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Fridays with Phil

Life, family and unshakeable faith

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#Life

It’s never too late

This week my Mum was promoted to heaven.

She was 95 years old and until her final days was active and healthy.  In fact, her last week saw her attend the Lifeline Brass Blokes Awards night (pictured above) as well as her great grandson being dedicated at Church.

If I had to narrow it down to what I am most thankful to my Mum for, it would be her lasting eternal legacy.  Let me explain.

She made some brave decisions at age 54.  After separating from my Dad, I remember how hard Mum would work to find cleaning jobs at night while offices were closed and even got her driver’s license, something she was proud of her entire life.

Not only that, but that was when she started a relationship with Jesus and became a Christian. This new life gave her hope, strength and joy.

I can remember Mum sitting for hours with her Bible, a notebook and studying with the help of audio teaching tapes and various resources.

Raising a teenage boy without his Dad in the picture, Mum knew I needed to have healthy male role models and she started taking me to Full Gospel Business Men’s breakfasts, prayer meetings and Church services.

It was at those meetings Mum introduced me to Christian men who were successful in their careers, had healthy relationships with their family and were not addicted to life controlling habits.

As a single Mum, she was laying the foundation for my future and it is because of her selflessness and courage, her commitment to Jesus, and even her ability to reach out and find help in her time of need, that I am who I am today.

If Mum had not been the brave person she was, I would not have met my wife Lenore at Church or raised my two beautiful girls in a healthy family environment.

Yes, my Mums’ legacy is having generational impact.

When I look back and realise that my Mum was my age and older when I was in my teenage years, I’m amazed at her energy, stamina and zest for life.  Right up until her last week, her life was full of blessing.

Mum made me who I am today because of the choices she made to raise me in the right environment.  She courageously turned my life around for the better.

What we can all learn from my Mum’s life:

It’s never too late to make a change for the better;
We need to do what we can and leave what we can’t to God;
Jesus never leaves us;
We need the help of others and we need to be a help to others;
God’s Word is life changing;
To live today with as much enthusiasm and energy as we have and get up tomorrow and do it all again; and
The last half can be the best half.

Thank you Mum, until we meet again.

Phil

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.

Phil

The three-minute challenge

I’m writing this at an airport.  I’m watching people say goodbye to loved ones and it makes me wonder what they are saying.

What I hope is that it isn’t the first time they have said it during their time with each other.

Did they wait until the last three-minutes they had together to say the most important and meaningful exchanges: “I love you”, “Thank you”, “I’ll miss you”?

So often that’s the case.  We have friends over for dinner, spend hours communicating, and it’s only at the door, saying goodbye, that we talk about our appreciation for their friendship and hospitality.

I was touched this past week when friends of 30 years shared on our first night together how much our friendship meant to them.  Unfortunately, these sentiments of love and affection are often left until departure or remain entirely unsaid.

Too often the most important exchange of feeling and relationship are left until our final moments together. 

I believe there is a better way.  What would our relationships be like if we started our exchanges with the most important and finished satisfied that we had communicated the important?

Don’t you ever wonder why you didn’t have intimate conversations earlier?  Tragically, many people never have them at all.

My challenge, our challenge, is to reverse the trend and use our last words first. 

I cannot remember my dad and I speaking deeply about our love for each other until we were both adults, and at first it was awkward.  But it became easier and now several years after his death I’m very glad I ventured out of my comfort zone to say what mattered.

Believe me, this has been one of my life’s biggest challenges.  I am naturally a reserved guy keeping my feelings of love and deep feelings of emotion to myself.  But I have had to learn to change.  I realise now that the love of others and for others needs to be communicated more easily and readily.

Life is precious and relationships are priority.

The richest relationships include conversations about the things that really matter.

I once read about a leadership development seminar where the facilitator asked people to give a three-minute talk to everyone imagining that at the end they would die.  I know it sounds morbid but it challenged them to focus on the important.

What would you say in those last three minutes?  And who would you say it to?

Now take that and bring it forward, to today.  Tell someone today you love them, spend three minutes writing them a card, an email, or giving them a call.

While I confess I’m not great at this, my friends have taught me something valuable, that if we get better at it, our lives will be the richer.  If it is something new to you, aim to start small, just say something.  The more you do it, the more comfortable and natural it will become.

Don’t leave it until last, until the goodbyes of life.

Use your last words first.

Phil

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.

Phil

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