avoid comparison.

There will always be people that make more money than you, who have greater opportunities than you have, or who have fewer problems. So what? That does not need to have any bearing on your own personal contentment.

Howard Hughes, a business magnate and Hollywood socialite, was once asked, “How much money does it take to make a man happy?” He said, “Just a little more.”

In stark contrast, the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:18, “We don’t look around at what we see right now, the troubles all around us. But we look forward to the joys in heaven.”

You don’t need to have what others have, be liked by everyone or have more than what you have now to be content.

I can’t afford to spend time comparing myself to other people or in the futile pursuit of more.   I keep my eyes on a far greater hope and purpose.

Another is to adjust to change.

Life is full of ups and downs — emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially. One thing is certain in life: change.

Change is going to happen whether you like it or not and we must be flexible because circumstances usually aren’t.

How well do you handle change?  Do you get frightened? Moody? Angry? Uptight?

Your happiness in life will be largely dependant upon your ability to adapt, adjust, and be flexible.

What is the secret of a content and happy life? Learn to relax, trust God, avoid comparing yourself and adjust to change.


(Originally published as The Secret to Happiness)



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