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Fridays with Phil

Life, family and unshakeable faith

Nevertheless

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Over the winter months, my wife and I, and even our dog, have loved having a fire burning away.  There’s nothing like the crackling of timber and warmth of a fire.

The only problem is that when we need more timber, I am too weak to carry it.  I’ve had to ask a friend to do it for me.

It’s moments like those, one of many examples I could give, that remind me of my own disability.

When my physical weakness slaps me around, it can make me feel like less of a man than I once was.

You see, the more dependant we are on others, the less significant we feel.

The more of a burden we are, the less useful we feel.

The more help we need, the more helpless we feel.

The more it cost to keep us moving, independent and social, the less of a value add we feel.

Our disabilities mean we are less able.  Being less able makes us feel less useful or even useless.

And while my limitations are caused by a disease (MND/ALS) in my body, I also know that the wear and tear of life, disappointments, disillusionment, relationship breakdowns, negative mindsets, and even the reality of our humanity and aging bodies, can at times, all make us feel “less than.”

Let me encourage you on how I have been challenged to think of my own worth and usefulness in spite of my limitations.

I believe you need to know today, that you are “never-the-less,” no matter what life has served up to you.

Your disability, your limitation, your disappointment need not lessen you.

God has shown me that He always see us as “never-the-less.”

Have a look at this verse from the Bible.  In Deuteronomy 31:8 it says, “And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”

It’s a promise that no matter what, God will be with me always. He is my constant companion through the valleys and the mountaintops of life’s experience.

But it is even more than that.

The word I want to draw our attention to is “forsake.”

God not only promises not to leave us, but He also promises not to forsake us.

If you’re like me, for years I just took the words “leave” and “forsake” to be a repetition of the same meaning, just spelt differently.

But “forsake” actually means that God will not relinquish, resign, surrender, abandon, or reject us.

God will never leave us, but he will also never see us as less when we can do less or we feel less.

Friend, God says He will never retire, relinquish or reject you.  No matter what weaknesses you have or limitations you are plagued with.

One of the biggest challenges a disabled person may face is the feeling of being “less.”  Less when it comes to their humanity, their self worth, their belonging, and their value to the world.

Whilst we are inspired by the efforts and courage of many disabled people, we are less likely to be friends with them.  This can make them feel like less.

God says, no matter what your condition is, He can use you now.  You have meaning, purpose and usefulness.

You may have been abandoned by your spouse, retrenched by your boss, rejected by your community, but not by God.

When we believe it, we become empowered to live it out. We understand that in being human, we have intrinsic value placed on us by God Himself.

To be honest, until you see yourself as “never-the-less,” then others will struggle to as well.

I used to be the pastor of a thriving Church with an incredible team of people around me.  Today, because of MND/ALS, I could never have the energy to carry such responsibility and create the momentum that a growing Church deserves.

I am blessed because most of the circle of friends that I had when I was a pastor have responded like God responds to our increased weakness. They didn’t forsake me. They didn’t see me as less, but as “never-the-less.”

I have continued to speak in Churches and at conferences, invited by people who see me as “never-the-less.”  I’m sure if the day comes when I can no longer speak, God will have something else I can do.

In fact, you just being you and rising with courage above your disability into His ability for your life can be an inspiration to many.

Feelings of being less are closely attached to the reality of what we can no longer do (the focus being on what we’ve lost).

But when we realise that we are “never-the-less,” we focus on what we are able to do and more importantly, we feel that others see our strengths, not our weakness, our ability not our disability.

I have a friend who is completely paralysed and unable to speak, but who, through technology, disciples new Christians online, answering their questions and helping them discover who Christ is.

In fact, another friend, the same one who carried the timber for my fire, rang me before heading overseas.  He said, “Phil, can you do something for me?  Pray for me while I’m away.”

If you have people in your world who are unable to do what they used to be able to do, don’t forsake them.

Find ways to help them know they are “never-the-less” and believe it to be true of you too!

Phil

Are you doing good?

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Great to have the opportunity to share that even in times of challenge, we can overcome evil with good.

Are you doing good?  I’m not asking you how you are going, but rather, is your life producing goodness?

Recently, I have found myself affected by the tragedies happening in our world. The terrorist attacks, young innocent lives lost, and even another friend who lost his battle with Motor Neurone Disease last week.

My immediate emotional reactions are sadness, concern and helplessness.

You can’t avoid feeling sadness for the families left behind, or the victims of such horrific attacks, concern that it could happen at any time and anywhere, and helplessness that I could do nothing to change what has happened.

So often, we let these emotions leave us as just as quickly as the news reporter says “let’s move onto something a little more light hearted.”

The problem with this is that we can move on too quickly and in doing so, we remain unchanged.

Instead, allowing these very real events to sit with us to the point of dissatisfaction means we will be able to stand in the face of them and decide, “enough is enough, I can’t take it anymore, I will be an answer in my world to bring change.

3 John 1:11 says, “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.”

What does it look like to be a carrier of goodness in a world of strife?

It has been said that goodness is easier to recognise than to define.

It’s true that while most of us cannot bring about global change on our own, we can all do something to change the world of someone.

It may only be the world of one person, or it could be 10, 100, 1,000, or 10,000 people.

Whatever your sphere of influence, you can bring peace, joy and hope to it.

The person who is good, as God is good, is generous to give what is not deserved.

This person who is good, as God is good, is open-hearted and open-handed.

What does the Bible say about overcoming evil with good?

Quite simply, it’s a “must do.”

The Bible tells us that as a result of God’s presence in Jesus’ life, He went about doing good.

When goodness is motivated by the presence of God in us, it has eternal value as well as immediate earthly value.

The Bible word for “goodness” is the word “agathosune.”

It is a rare word that combines BEING good and DOING good. It means goodness that originates in our heart but manifests itself in our actions. It literally means, “to be godlike.”

Doing harm is not being like God no matter how you justify it or dress it up.

Matthew 5: 16 says, “Let your light shine before man that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven“.

Light shining in darkness is what God desires for our lives.

What could goodness look like?

True goodness is not necessarily doing what is in the best interest of myself but doing what is truly best for others.

It’s a goodness that goes beyond the aspect of justice.

Goodness may look like a random act of kindness given to a complete stranger.

I remember when the Church I was pastoring started doing random acts of kindness in our community. It spread like wildfire. Kindness is contagious.

People would do things like buy a magazine and randomly walk into an office and give it to the receptionist with a gift voucher attached.

One person was lining up at a chocolate cafe and paid for the people in front of them after they had ordered. Little did they know the girls were sisters who were still grieving the death of a friend.

So come on, let’s be the change in our world and increase acts of goodness and kindness no matter what tragedies surround us.

Let’s not allow our concern to blind us to the goodness that manifests itself in our world, nor sadness to paralyse us from becoming and doing good in our world.

I would encourage you to look for opportunities to be good and do good to someone today.

Phil

 

If you would like to read more about “Random Acts of Kindness Day”, you can check out these links:

https://www.facebook.com/RAKd-123502287691931/?fref=nf

http://www.theherald.com.au/story/475348/its-random-act-of-kindness-day/

http://www.theherald.com.au/story/459389/stan-walkers-random-acts-of-kindness/

Who do you say I am?

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When you are labelled with anything – an illness, disability, divorce, unemployment, infertility, burnout or whatever it may be, that label can seek to define your life.

I have always said, “I may have MND but MND does not have me.”  I have fought the temptation to fall into an abyss of darkness, being defined by an illness many doctors call “the beast.”

Why have I not gone there and allowed the diagnosis to define me?

Firstly, I had to discover true value and self worth is never gained fully by the things we have, what we achieve, or positions we hold. 

If the world can give it, the world can take it away.

I needed to know my self worth, my value as a human being, and my security were bigger than this world and its promises.

Galatians 2:20 says that Jesus loves me and gave Himself for me.  That one verse gives me a lifetime of self worth and significance that the world cannot steal.

My value is in the reality that Jesus loves me, always, and that He gave His life for me and will continue to give me His life daily.

Like me, you may have heard of sports personalities living life full and seemingly happy until a broken bone or torn muscle robs them of many more years of professional sports and they are devastated.

Putting your faith in what you do can cause you to go to a dark place when things don’t go to plan.  But knowing you are not what you do means you can be happy even when the world you live in isn’t harmonious.

Secondly, I learned the value of not focusing on what I am losing, but on what I could still do, as well as the things I could never lose and what I had to gain.

I was not going to give up.  Life was and is worth fighting for.  I found ways to continue in my calling.  I changed my perspective from the temporary to the eternal.

This is a personal decision on what you will focus on.

I have found it quite challenging to hear of the limitations people want to put on others who have disabilities.  There is sadly a perception that a person with disabilities, mental or physical, can be more hassle than they are worth.  I don’t believe that to be true.

The decision to concentrate on what remains when so much is taken, can feel unnatural.  It would be easier to give in and stay there.  So while I continue to trust God’s presence at work in my life, I am also thankful for the newly learned skills to navigate a road I hadn’t travelled before.

Thirdly, I had to ensure the cause I was living for was not self-centred but others-focussed.

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

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.  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.

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

Phil

Being honest about mental health

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My brother John with his two sons Benjamin and Abe

They say that one in every two people will suffer mental illness in their lifetime.

We can too easily hide our head in the sand and think that, because mental illness can’t be seen physically or hasn’t touched us personally, it is somehow less real.

I remember the day eight years ago when mental illness became very real to me.

I can remember when and where it was that I received a phone call to say my only brother John was dead.

I cried outside the cinema, sitting in my car with my wife and youngest daughter for what seemed like the longest time, trying to grasp what I had just been told.

My brother, passionate loving husband, father to two sons and someone who brought so much joy and adventure to people who were blessed to know him.

It didn’t make sense.

It’s only as I came to understand the nature of mental illness that I understood how important and how undervalued our mental health really is.

Mental illness is real and is taking lives.

I know that the death of my brother doesn’t make me an expert (or anywhere near an expert) on the incredible web that is mental illness, from chemical imbalances to personality disorders, the web is complex.

However, I can talk about my own experience and my many years of coming alongside people struggling with mental illness in my pastoral ministry, and more recently, the people I meet who are facing terminal illness.

According to Beyond Blue, mental health is about being cognitively, emotionally and socially healthy – the way we think, feel and develop relationships – and not merely the absence of a mental health condition.

Further they say that having social connections, good personal relationships and being part of a community are vital to maintaining good mental health and contribute to people’s recovery, should they become unwell.

I can tell you now that when I was first diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, I went through a dark place in my own mental health. I was scared I would be as suicidal as my brother.  I knew I would have to get mentally strong for the long road ahead.

This may surprise some people but I believe that the decision to get professional help has kept me able to continue doing what I am today.

Did you know that in Australia, a General Practitioner (GP) can provide you with a mental health plan that allows you to visit a counsellor or psychologist 6-10 times for free?

Don’t be afraid to seek professional help in the area of your thought life and mental wellbeing.

If you find yourself pushing people away who you once found great joy being around or you have this sense you don’t want to bother people, or if you are having feelings of being overwhelmed, unhappy, disappointed, miserable, sad or continually irritated, or if you believe life is not worth living or that people would be better off without you, its time to seek help.

Taking the bold step of making the first appointment is always the hardest, but it simply needs to be taken.

I am so grateful that I can talk to someone who has no other agenda but to see me mentally and emotionally strong in the midst of what can be a painful experience.

Just as I learned to trust my GP, my physio, my nutritionist, my respiratory specialist, my occupational therapist and my neurologist with my physical wellbeing, I needed to trust a professional counsellor with my thought process and managing my stress and emotions.

Alongside all these supports, my faith and trust in God to give me strength is vital.  To all of the above I continued in Church, pastoral support and my personal prayer life.  I guess you could say I created a “life team” of sorts to help take care of my body, soul and spirit.

It is clear that the challenges of today will not be overcome by yesterday’s weapons. I believe with greater attention to mental health and with the right help, mental illness doesn’t have to win the battle over your mind.

Phil

[For immediate support in Australia, you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636]

Keeping it real on relationships

true-gifts-friendship-1100836-TwoByOneWhen it comes to relationships in life, we soon learn that no two are the same.  Yes, we all need them, but if we’re not intentional about them, we could set ourselves up to face lonely days.

It may come as a surprise, but relationships in and of themselves are not intrinsically good, just as they are not automatically close.

More than that, recognising that different relationships should carry different expectations can help us enjoy the diversity they bring to our lives.

For example, if we place high expectations on casual relationships, we could face disappointment and frustration, maybe even feelings of “no one cares.”

However, there is great freedom and wisdom in aligning your expectation with the type of relationship you are in and appreciating that diversity.

What does relational diversity look like?

There are those casual encounters, people we meet as a consequence of sharing a common interest, or attending the same parties, cafes or riding the same trains.  They are people you may only meet once, those who you are friendly with, but who never cross over to becoming more than that. It’s friendliness that just makes life a little easier by a sense of mutual respect.  You may go to the same parties but it is unlikely you would open up to them about how you are really going.

Then there are relationships that seem to happen by default. These are social friendships, they are useful and pleasurable and probably the most common. They don’t take a lot of effort because you are in each other’s worlds, whether at work, you live on the same street, share the same classes, attend the same Church, or you have kids in the same school.

Both of those types of relationships (casual and social) are good, great even, however, I believe they are also inadequate.

Why? Because they are circumstantial. Circumstances change and they change.  If you leave your job, you move house, you stop playing that sport, then the common denominator is no longer an adhesive force.  These types of relationships can come and go, appear and disappear, regularly through life’s journey.

That’s why we need something better.  It’s this third type of relationship that many of us fail to build intentionally into our lives.  It’s real, raw, no-matter-what friendship.

It’s the friend who walks in when others walk out. Do you have those friends in your life? And how do we ensure those relationships are healthy and strong?

I believe Proverbs 18:24 holds the key when it says, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, BUT there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (emphasis added)

Firstly, this proverb tells me that we need to be friendly.  This could be defined as the casual or social relationships.  And that is where many relationships stay. But, this proverb goes onto say that there is something even better than that.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it describes a friend who sticks closer than a brother. In other words, a friend who is loyal.

Loyalty means that you can’t spread yourself so thin in “friendliness” that you don’t have the capacity to be a true friend to a few.

This type of loyal relationship survives through all types of twists and turns, the highs and lows in life.  It’s a friendship that is not momentary or passing but is anchored and long-lasting.  Ultimately, it is anchored by honour, honesty, integrity and goodness.

You can be this type of friend by:

  • loving at all times
  • inspiring your friend to think bigger
  • giving your best for them
  • encouraging, or “putting courage in”
  • letting them know you are with them
  • standing with them through life’s challenges
  • being uncomplicated and “user friendly”
  • appreciating their uniqueness
  • being quick to forgive
  • listening and understanding

If you’re given to jealousy, fear, insecurity, intolerance, apathy, anger, possessiveness or selfishness, then enjoying real friendship may be difficult.

But, when you know what real friendship looks like and nurture it, then you can be sure of the fact that no matter what you face, life will be better together!

Phil

 

A Story of Neil

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With Easter behind us, it can seem acceptable, even right, to move on from its message. But the reality is, only as we walk out the message of Easter is its greatest power seen.

I think of my friend Neil. We became friends over a common enemy.

The name of our enemy: Motor Neurone Disease.

My regular readers would be familiar with this disease, which I have now been living with for three years. For those new on the scene, MND is a progressive illness that robs a person of their physical strength, and eventually, their life, in an unusually short time. Currently, there are no treatments available that stop or reverse its progress.   No wonder MND is called “the beast” by medical professionals and sufferers alike.

Neil was a strong and fit husband and dad of 52 years of age. He was a volunteer lifesaver, motorbike rider, larrikin and worked hard in the mining industry.  He was diagnosed exactly a year after me, in January 2014.  The beast took him in just 14 months.

I visited Neil many times over that period, none more memorable than one morning in September last year. We sat talking about the effects of MND.  I encouraged Neil that he was more than his flesh, more than skin and muscle.  That inside his weakening body was a spirit and soul that was eternal, a spirit and soul that not even MND could permeate.

On the wall in his lounge room that day, I looked up and saw a picture of a ship in a storm.

I explained to Neil that death is somewhat like that ship. The ship departs, and as in death, people wave goodbye, until we can’t see it anymore.  The ship is just as real and just as large as it was when it departed, but those left ashore lose site of it.  Her diminished size is only felt by those left behind, not by her.

Just at the moment when we say, “There! She’s gone!”  There are other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “There! She comes!”

And that is dying.

Neil prayed a simple prayer that day asking God to come into his life and fill him with His love and peace.  He asked God to forgive him of his sins and give him a fresh start.

Last Friday, Good Friday, I sat with Neil again. This time, by his bedside.  I held his hand and asked him to squeeze mine if he could hear and understand me.

I asked Neil if he could remember the story of the ship. He squeezed my hand.

I told him that it looked like he was about to “say goodbye” to this shore but that he would be welcomed in heaven when he left here.

“Do you believe that?” I asked. He squeezed.

I pressed him further, “Neil, do you still believe with your heart that Jesus is your Saviour, that He died and rose again so that you could have eternal life, and that you will be with Him soon?”  He squeezed.

Then, I asked him to do something.  I asked that as he knew the time was drawing closer, to thank Jesus, even just in his mind, for His love and peace.  I encouraged Neil to tell Jesus that he loved Him.

“Will you do that?” I asked.   And he squeezed my hand one last time.

The next day, Easter Saturday, the day many call Silent Saturday, Neil died.

Neil is not here, but he is there.

And that very distinction, the very fact that there is a “there” is made possible by what we just celebrated, by the reality of the cross, the Easter message.

Because of the cross of Easter and because of the resurrected Jesus, we can be assured that Neil lives today in a better place, and free from disease.

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

I encourage you today, put life and death in perspective. 

This life is only for a time. All of us pass through the veil of death. It is not the end, but just the beginning of life on the other side.  From this side, for us, death is a time of sorrow, of loss and of separation. But from the other side, for them, it is a time of release, of reunion, of rest and reward.

From this side, death looks like the end; from the other side, it is the beginning. 

Neil is on the other side and when it is our time to take that journey, if we have accepted Jesus as Neil did, then He will be on the other side waiting to welcome us, united with Him forever.

I said to Neil as I left on Saturday, “Neil, we will see each other again, it may not be here, but it will be there.”

When I took Neil’s funeral yesterday, hundreds came to show their support for his family and because of the man they knew. Many of those were from the life saving community who came to show their solidarity.

Do you know that when a lifesaver rescues a life, it is about more than that immediate response?

Saving a life extends beyond the saving.  It is about the life they have been saved to live; about the family they get to hug one more time and the memories they still get to experience.

Similarly, our eternal salvation is about more than just securing a future in heaven, it’s also very much about living in the presence of Jesus, experiencing His love, life and light here on earth.

Jesus has promised that whatever life throws at us and no matter how great the storm may be, He will never leave us.  He has promised to fill our lives with adventure as we serve Him.  He has promised that with our salvation comes a deeper sense of purpose and direction for our life.  His presence truly has the ability to strengthen us in our weakness, to replace our mourning with joy, to fill our minds with wisdom and our hearts with understanding.

May you know His saving grace today.

If you want to help me keep Neil’s legacy alive, I encourage you to forward this, his story, to a friend, share it, or consider donating to help find a cure to the beast: https://hunter2016.everydayhero.com/au/team-phil/posts/602196

Thanks
Phil

 

 

What can you bank on?

Memories of a beautiful girl, Kelly Zander marrying her Jordan.
Memories of a beautiful girl, Kelly Zander marrying her Jordan.

A friend told me recently that when astronauts go into outer space, they have thought about what could go wrong and are equipped for scenarios that may or may not eventuate in the unknown.

It made me think:
Perhaps thinking about would could go wrong is the best way to live.

Take death. If you have never thought about it, you have probably never contemplated or prepared for heaven and eternity.

Take it one step further.  If you have never accepted your mortality, you have probably never really lived in the wonder of the present and the joy that comes from the fact you are breathing right now.

One of the unexpected consequences of living with a terminal illness longer than you were meant to is that those you come to know (and love) pass away around you.  Over the last few weeks, I’ve lived with death up close and personal: people too young, stories too sad.  Over that time, I’ve known others who have lost their ability to speak, to walk, to breath unassisted, and even eat.

One friend, Jordan, I have marvelled at.  He relentlessly supported, loved and then watched his beautiful wife Kelly pass into eternity on January 30, 2016.  Kelly’s big heart touched many lives.  I married them only eight years ago (pictured above).  I grieved with her parents and her husband, my tears with theirs.

Maybe you would rather me not talk about the realities of life so authentically.  I could shy away from doing so, but then I look at Jesus.  We read in the Bible that He talks boldly about His impending death (Luke 9:22-31).  He didn’t pretend it wasn’t going to happen and He didn’t think talking about it would change any of the facts around its reality.

Talking about death does not jinx you. It does not bring it on early or stop its inevitability.

Death is inevitable.

You believe it as well.  That’s why our human instinct, our responses and actions do everything we can to fight it, to delay it, and to resist it. And that’s a good thing.

Life is too precious not to resist death.

Not a single person is immune.  No amount of money, planning, or, dare I say praying, will allow you to escape this unavoidable reality.  Yes, money may buy medication to lengthen life, in the same way a miraculous healing or being raised from the dead like Lazarus may give you more time here on this earth.  You may have succeeded in putting it off for now and in doing so, prolonged the inevitable, but it is coming.

Death should not be feared.

Christianity doesn’t teach us that we will not die, it reveals to us that death for a Christian is as inevitable as it is for anyone else, but it has lost its fear, its sting.  Death is more of a beginning than an ending.  Death for us is just an absence from the body, being present with the Lord.  The Bible teaches that if we believe in Jesus and accept His forgiveness, then though we die, yet shall we live.

The experience of death is the crucible where humanity often decides once and for all whether to accept or reject God.  Death can be a catalyst for why people believe or disbelieve in God, why people walk away from God or move towards Him.  One thing is for sure, death will not allow us to ignore God.

I have seen people face death and suffering with one of two responses: either, “How could a loving God allow this to happen?” or “I know God’s love is with me while this is happening.”

When we choose to respond by acknowledging God’s love, His help and His presence in the furnace of our suffering, then we discover God’s power to turn darkness to light and death to life.  The wonder is that while the flesh is perishing, the Spirit can become stronger and more alive.  In fact, the Bible says our body dies in weakness and is raised in power (1 Corinthians 15:43).

Attention to your physical world, your body, your health, or quality of life can give you much desired “extra” time, but attention to the Spirit will determine the level of joy and thankfulness you live with in the time we have.

What do I mean by that?

Have you noticed that when a friend dies, we give more attention to those we love?  For me, that’s my wife, children, and close friends.  For a week or two after we are confronted with a death, we seem to recalibrate our values and refocus on the important.  But soon enough, we slide back into a false sense of immortality that can rob us of living now and being thankful.

What if you took a moment, or five, and just thought about this: if death is inevitable, how do I want to live?

If this year was your last, or this day was your concluding; how would you live?  Who would you touch?  Where would you presence yourself?  Why would you be and do?  What would you say?  When would you truly be awake to the life that is yours to live?  Would you leave a legacy?

I have been advised to “bank” my voice.  That means, to record my voice digitally so that if the day ever comes when I lose that ability, my computer can speak on my behalf, using my own digitally formatted voice.  The day is actually coming when technology will be so advanced that it will be able to speak what I think.  I just hope I can turn it off quick enough when my thoughts aren’t so acceptable (haha)!

Banking my voice will take many days of speaking into a microphone alone in a room.  I have asked myself the question, “is doing that neutralising the faith I have never to lose my voice?”  No. I don’t believe it is.  No more than taking out life, accident, or house insurance and yet still believing you will never have to use it.

Reflecting on death itself, or reflecting on the loss of my voice, can either take me down, or it can compel decisions in my life to use my voice as much as is humanly possible. I am blogging less and speaking more this year, while I can.  I am saying “I love you” more than I ever have.

Perhaps thinking about would could go wrong is the best way to live.

Phil

Primary Colours

Here we are, the first Friday of February and my first blog of 2016.

I hope for you, the canvas of this year is beginning to fill with the colours of new things, plans realised, and dreams for the future.

Maybe you haven’t given it much thought and one year has seamlessly drifted into another. Or maybe, already this year you are feeling discouraged, even lacklustre, about what is to come.

Whichever filter you are looking out from, I would encourage you to see the unrealised months ahead as a blank canvas beckoning a masterpiece.

It was 26 years ago in London when I first began appreciating art.

With some free time on my hands, I visited the London Art Gallery. I was astonished by the beauty of the pieces and the way the artists could capture, not only the light, but also a precise moment and emotion.

About a year later, I was sitting in a teahouse in Morocco and saw a painting by Mohamed Toumi. I didn’t hesitate. After a lengthy negotiation, I left that day the proud owner of the piece I had admired (pictured above).

I love the way Toumi uses the primary colours of yellow, blue and red.

It makes me think, what primary colours will frame your year?

The bible talks about three elements that should permeate the life of a Christian: faith, hope and love.

Faith is our trust and confidence in God. It is a trust that brings victory in the midst of defeat. A trust that says, I may not understand but I lean on you God, I believe in you, I rely on you.

Hope is knowing that tomorrow is always better when heaven and eternity are a reality. It’s a hope that says, while the clouds may come and go, my hope is secure in a positive expectation that there is a better future beyond what I can see in my present day.

Love, rightly considered “the greatest of these”, is both unconditional and eternal. It is first received deep into our soul, but also finds expression through the way we live for others. Love is best revealed in the selfless sacrifice of Jesus on the cross so that we could live. Greater love has no man.

I wonder what shape this year would take if we offered up our faith, hope and love and placed it on the palette of the master artist.

Knowing God, He is well able to take what you give him and produce in your life something others would look at and marvel.  And not only marvel at, but would cause them to consider what their own life could look like with more of what you have: faith, hope and love.

I am at this moment taking drugs to try and help slow the advancement of a terminal illness, MND/ALS.  These drugs may or may not work. I hope they do. But, here is the thing, if they don’t, I will not lose my hope. Why? Because my ultimate and greater hope is in an assurance that heaven is a reality.  If I look up, hope will never die.  My hope is an anchor that all is well with my soul.

I can’t help but consider eternity when I consider life.  To think that one day, we won’t need faith or hope, but we will fully comprehend love. Not love as a feeling, an emotion, or commitment but love as a Noun, as a Name, as a Person. Love that is God Himself, love that is filled with light and life. Love that is Jesus.

On this side, we may look at the splashes of colour, the strokes that don’t make sense, the messiness of it all and not comprehend where the painter is headed or what on earth is taking shape. Indeed, if I look at Toumi’s painting, it was a mess before it was a masterpiece. Only when it is finished, we see the purpose of the individual strokes.

It encourages me to consider that we are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). The very wonder of life is that we are God’s masterpiece in the making.

We may question what God is doing but we must trust the Master’s strokes. The way He uses our faith, hope and love in our lives. The way He mixes those elements through our life and enhances other shades of beauty.

I pray this thought would cause others to stop and wonder and that it would inspire you to live life more fully and alive.

Phil

A decision not taken lightly

I have made my decision and it wasn’t one taken lightly.

It is with much thought, prayer, research, investigation and hope that I have decided to take a trip to Europe to have some tests and start a trial treatment that isn’t available here in Australia.

It’s not a cure, but it could slow down the progress of Motor Neurone Disease (MND, also knows as ALS) in my body. While I’m doing reasonably well, and have already outlived my initial prognosis, this is the time to act.  It’s a “sooner rather than later” approach.

With ALS / MND, it’s not like you wake up one morning and suddenly you can’t do something.  Instead, little by little, you lose your strength, some people faster than others.  I’m the only one who really notices that decline day-by-day.

In the past 76 years, since the famous baseball player Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with this disease, there has only been one drug approved for ALS / MND patients: Rilutek.  Rilutek was approved in the 1990s and is said to add 2 – 3 months of life to your prognosis.  In some parts of the world this drug costs up to $4000.00 per month.  In Australia, I pay only $37.50.

While I understand that there is more awareness, finances and scientists than any other time in history dedicated to finding a cure for this disease, I also understand that any new drug could take many more years to be released to the general community.  In that sense, the money we are raising now is for the next generation of sufferers.

Some people have inferred that I should just relax and wait for God to heal me.  My thinking is that when your daughter breaks her leg or your tooth needs filling, do you just pray or do you do what you can and leave the rest to God?

I’ve seen God miraculously heal people of cancer through divine intervention and I’ve seen God heal people through medical intervention.  I’ve also seen people experience their healing through entering into eternity.

I have always seen God move in my life when I do my part and leave what I can’t do to Him. 

Faith, trust, rest and hope are not couch potatoes, they are active and courageous as they approach the battle.

So for those who are praying, thank you, your prayers are effective and mean the world to me.  Be encouraged, I am also doing what I can do to partner with your prayers.

My treatment in Europe will cost in the many thousands of dollars per year, but it has also been known to add 3 – 4 years to a patient’s life.  Next week I go to Europe, hoping for the best, mainly because I want what you would want in my shoes:

I want more time with my wife.
I want to see my grandchildren go to school.
I want to be around long enough so they have some memory of me.
I want to hug my own children for as long as I can.
I want to be around to cheer them on in their lives and adventures.
I love this life.
I want to finish the race at the finish line, not mid-field.

And so, Fridays With Phil will take a short break. If you are interested in updates while I am away and post-treatment, you can follow me on Instagram (@pcamden) or Facebook.

I covet your prayers over this time,
Phil

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