Fridays with Phil

Life, family and unshakeable faith



Seeing the unseen

Photo by Joey McCann

What you see is only possible by what you don’t see.

Wrapped in flesh is how we see each other.  It’s flesh that conceals and contains our organs and skeleton.  Imagine for a moment what it would be like to see a pumping heart or a digesting stomach when we looked at each other.  It is certainly best some things remain hidden, but not necessarily forgotten.

You body illustrates an important life experience.  Your life, as you see it, is made possible by what you do not see.  More importantly your life is interdependent on the lives of so many hidden significant others.

What is seen is only made possible by what is not seen. The Bible says in Hebrews 11:3, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”

Much of our world relies upon the hidden achievements of unseen people.

We buy bread each day with little thought about the bakers who rise at 3am to bake it.  Imagine for a moment what your world would look like if people suddenly stopped doing what they do today.  I wouldn’t like to imagine my world if you stopped doing what you do today.

If the garbage was not collected, if seed was not sown for harvesting fruit and vegetables we consume, if water treatment workers didn’t provide fresh water, if factory workers didn’t build the computer I’m typing with.

Our lives are so connected and we are in need of each other more than we realise.

So stop today: look at the stranger as they drive past, see the fellow passenger in the bus, or the person sitting near you at the café.  That person is connected to you.  Understand that if it wasn’t for them your life would be so much worse off.

Imagine the new depths of gratitude you could experience today if you started to see what you don’t see. 

See how important our lives are to each other.  Remember it takes a village!

A beating heart or a skeleton may be unseen but each is vital to survival in the flesh, as are the community of people we do life with. 

I think that if we could see behind the scenes, we may just live with a lot more gratitude for each other and the part we all play to live in community. “Thank you” may escape our lips a little more freely. 


When pain goes unseen

My grandson Lucas is now six months old.  Lucas is one of the happiest little babies I know.  He hardly ever cries and his smile is constant and infectious.  However, lately Lucas has been crying more and his mum tells me it’s from his teeth forming under the gums.  It’s not the pain from the teeth breaking through the skin but an unseen pain under the surface.

It made me think about the people we do life with who have learned not to cry but still carry unseen pain either physically or emotionally. On the surface they look good, they look together, but there is an unravelling on the inside, a deep pain that is real and relentless that others do not see.

Living with Motor Neurone Disease, and having many friends with disease, I have experienced this first hand.   It can be a physical pain but also the pain of experiencing your body shutting down, symptoms either quickly or slowly worsening, and the pain of adjusting to a new version of the future.

Neal and Janine are friends living this journey.  When Neal was diagnosed with MND less than two years ago, he was a strong miner.  However Neal can no longer walk without assistance, eat food or speak with clarity.   Janine, his wife, told me how frustrating it was in the early stages of the disease when even some of the medical profession didn’t take Neal’s disease seriously because of appearance.

I wonder if it’s true and there are people in our world living with unseen pain every single day, do we allow their appearance to distract us from our response?   My personal conviction is that however messy or painful someone’s story may be, I will give them the chance to honestly share it.

I will be ready to listen, understand and offer comfort.

Once I knew Lucas, my grandson, was in pain, it immediately changed my countenance towards him.  I had compassion.   Some people I speak to with MND are physically exhausted before they have finished dressing for the day.  These are courageous men and women who go out and face the day regardless.

The compassionate person acknowledges the courage, strength and energy it takes someone in pain to look somewhat pain-free on the outside.

I consider myself blessed to have some very close friends and family who have looked past my appearance and asked, “How are you going?” They don’t answer before I can finish.  They give me space to be honest, they inspire me with faith, they are fearless and I thank them.

If you know someone who is in a tough situation, a trial of sorts, I encourage us all to have the courage to ask how they are and then take the time to listen to their response. Learn to see with your ears.

Looks may not be the whole story.


Hate is not that bad

The opposites of life cause us to feel emotion all the stronger. Take love and hate.  Love for humankind causes us to hate suffering.  Love for life causes us to hate disease.

For me, these last few weeks have been marked by the contrasts of life.

One week I was at a Christian conference with Church leaders from around Australia, surrounded by old friends, it was an environment filled with vision and hope for a better future.

The next week (MND International Awareness Week) I was with new friends courageously battling a disease that can so easily rob people of vision and any expectation for a better future.

It was like I was living a micro experience of our world.  In fact, most of us live life a little like that, in a place of conflict between love and hate, anger and peace, hope and disappointment, satisfaction and frustration, pain and praise.

We attend funerals one day, and visit newborn babies the next.

We rejoice that our home was not destroyed by violent storms while we hear of others who lost everything.

We are broken hearted over the thousands who die in an earthquake whilst we are ecstatic about one baby rescued in the rubble.

How do we navigate this road of so many different realities?

How do I reconcile an environment of faith, and hope, only to walk amongst those whose dreams are shattered by their current circumstances?

Simply put, we must learn to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.

Our world needs people who don’t ignore pain and suffering, but allow it to do its work in raising emotions of right-anger, and even hate for the conditions some people face relentlessly each day.

Unless you and I can touch anger we cannot know true peace.

Unless we can hate suffering, then our love for people will not be deep enough to respond sacrificially.

My hatred for poverty, scarcity and starvation in other people’s lives will have a corresponding response of love if I allow it time to touch my soul.

Let’s not move too quickly from what we call negative emotions to the detriment of a corresponding positive response of compassion, or prayer, or the fight for justice.

Instead, anger for wrongful laws may run deep enough to bring about a corresponding response of reform.  Isn’t that how the movement to abolish slavery began? What about the death penalty?

Imagine if our hatred of disease and love for others prompted the urgency to find cures.  Isn’t that how Malaria is slowly being eradicated?

Only those who look long enough at the tragedy in Nepal will give towards the relief efforts to ensure help is given long after the media have dropped it.   Media may only last for a night, but money works when we sleep.

Today, I challenge you and I challenge me, don’t run from the opportunity to help others.  Let your passion be driven not only by what you love but also by what you hate.


Where is God in Suffering?

The speed of communication these days will not allow us to ignore or be ignorant of the pain and hurt that is in our world.

Where is God in all this tragedy and heartache, in the brokenness of life, sickness and suffering?

Why do bad things happen?

We often default to cliché answers in response to these large, uncomfortable questions. Some common ones include:

  1. It must be God’s will
  2. God knows best
  3. Everything happens for a reason
  4. God is teaching us something
  5. We are being tested
  6. We are being punished
  7. God won’t give us more than we can bear

I too have heard myself giving some of these answers over years of supporting others going through hardship.

While they hold some truth, the problem with these responses is that when there is no rhyme or reason to hardship, we are left high and dry, with little comfort in our present-day pain.  When our circumstances do feel more than we can bear, we could become disheartened in our suffering.

What’s more, they appear to be conditional on our performance, in that once we learn the lesson, or once we pass the test, the trial will end.  Too many times, this is not the case.

When any of these responses are given in isolation or as the universal answer to all suffering – they may only distance us from God at the place of our tragedy, suffering, sickness and heartache.

These answers can leave us blaming ourselves, feeling guilt, or open to manipulation to perform one way or another.

Instead, the very nature of Christ and His message is grace, not blame, guilt or manipulation.  Unlike Karma, the goods news of the gospel is that we don’t get what we deserve!

Psalm 46:1 says:
God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble.

And Psalm 121:1-2 says:

I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Instead of asking “WHY” trouble, David asks, “WHERE” does my help come?

Because David had a relationship with God, he turned to God as his refuge and strength.   Relationship enables us to focus on where our help is found and in turn causes us to live through our suffering.

This tells me that when suffering happens, you and I have a choice to make.

Will we deny it, pretend it doesn’t exist, fake it, isolate ourselves, stay numb, get angry, play the blame game or will we seek God’s help and choose to LIVE through it?

Here’s a few thoughts on how we can live through pain and suffering:

1.  With God’s help

God sends help in the form of others. People need consolation more than explanation when going through tragedy.

Caring and loving people can cause us to endure pain longer, better, and more courageously than if we were alone.

2.  By redeeming the tragedy

Many bad things that happen to us do not have meaning attached to them, they do not happen for any good reason which would cause us to accept them willingly. BUT we can give them meaning! We can impose meaning to them.

Don’t ask, why did this happen? Or, what did I do to deserve this? A better question is, now that this has happened to me, what am I going to do about it?

Why not ask, how can I take what was meant for evil and turn it around for good?

3.  By having an eternal perspective

Romans 8:18 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

You cannot remove the suffering you face now from the glory that is yours in the future.

If you could put all the difficulties of your life on one side of the scale, and the glory that will someday be revealed to you through Christ on the other side of the scale, the glory would be so much heavier than your present sufferings.

Glory actually has the meaning of being “the weight of Gods presence”.

4.  By living with the presence of Jesus

The reality of a relationship with Jesus is that He is with us in each and every circumstance of life. He promised He would never leave us.  When we are weak, Jesus is our strength.  When we are confused, Jesus is our comfort.  When we are fearful, Jesus is our peace.  When we are sick, Jesus is our healer.

God loves you, He sees what you are going through and He cares – let Him be your help today.


[Blog originally posted 26 Dec 2013, as “Is ‘Why’ the question?”]

Faith in God, despite your circumstances

I was recently interviewed by Ps Paul Bartlett from Lighthouse in Wollongong.  This is his take on our conversation and I pray it is a blessing to you in your current circumstances.  Thanks Paul!

My friend Phil probably should be dead, or at the very least, angry and bitter.

He’s not any of those things – and it still amazes me.

Phil Camden is a 55-year-old father of two, a loving husband and a popular pastor who was diagnosed two years ago with Motor Neuron Disease (MND).

MND is an aggressive condition that destroys the body’s ability to communicate with its own muscles, usually resulting in death within a few years of diagnosis. Over the past year, you’ve probably come across MND (or ALS as it’s known in America) via the online craze known as the Ice-Bucket Challenge.

Ice-bucket challenge videos, where everyone from Barack Obama to Bill Gates had cold water tipped on their heads, have been viewed by more than 440 million people and raised $100 million for research into the disease.

“You eventually become locked inside a unmoveable body,” Phil said recently on a Sunday night at Lighthouse.

“Today is the strongest day that I will have from this point on unless I get a miracle. One day I’ll be trapped in my body, fully aware and able to think – but not able to communicate.”

Phil shared that the diagnosis had initially challenged his core beliefs but, after lots of tears and prayer, he now saw it as an opportunity to help other people going through similar terminal illness.

“I really believe that God is still a good God. In the midst of our pain and suffering, He becomes even more real and significant,” Phil said.

Like many others, Phil admitted he had sometimes found himself asking why bad things happened to good people.

Then he pointed to his waterproof watch and gave an incredible insight on life.

“My watch can go 200m deep in the water. The manufacturer doesn’t guarantee it won’t get wet, they guarantee the water won’t penetrate and destroy the watch,” he said.

“My Christianity does not guarantee that I will live through this world without any pain or suffering but it does guarantee that the world will not destroy my relationship with God and His love for me.”

Phil told the crowd that nobody liked talking about death but Christians should not shy away from it.

“Even if I was healed, I would still die one day. So death is not actually the issue.”

“I believe in healing but I also believe that we should be experts on dying because for us, death has lost its sting.”

“Everyone of us is going to die … and this is why God sent Jesus into the world so that when I do die I’ll have eternal life. It’s not a fairytale, it’s real.”

I came away deeply moved and challenged by Phil’s story.

In my world most people who are seen as having great faith are those that get the miracle. After listening to Phil I now believe that often the people with the greatest faith are those who need a miracle and don’t get one – but still believe God!

To read more from Paul visit

How to find your true self

Thankful for these mates who helped me have an awesome time at the Formula 1 this week.
Thankful for these mates who helped me have an awesome time at the Formula 1 this week.

It’s an age-old game: kids, and even dogs, running after and trying to catch shiny bubbles made from soapy water. And just when they catch one, it disappears.

I wonder if today you feel like someone chasing bubbles, or chasing things that seem like they are uncatchable.

There’s no doubt that one of the things humanity tries hard to catch is meaning. We all find ourselves at one point or another chasing significance, and the more meaningful point to our existence. Often, we find at those times, the more we chase, the more frustrated we become.

I believe we are meant to be people who use life to create meaning, purpose and significance, rather than endlessly search for it.

To use the example above, we are not created to chase bubbles, we are created to blow bubbles, to inject life and meaning into our very existence.

How do we do this? Find a cause to live for.

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

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. The more self-help books I read, the more introspective I became.  As funny as it sounds, I was my own cause.

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.

In other words, if we can find a cause where the focus is on others and not self, then we, by default, “self-actualise” (that is, we become the person who we are meant to be).

In the search to help others, we discover ourselves.  The cause creates a road to meaning which leads us to becoming who we are.

Find a cause greater than yourself and own it, make it your own.

Focus your attention on meaning and you will become meaningful, or full of meaning.  Fulfilment is found when we find meaning.

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 may even find within yourself many attributes that you were unaware you even had.

The more I look at the successful and significant people in my world, I notice that their focus is not in becoming a successful or significant person as much as it is about creating a better world for someone else. Giving meaning to others gives them meaning as well.

The Bible puts it this way (Philippians 2:3-4):

Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.
Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

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


Know it all?

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Knowledge is a wonderful thing but the right response to knowledge is a better thing: wisdom.

I would say that most of my mistakes have happened, not through lack of knowledge, but how I used the information I had.

For example, when I was managing Kmart in Blacktown many years ago, I was chasing a man who stole goods from the store.  I knew he had run up the stairs of the car park and so I followed him.  When I approached him, he grabbed me and tried to throw me over the edge of the three storey car park. Fortunately others saw and pulled him off.  I knew where he had gone but I was foolish in my response to this knowledge.

Our response to knowledge is the difference between wisdom and foolishness.

What knowledge or truth do you have today that requires you to act and respond well?

You may know that someone loves you deeply but your response to that love is to take advantage of it, to continually test it and manipulate it for your own end.  That is foolishness.

Without right response, knowledge is a dead-end.

Even the Apostle Paul in talking about how God is kind and merciful (i.e. knowledge) says, just because He is, doesn’t mean we should act as fools and test him (i.e. response). Romans 6:1-2 says, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!…

I have many friends with MND (also known as ALS) who all have the same knowledge about this disease available to them but their responses have varied.

For example one of the symptoms of MND is losing the ability to swallow and therefore being eventually unable to eat food.  The answer to this from a medical platform is to have a PEG attached to your stomach so that you can get food directly to your stomach via a tube.  The problem is you need to get this attached months or even years before you need it or your body is too weak to have it attached.

I have seen people say “no” to the tube for many months then change their mind and say “yes” only to be told its too late.  They responded, but the timing wasn’t right.

It challenges me on how important the right response to knowledge really is, it could even be the difference between life and death.

In your life, it could mean saying “no” to something you have said “yes” to, or it could be saying “yes” but at a different time.

Procrastination is usually loud.  Doing nothing is often talkative.

Whereas, wisdom is active, it is sure and it is often quiet.

I like this quote: “We can be knowledgeable with other men’s knowledge, but we cannot be wise with other men’s wisdom”  ~Michel de Montaigne.

I believe wisdom is ours for the taking if we master our response to knowledge.


Enough is enough

If you’re anything like me, you probably came to the point over the course of Christmas day where you had had “enough.”   Even if you were offered one more slice of meat, one more chocolate, or one more drink, you couldn’t do it.

When you have had “enough”, it can be a very satisfied feeling, there’s a fullness to it.

I encourage you, even just for a day, contemplate the fact that you are enough.

Enough change has taken place this year, enough growth and stretching, enough personal bests, enough reaching above and beyond where you have ever been before, and enough striving.

Be satisfied in you.

New Year’s resolutions can wait, what you may be or could become in the future will have their time.

Take a moment or two to rest in all you’ve done and all you’ve become, and who you are right now because you are “enough”! You are lovable, loving, kind and generous, trustworthy, and unique in your own skin.

Psalm 4:6-8 says, “Why is everyone hungry for more? “More, more,” they say. “More, more.”  I have God’s more-than-enough, more joy in one ordinary day than they get in all their shopping sprees.  At day’s end I’m ready for sound sleep, for you, God, have put my life back together.”

Even beyond today, consider the fact that God can use whatever state you are in right now to outwork His purposes.

You may think you need to be more for God to use you but God specialises in the “enough”.

Look at the boy in the Bible with the two fish and five loaves. Everybody else thought it wasn’t enough to feed thousands of people, but it was.  We read in Mark 6 that Jesus took that offering, looked up to heaven and blessed it.

God takes our “enough”, blesses it, and causes the miraculous to happen.

When we come to the place of realising that we are enough, offer ourselves to God to be a blessing, He takes who we are and uses it for good.  You are His “enough” right now and it is amazing what God can do with your “enough”.

So, enough from me 🙂  Go and enjoy being you, just the way you are!


Phillip Hughes and my mate Lloyd

Australia lost one of its national cricket stars last week.

For those of you who don’t know much about cricket, it is enough to say that it is one of Australia’s most loved national sports. During a recent game, Phillip Hughes was hit with a cricket ball and never recovered.  He was just days off his 26th birthday.

In the same week, I had a friend die from the effects of Motor Neurone Disease (MND) or ALS to those in the States. As I also have this disease, I met Lloyd and his wife Adele at our local MND support group.  I had the privilege of sharing my faith with him and praying with him to begin a relationship with God just weeks before His death.

I have written blogs about death before, but today I want to focus on those left behind. The ones who sit in funerals, sort through clothing, write eulogies.  I want to encourage you that in life’s most desperate moments that you can acquire a newfound value in life.

Our Prime Minister said this week, “Phillip Hughes’ passing is a reminder that life is both precious and fragile.”

I wonder, if that is true, do we live like it is? When we hear the words “precious and fragile”, many of us reflect on the fact that life in general is precious or fragile or that someone else’s life is fragile and precious.

It’s easy to hear these words without personalising them.

Let me do that for you: You are precious and you are fragile, you are one of a kind, valuable, not worthless.

By fragile, I’m not talking about the resilience of the human spirit, in fact, I am constantly blown away by people’s resilience. I am talking about our earthly body, amazing in complexity and also not infallible.

By precious, I’m not talking about lovely or superficial, I’m talking about rare, one of a kind, and uniquely destined for great things.

I have been to many auctions in my life and I like watching auction shows on TV. It is true that the most fragile and precious articles more often hold the most value.  Even if I wouldn’t buy it, someone else is willing to pay large sums– it’s all in the perspective of the buyer.

If our value is found in what others would give for us then consider this: Jesus gave His life for us. The Bible says, even when we were seemingly worthless, He put worth on us by paying the highest price a friend could pay: His own life. [Romans 5:8]

Have you noticed how people treat things that are precious and fragile? It is with respect, with a sense of awe, wonder and love.

The Bible also teaches us that we are wonderfully made and precious to God, and that we are His treasured possession.

If we would understand our intrinsic value today, it would change the way we treat ourselves and the way we treat others. We would love our neighbour like we were made to.

My challenge to you today is to see yourself as one-of-a-kind, and handle yourself with care. Then, see the people you are doing life with as equally valued, they are precious and fragile too.


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