What those who are locked-in can teach those of us who are locked-down.
Your ability to adapt to change will determine how quickly we get through this challenge.
Please subscribe to me youtube channel. Search in YouTube for: fridayswithphil
What those who are locked-in can teach those of us who are locked-down.
Your ability to adapt to change will determine how quickly we get through this challenge.
Please subscribe to me youtube channel. Search in YouTube for: fridayswithphil
Courage in the face of Coronavirus.
This was posted last Friday on other social media but just worked out how to do here.
Hope your encouraged.
Recently Lenore and I were interviewed “On the Couch” in a heart-to-heart chat about our journey with terminal illness, how we reconcile our journey with our faith, and how we hope our story can help others.
This is a link to the interview at Riviera Christian Centre here:
Please feel free to share this with anyone who you think it could help!
For the past five years I have become friends with some really amazing people on this journey with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) / ALS.
They are people who I have come to love dearly, people who I have shared the highs and lows (mostly lows) with, as the disease continues to relentlessly ravage their body and eventually take their life.
Recently, I lost three of these friends to this disease, all within two weeks of each other, and all from my hometown of Newcastle. Then, I lost a fourth friend a month after that.
I was emotionally drained. I’m not proud to say, I began to build a wall of resistance around my life.
I built a wall that I believed would protect me from ever again feeling the pain of loss that death and suffering had brought.
My prayers had become prayers of self indulgence and self focus. Prayers like, “God I can’t and won’t do this anymore. I won’t reach out to people who are dying, just to be hurt and disappointed.”
To my shame, I didn’t want to get to know more people who I would come to love, just to lose them.
No sooner did I pray these prayers than I was being introduced to four other people who had just been diagnosed with MND. In fact, today, I am meeting up with two of them for coffee.
However, to tell you the truth, I was really struggling to open up, to again build relationships, only to see my friends suffer at the torture of this disease.
I knew that unless a miracle happens in our lives, we would be separated by a cruel death.
Then something shifted.
In my pain, I began to think about all those who have loved and been hurt.
I thought about others who have loved and lost: the partner who has loved and been abandoned; parents who have buried children; children who have seen the parents they love separate; anyone who has loved and seen that love rejected; the young person who opened their heart to have it crushed by abuse or unfaithfulness.
I came to realise that there were others like me who had built or were building this same wall to protect themselves from further pain.
I could see how easy it would be to build a wall of resistance for self preservation.
Why? Because I was doing it!
How easy it is to believe the lie that it is better to not love than to lose the one you have loved.
Soon after the funerals of my friends and being introduced to others who would soon become friends, I was chatting with God and reading my Bible (something I try to do each morning), in particular Ephesians 5: 1-2 which says:
Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behaviour from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
The words, “His love was not cautious but extravagant,” just captured my heart and my mind, they penetrated deep into my soul, challenging and at the same time changing me.
Those words, like a bulldozer, began to smash the walls of my resistance and defense.
This Jesus who loved and yet was hurt, rejected, ridiculed and eventually put to death, continued to love without caution. Jesus loved without a sense of self protection or preservation.
In fact, His love was extravagant.
I again began to understand that a life without love and loss is not a life that we are called to live.
We are meant to live life loving courageously.
I found that when my heart decided to love, the resistance that my mind had built up began to crumble.
I may not fully feel the deepest of pain that you may be feeling today, but I do now understand the resistance you may have to fully loving again.
Can I encourage you to courageously find a way to communicate from your heart to your head that love is worth another go?
To love will have its challenges but to overcome those challenges and to love again means to begin to live again.
To live again means that your love is not cautious but extravagant.
You may have had a broken marriage, but you can love again.
You may have had a friend die, but you can love again.
You may have had a colleague manipulate or bully you, but you can love again.
Your trust may have been smashed into a million pieces, but you can love again.
Will it be easy? Are there guarantees that you won’t be hurt again?
No. It won’t be and there aren’t, but if you don’t learn to love again, then the guarantee is you won’t experience all that life has to offer.
Begin today, at least in your heart, to go where you have feared to go. You don’t know where your next step will take you, but a step takes you forward, and through your built up walls of resistance.
As you allow these walls to come down, watch how your life opens up to new possibilities. You will find that the walls didn’t just keep you locked in, but kept others out who can love you and with their love, help you love again.
As for me, I will continue to meet new friends or as they are affectionately called in the United States, PALS (people with ALS). I will love them and at times lose them, but as Alfred Lord Tennyson once aptly said, “’Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.”
And it’s true for you too.
I have had the privilege of becoming friends with Leah Jay in recent years, who is not only a prominent business woman, but who also lost her son Elliot (pictured below) to Motor Neurone Disease / ALS when he was just 19 years old.
Elliot Jay was a talented basketball player and bright University of Newcastle student.
At first, Elliot began to fall over, as his legs would collapse from under him and he struggled to walk up small stairs. One day when his Dad dropped him off at work, he limped to the stairs, stopped at the base of them for a few moments, then turned, struggled back, eyes filling with tears, removed his tie and said “take me home.”
He was never to return.
In his first semester of university, his friend would joke around with him, because he would take the elevator for only a small flight of stairs.
He was walking with his mate down a popular street lined with cafes when he fell over. Onlookers thought he was drunk. With the help of his friend and a stranger, he got back up.
Little did they know this weakening of his left calf was the beginning of the Jay family’s tragedy.
Diagnosed in 2007 at just 18 years of age, by January of 2008, Elliot had lost the use of his arms, legs and neck. He died in April 2008, after a 12 month battle.
In honour of her son, nine years after her his death, at 4:40am on 22nd May 2017, Leah Jay reached the highest point in the world.
She successfully climbed Mount Everest, becoming one of less than a dozen Australian women to successfully do so.
Her goal is to climb the seven highest mountains on each of the seven continents in honour of Elliot. This was her sixth and Denali in Alaska will be her last.
There is so much I never knew about the feat that is Everest.
For example, did you know, there is only a window of two weeks per year that you can climb it?
First you have to trek the Himalayas for 10 to 12 days before you even get to base camp, at an altitude of 5, 300m. Yellow tents are home for six (yes, six!) weeks.
Leah wrote in her journal last year while on Everest, “I’m not super human, I’m just a girl from Newcastle. But I chose to be here.”
She said, you can’t practice the fear you will feel climbing and navigating the ladders.
With so much you can’t control, you just have to keep going and remember the pain is temporary, she said.
She was literally in the death zone. She slept with two dead bodies outside her tent. That’s when you start questioning your own ability and reason for being there, Leah said.
I have learnt so much from Leah’s pursuit.
Leah didn’t just wake up one morning and go and climb the biggest mountain she could find. She began with high tracks, then small mountains and then Everest. Once she decided to climb Everest, she lived and breathed it. Her whole focus was on fitness, diet, sleep, equipment and training.
I believe there is much we can take from Leah when it comes to how we live in the pursuits of our own lives.
Leah will pursue Denali, her final mountain, before returning to Newcastle for the Big Freeze, seeing locals slide into ice water, raising much needed funds for a cure for MND.
For those who want more info on this year’s Big Freeze on June 23rd 2018, you can visit www.newcastlefreeze.com – a worthy cause, I am passionate about and proud to support.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, for all those who are fighting or who have lost anyone to MND, you are not alone. There is an army of friends, family and a community who are behind you to conquer this beast, this mountain, of a disease. And like any great endeavour, it will be one step at a time.
Have a blessed day,
(And sincere thanks to Leah Jay for allowing us to share her amazing images of Everest and of her beloved son, Elliot.)
Have you ever thought about your peak performance? When have you been, are you, or will you be at your peak?
The idea of a peak suggests that there is a tipping point towards your best and that either side of that point is less than the ultimate state of the peak.
Well, five years ago, I was told, I had reached my “peak.” I was told, it would only get worse for me. That each day I would find my body weaker as motor neurones die out and eventually there would be none left, and I would have no ability to move at all.
In some ways, the doctors were right, I have become weaker. My body is a physical reminder that my “peak” is behind me, as each day I live I am left with less than the day before, closer to that final day.
I have lived each day aware and perhaps more “up close” to the inevitable decline towards death that surrounds me, in my own life and also living with the death of friends with this disease.
That’s physically speaking, but my experience in every other way, suggests otherwise.
Maybe you live aware of your own peak? Whether it’s performance-based, health, relationship-wise, or even professionally? Feeling like you’ve reached it and it’s only downhill from here. Or maybe, it’s a place you strive for but never quite attain?
Let this be an encouragement for you today, your peak need not be a point! What do I mean by that?
While my body has become weaker, but in and of myself, I have become STRONGER.
Every day I live in the present and with the conviction that this is my BEST day, not my worst.
By facing my own death and the death of other’s, I have never been more aware of LIFE.
Acknowledging the possibility of death only ignites a fire to live. Being present in darkness releases the light. Just as light becomes brighter when it breaks into the darkness.
How is this possible?
From my own experience, there must be a source greater than the available resource of your own being.
If I’m to experience life in the presence of death, then I need a life flow that comes from the defeat of death.
If I’m to live in the light whilst surrounded by darkness, then I need a light source that has overcome darkness.
It is the infusion of life and light that fills your being, dispelling the fear of death and darkness.
This is truly living at your peak.
Our human nature with its delusions and left to its own devices, wants to preserve and protect us. It can cause us to deny our own darkness.
In doing so, I think it has actually deprived us of a deeper awareness of life and the presence of light.
And in turn, it has given us a misguided view of our own personal peak.
You see your personal peak may be simply standing in the strength that comes from victory over death. It may be awaiting your decision to step into the light.
If you are asking again, “but how is this possible?” Let me put it this way.
What I am talking about is eternal, supernatural, and spiritual. It’s the eternal, supernatural and spiritual life and light found in the person of Jesus Christ.
I believe that it is only possible to experience this when we are connected to the source, that is Jesus Christ, who overcame death, and created light, for you and me.
You see, at the very beginning of life itself, God spoke and declared “let there be light” and there was light (Genesis 1:3). But it didn’t end there, He kept fighting for us to experience light by defeating death.
Jesus put it this way “”I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life (John 8:12 NLT).” Jesus made it simple for us, we simply acknowledge the pain, the death and darkness in our lives, and invite Him to be the life and light.
And then, Russell Brand sums it up nicely, saying this in a recent Relevant Magazine feature (yes, that Russell Brand, ex-husband of Katy Perry):
“If Christ consciousness is not accessible to us, then what is the point of the story of Jesus, you know?” he asks rhetorically. “He’s just a sort of a scriptural rock star, just an icon. Unless Christ is right here, right now, in your heart, in your consciousness, then what is Christ?”
[“Russell Brand: Unless Christ is in your heart, then what is Christ?”, sited 5 Jan 18, https://relevantmagazine.com/culture/russell-brand-unless-christ-is-in-your-heart-then-what-is-christ/ ]
Perhaps, while we are still at the beginning of this new year, it would be a good time for us all to look at the reality of our own death and darkness and choose light and life.
I believe your peak performance is within your reach today, it just may look more like light and life than you expected it to.
New findings from the Robert Half survey of 2000 workers show that employees aged 35 – 54 are the least happy in the Australian workplace, closely followed by employees aged 18 – 34.
Workers over the age of 55 are the happiest employees. Robert Half found that not only are the over 55’s the happiest, but they are also the most fulfilled, less stressed and find their work more interesting than ever before. (www.roberthalf.com.au/press/australian-workers-are-happier-and-less-stressed-older-they-get-survey)
When I was diagnosed with MND/ALS, I was 54 years old. According to this survey, I was about to enter the happiest, most fulfilling, less stressful and interesting time of my life.
I felt I had entered this so-called “happiest” place at age 51. I had found my groove and was really enjoying my life. I was realising and living my dreams, fulfilling my potential and operating in my God-given gift.
All of that changed upon receiving my diagnosis.
Within months, I had lost it all. Really within seconds, emotionally and physiologically, but it took months for the consequences to play out.
My dreams had been shattered into a million pieces, my stress was heading north, and I was feeling anything but happy or fulfilled.
Imagine yourself in my shoes, maybe you have been there yourself, where your whole life changes in a moment.
It’s been almost five years since my diagnosis and I’m not dead (hence another blog). Yes, I still have MND/ALS, and yes, according to the experts, I’m going to die sooner, rather than later.
But my life only took a detour and I’ve discovered it was not a dead-end.
Today I’m happy, fulfilled, less stressed and I would go so far as to say, I am “living the dream.”
This is not because I’ve received a miracle or have been cured from my disease. Both of which I stay very much in hope for, not just for me, but also for others.
Nor am I suggesting that removal of your pain or my disease is the only answer to rediscovering what it means to be happy, fulfilled and less stressed.
Here is what I have learned on the detour that may help you if you’re struggling to find the road back to happiness and fulfilment.
I’ve had to realise that this is my life. I have this one life and it’s mine.
You can too easily go through life wishing for another life, you can fantasise that you’re someone else, and you can pretend all you want, but this only stops you from being you, being present and being alive.
You and I don’t get to do this life again, not ever! Not this year, not this month, not this day, not this hour. You live it and it’s lived, behind you.
You are the owner and as owner you have freewill to decide what responses and attitudes you will have in this journey that is yours.
You’re the “ONE” in “everyONE who believes in Me will have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
You’re the “WHO” in “WHOever lives by believing in me will never die.” (John 11:25)
You’re the “I” in “the life I now live…I live by faith in the Son of God.” (Galatians 2:20)
So own it. Face it.
A man came up to me just the other day and said “you are a realist”. I guess I am, to a degree. I face up to the reality as a first step to bringing change for the better. With my terminal diagnosis, I had to face the reality before I could move beyond my fear.
The usual human habit of allowing thoughts of death to remain in the background was now impossible for me.
These days, I use a wheelchair more often than not. I use it because I have faced the reality that my legs are not as strong as they used to be. My wheelchair is not a symbol of disability but a means to accessibility.
You have to face your giant if you are to overcome your giant.
There’s a story in the Bible about a young boy, David, defeating a so-called unbeatable giant, Goliath.
If David pretended there was no giant, he would never have picked up five stones.
He would never have experienced victory.
You have to face the reality that one day, you will die, it is at that moment you are empowered to live.
In a very real way, death is the secret to life.
Nothing will make you live more fully today than the realisation that tomorrow is never a guarantee.
So face it. And then:
I have within my own breath the power to create what frames my world and how I live it. And so do you!
I don’t mean this in a magical or even mystical way. I mean that the way you frame the words you use has a very real effect on the way you will think and the way you feel. As you think, so you will be.
The words of your mouth and the meditations of your heart and soul create peace, or they don’t.
When you have lost your happiness, dreams and sense of fulfilment, you have to create them again. How do you do this? By the words you speak and the meditations of your soul.
If I kept talking about how good the past was and what my dreams were, I would never speak new dreams into existence.
Only by letting go of past dreams are you able to dream again.
In this way, letting go is the secret to holding on.
I am learning that my thoughts and words must align for them to frame the world I want to live in. Some of my dreams are short-term, others are longer-term. Like seeing my grandson start school or seeing my granddaughter get married. You have to dream.
So face it, create it, and then:
What are you breathing for?
I have an Apple watch and there is an alert that periodically reminds me to breathe. It also tells me when to stand (this always gets me smiling).
Anyway, when I am reminded to stop and breathe deeply, I imagine every slow, deep, prolonged, breath I take is filled with the life-giving breath of God.
This not only creates a sense of peace, but also works at reducing stress, which in turn reduces the effect and speed of disease in my body (or “dis-ease” as I like to call it).
Breathing is important. But oxygen isn’t my only source of life.
As a Christian, for me, it is being connected to God through prayer, the Bible and His church. It’s allowing the life, love and light of His presence to inspire faith, hope and love.
Other ways are by being thankful, turning opposition into opportunity, by not getting offended, and by living with an eternal perspective, all of which I’ve touched on before.
I encourage you today, no matter the dead-end looming ahead of you: face up to the reality of it, create a new future, and live it out savouring each breath.
My prayer for you today is that you too could say without a word of a lie, that in every season, you are “living the dream” on your own detour to happiness.
Last week, we met our beautiful granddaughter, Maya.
She is one year old and we are all in love!
Maya is the adopted child of my eldest daughter and her husband, their first child, and our third grandchild.
This has been a journey of over five years: a journey of faith, patience and courage as they have believed for this moment. In fact, I remember writing a reference for Shannon and Rebecca as part of the application process for intercountry adoption. What I said then, is still true to this day.
I was looking back on that and thinking about what makes great parents. There are four traits I identified in recommending Shannon and Rebecca to the Australian government as adoptive parents, and they are four things I want to continue to cultivate as a parent and a grandparent in my own life.
These are the four things I believe are necessary for every parent to consider if they want to be the best they can be for their children.
Parents may feel overwhelmed by the increase and speed of knowledge, and they may wonder, how can we successfully raise children who may live in a very different world?
There are so many places to find more information and more knowledge on how to be a good parent and what makes a good child.
There is no doubt that in 20 years time my grandchildren will live in a far more knowledgeable world. It is not beyond the realms of a world filled with artificial intelligence and advanced assistive technology.
But none of it compares to wisdom.
Wisdom is the advantage and the great resource you can give your child.
Teaching them that just because something is able to be done or said, doesn’t mean it should be. Knowing what to do and say in any given situation is not necessarily just a matter of knowledge, but wisdom.
More knowledge with less wisdom can take that knowledge from being an advantage to human kind to a disadvantage.
For me the beginning place of all wisdom is to know God. To bring a child to the place where they experience the love and grace of God through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
The Bible says in Job 12:13, “True wisdom and real power belong to God;from him we learn how to live, and also what to live for.”
There are many types of security. To name a few: physical, emotional, financial security.
I love that my grandchildren will grow up in a loving, caring safe and protected family environment.
All parents have a responsibility, to the very best of their ability, to provide for their children.
Do you have a solid approach to securing future financial security? It is an important part of every parent’s role to provide their family with needed security, protection and provisions. What can you do today to help build an inheritance for your children’s children? Spend less? Save more?
Every child deserves a safe environment to grow and thrive. There are no exceptions. This should go without saying but unfortunately there are too many (while there is even one) children living in environments that are not safe, whether physically, emotionally and environmentally. You can be the difference.
What’s more, no child should ever feel like the “only one”. When it comes to building a secure self esteem and resilience, we all need a sense of belonging to others, to humanity, to family.
I believe that every child needs a warm and loving sense of “home.”
This secure home environment, whether it has the latest gadgets or furniture, the latest shoes or clothes, is far more valuable than any gift you could give them. Knowing you are a safe place, a security, will help them grow to live a healthy, vibrant and fun-loving life.
We say we love our car, our house, our holiday, our food, then, in the same breath, we also love our children, family and friends.
Things can be seen as objects of usefulness or obstacles that hinder. People should never be seen in this way.
Genuine love and concern for others needs to be passed on by example, not just speech. As parents, your integrity in how you love others will stay with your children for life.
People deserve love not objectifying.
Paul, the Apostle, wrote in Ephesians 5:2, “and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” That is what Christ was like.
He gives himself up, as Paul reminds us here. He is forever thinking of someone else. He is always reaching out toward someone else.
As a parent we are always conscious of “the someone else” in our life.
Love is a lifestyle. Love is observable and tangible.
Dr Barnhouse (March 28, 1895 – November 5, 1960), said referring to love in all its fulness:
“Love is the key
Joy is love singing
Peace is love resting
Longsuffering is love enduring
Kindness is love touching
Goodness is loves character
Faithfulness is loves habit
Gentleness is loves self forgetfulness
Self control is love holding the reigns.”
If anything captures the attention of children living in a despairing world, it’s hope-filled parents.
When I was diagnosed with MND/ALS, I knew my children would follow my lead through this journey. If I lived with hope, they would also. We as a family didn’t surrender to the “nothing you can do attitude.” I might not be able to get back the motor neurones that had already died, but I could give the surviving ones a fighting chance. My children responded to that.
They are with me in actively fighting this deadly disease. That’s HOPE and it’s contagious.
Some parents are unfortunately so negative about everything that they will never instil a spirit of hope for a better future in their children.
The fact is that our hope must be so observable so that others can see it.
Hope is a steady persistent optimism and trust in God. It’s not just about loving God but also trusting Him.
I finish this blog by encouraging you that, everything I’ve said about an earthly parent is also true of our heavenly Father towards us.
God is the source of all wisdom, He loves us unconditionally, He provides and protects and He has provided the ultimate hope in heaven and eternity.
Not only that but with arms outstretched, He offered us adoption into His own family. Our step towards Him is to put our faith and trust in Jesus. It’s the best decision we can ever make.
Have a blessed day!
From a very happy grandpa & a very proud parent,