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Fridays with Phil

Life, family and unshakeable faith

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

No more silence

Today I want to add my “whisper” to what will hopefully one day become a collective shout that will break the silence surrounding domestic and family violence.

At a young age, I can remember my mum and dad getting into verbal and physical altercations, escalated by anger and alcohol.  This would normally finish with my mum, sister and I walking out and looking for a place to stay that night.

I remember one incident when dad came home drunk, I was asleep and he mistook me for someone else. He took a kitchen knife and tried to stab me with it, only to be apprehended by my brother-in-law.

Without alcohol, my dad was a quiet and soft-spoken man, but under the influence, he could become very angry and violent.  It is probably why his drinking buddies nicknamed him “Jack the Ripper”.

Why am I telling you this?  So you will understand that I have experienced (to an extent) domestic violence first hand. I understand how complicated the surrounding circumstances can be, and I also know how important it is to get out and get safe.

I consider any violence towards women and children by men as being completely inexcusable, even given the many layers of “reasons” I have heard over the years (anger, drugs, conditioning by upbringing or parents that its normal behaviour).

As equally inexcusable is violence by women towards men and children, albeit far less common. There simply is no excuse for this shameful crime that erodes the safety of too many families.

It is unacceptable that women aged 15 to 44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, motor accidents, war and malaria (stoptheviolencecampaign.org).

As human beings living in community, I think we all have a responsibility to each other to watch for signs of domestic violence, and ensure that the silencing of this issue doesn’t stand a chance.

Domestic and family violence is indiscriminate; it does not have a type and can range from physical, to financial and psychological abuse.

There should be no safe place of silence in our society for those perpetrators who are violent and abusive.

I am proud to report that in the last 40 years of my mum and dad’s life, I never saw them raise a hand or even their voice to each other. As well as that, my dad stopped drinking for the last 30 years of his life. This change happened only after my mum made the courageous choice to leave, a decision I can only applaud.

There is no doubt in my mind that a collective of men and women committed to ending the violence can and will make a difference. Let’s be proactive and courageous in taking a stand against domestic and family violence.

Change is possible.

Phil

Local contacts for support:
Police Force – Phone 000
Domestic Violence Line – Phone 1800 656 463
Victims Support Line – Phone 1800 633 063

Live and let die

Most of us at one point or another will experience a challenge or temptation that puts a demand on our resolve and commitment to our values.  It will bring the focus of our worship and spiritual direction to a pinnacle.

At the core of that crossroads tension is not only whether we have decided what is worth living for but what is worth dying for.  What will we lay our self down for?

Three boys in the Bible teach us a lot about faith, about facing worse case scenarios and about real worship.

Their story is found in the book of Daniel, chapter 3.  They are sentenced to being burnt alive in a furnace for making a stand and not changing the affection of their worship.

They made a courageous decision that even in the very worst-case scenario, death by being burnt alive, they would not give into the King’s demand to reject their faith in God.

When these three boys made a commitment not to bow down to the King, they believed God would save them, but even if He didn’t, they would not bow down.

They were ultimately committed to their God through faith.

You see, happy endings are easy to put our faith in, but what if God requires a higher faith, faith in Him regardless of the outcome.

For me, I absolutely believe in God’s ability to heal me, but ultimate faith begs the questions, “even if He doesn’t, will I believe and follow Him until the end?”

These three boys have taught us that we can live with the dichotomy of full assurance in God’s goodness and full commitment no matter the outcome: ultimate faith.

Not only that, but these three boys decided that staying true to themselves and the God they served was worth dying for.

How practical is this in our everyday life?

Well, when you have learned to die to self, you can then live for others.

Die to the demand to succeed at any cost and live with a desire for the best for others.
Die to the demand of temptation to adultery and live with a fresh commitment to your spouse.
Die to the desire to hit back and live with an ability to turn the other cheek.
Die to the insatiable demand for more and live with a seeking for opportunity to give.
Die to personal freedom and live to emancipate others.
Die to judging and live with a heart to accept and forgive.

It is only in facing death head on that we can begin to live life full on. This is where death, literally and figuratively speaking truly looses its sting, it’s power, it’s dread, it’s fear.

I wonder what fiery furnace is challenging your core beliefs today?

Maybe it’s time to put more faith in your God than in the immediate threat, maybe it’s time to accept that only as we refuse to bow down, refuse to change the object of our worship, God alone, that we will see breakthrough.

Only when we can come to terms with worst case scenario can we be assured that He will be with us through the fire, through the pain and gives us rest and peace in the face of death.

Live fully today! Live by faith.

Phil

What makes a mate?

Most of the time when I sit down and write this blog, I’m not totally sure where it will land.  This week is no different as I sit in a cafe at Airlie Beach.

I’m here celebrating my mate Steve’s 60th birthday.

Mateship is a well-celebrated value in Australian culture. We are quick to call someone a “mate” – a taxi driver, a bank teller, or anyone whose name we have forgotten.  But I wonder what a true mate looks like?

Steve is a true mate.

I met him 20 years ago when he was 40 and I was 36.

For all those years, most separated by distance, we have watched our kids survive their teenage years, we have talked about the highs and lows of business and personal life, we have attended one of our best buddy’s funerals, navigated some dark moments and celebrated each others triumphs.

So why do some friendships, like ours, last the test of time and distance, while others fade and fizzle out?

I’ve always lived by the philosophy that to have good friends, you need to be a good friend.

A true friend is first, friendly.

If a dog is a man’s best friend then it’s the loyal, predictable, friendly companion not the crazed, aggravated, vicious attack dog.   If we are approachable, easy going, kind and agreeable, friendships will follow us.  If our countenance is hard, stand-off-ish, or attacking then we will probably find it hard to make friends.

A true friend is second, true.

Truth, honesty and integrity is what to look for in friendship. A commitment to respect each other’s confidentiality when it comes to sharing deep personal struggles and realities creates an environment of trust.

Friendship can only flourish in an environment of trust.

When Steve and I first met, we started playing golf together. I would inevitably hit the ball into the trees and at times, to save my club from damage, I would have to move the ball (in golf, this is a shot).  Steve wouldn’t see me move the ball so it would have been simple to hide it and not concede the shot. But, true friendship wouldn’t let me get away with not telling him. It’s a simple example, but friendship and trust are in the small things as well as the big.

A true friend is third, a listener.

Transparency in friendship includes not just what you say, but more importantly, how you listen. Listening reveals that you genuinely value the other person and you are interested in what they are going through.

To be honest, listening is one of the hardest of the communication skills to master. We are so quick to want to speak that it’s hard not to cut the other person off mid-sentence before we forget what is so important for us to say.

The practice of listening is a powerful friendship adhesive.

Finally, remember that a real friendship is not about what you can or can’t do for the other person, but who you are free to be.

Steve and I are no longer in the positions we were when we met, there have been significant changes in our public lives, but thankfully our friendship has never been about what we did but who we are. Any good friendship is.

That’s my two cents worth on being a good mate.

Phil

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