Search

Fridays with Phil

Life, family and unshakeable faith

Tag

MND

When you don’t know what to say

Do you struggle with what to say to someone when you know they have a terminal disease, a disability, a mental illness or even when they are facing a seemingly insurmountable challenge?

As someone living with Motor Neurone Disease, I find myself on both sides of the conversation, receiving comfort and offering it, so maybe I can help.

I think a good rule of thumb is to stick to conversation, questions and condolences that match your level of relationship with the person.

Just because someone is going through something doesn’t automatically give us license to extend beyond the level of our current relationship with them.

As a casual friend or acquaintance, I ask people, how they are going “today”?  It means they don’t have to answer what can be an impossible question: “how are you going?”  Unless that person has been cured, they probably don’t want to relive everything that they are currently facing in what they are going through. The word “today” allows them to remain focused on the present.

For those I am closer with, I may ask, how they are “feeling”? This moves a conversation beyond the factual realities of the situation and towards how they are coping, emotionally, spiritually, or mentally with what they are going through. Their answer could be about how they are feeling about the future or the courage they need to face each day’s challenges.  It may be as detailed as treatment plans and the potential side effects of trial drugs.

So for your sake, for their sake, only ask if you really want to know. 

It’s shocking some of the things people come out with when they don’t know what to say. I’ve had people invite me to go into a closet with them to pray and not come out until I am healed. Some have asked me if I am really that sick as I look so good. Others have suggested that a forty-day fast with lemon and water will cure me.

All well meaning I’m sure, but there are better things we can say and they are often the simplest things: How are you going today? How are you feeling? How can I help? I’m praying for you, I’m sorry, you are inspiring, we love you, we are proud of you.

These words acknowledge the seriousness of what they are going through and yet still inspire hope for the future.

If you get a response like “I’m doing great” or “this is a great day”, it is not necessarily a contradiction to the challenge they have, it could just be a reflection of them trying to have the best day possible and not dwell on their less-than-perfect situation.

It is always good to consider that a person travelling through a tough time is most likely digging deep to find the strength to be positive. You never know, they could just be on the brink of taking a leap of faith. Their breakthrough could be just around the corner.

Your words could make all the difference.

Phil

The victorious life

We all want victory.  I don’t know anyone who is happy about losing or being defeated.

However, the truth is that if we are living at all, we will have experienced times of loss and defeat.  Does that mean we are not victorious?

I believe that although we may have times of defeat, we can still have a victorious life where the rhythm of our life is victorious and where the theme or banner over our life is victory.

We can live in such a way that our heart is not discouraged from a single defeat, but is courageous knowing victory is measured over a lifetime, not over one day.

Michael Clarke has retired as Australian cricket captain at the end of one of Australia’s biggest Ashes losses.  Yet Michael should be remembered as a great cricket captain, for his triple century in 2012, his 161 with a fractured shoulder, his century after the death of Hughes. He is not to be remembered for a single loss, but for many victories.

How do we keep our heart victorious in the face of defeat?

Here are some keys:

1. Remember the wins of the past.  

Think about what God has accomplished in and through your life to date.  Psalm 103:2 says it like this, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”

One of the traps of time is that the further we get away from the work we saw God do, the more we are tempted to make it not such a big deal or even worse give ourselves the credit, rather than God’s provision and divine help.

It is important that we remember what God has done for us if we are going to walk in continued victory.

2.  Win the private battles.

To have victory in public, we need to win some battles in our own soul and spirit. This is the hardest battlefield at time because it takes more courage to change ourselves than to find fault in others.

Finding fault in others only superficially gives us a sense of victory. That’s why some people gossip because it’s easier than having to look at themselves and see areas that need changing.

Maybe, it’s time to look for any rubbish that needs removing and “take out the trash.” Maybe it’s time to get off the gossip train!

3.  Let God in.

Many people have a concept that God is looking for an opportunity to punish them. Nothing could be further from the truth.  God is in fact actively looking for opportunities to show Himself strong in you and through you.  When we are ready to win battles in our own lives, then God is ready and willing to help.

Be encouraged today, you can win in the end. Victory can be your hallmark even in the face of loss and defeat.

Phil

I need help

When I was 13 years old my mum and dad separated, leaving my sister and I living with my mum in a tiny apartment. Each Friday I negotiated between mum and dad a weekly support sum given by dad to mum to help raise us. I hated it.

I clearly remember sitting with mum on one side of Epping train station in Sydney while dad sat on the other.  I would walk across the footbridge between them, back and forwards, communicating the terms of how much money mum would get for the week ahead.

At the age of 13, it seemed like dad was only providing for us, not out of love, but because of an unwilling obligation forced on him by mum. And I was mad at my mum that she couldn’t speak for herself and put me in the middle of them.

It’s only after decades have passed that I can see that I had drawn childish conclusions about both my mum and dad at that time. Those conclusions influenced reactions in my life, not only a fear during the early years of my marriage that Lenore would leave me suddenly, but also a difficulty in accepting help from others.

I grew up struggling to believe that when people did help it was out of love, not obligation.

I wonder what childish conclusions you may be living with to this day?

Today as a 55 year old who needs to rely more and more on the help of others, I now realise it was unfair of me to assume ill motives on others. There are people who are neither unwilling or under obligation that want to help and do help. I was the one with the issue.

Maybe like me, you need to acknowledge your own false conclusions.

What I now know is that my dad did love me and my mum was not using me. They had stuff going on in their lives that had nothing to do with me. My dad’s tough negotiating, for example, had more to do with his need for money to feed his addictions and pay his bills, not to mention his anger over mum leaving.

What about you? What childish conclusions about life and relationships are you living with?

Have false conclusions in your life stemmed from disappointments, from past experiences, or just incorrectly processing information?

Are you like me, reacting or responding to people and their actions from a dysfunctional mindset built upon false understandings and conclusions that have framed the way you now think?

You see, not only as adults do we need to put aside childish behaviours, but it may also be time to put away seeing life how a child sees life – recognising, there may be more to every story.

There is so much potential for our lives as we mature, not only in age, but in actions, and in how we perceive the world. I leave you with this verse today, 1 Corinthians 13:11:

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”

Phil

P.S. If you want to help me end MND / ALS, visit www.curemnd.org.au

Choices that hurt

We all make choices. Some of our choices both help and hurt at the same time. They are beneficial but uncomfortable. They are right but they go against the grain.

When you have a debilitating illness, there are certain medications that are prescribed which alleviate pain and the body’s response to illness but at the same time take their toll in other areas.

To help me manage the effects of Motor Neurone Disease (muscle fasciculate, cramps, shakes), my neurologist has given me medication. Unfortunately the drugs come with warnings of blurred vision, dizziness, drowsiness, high blood pressure, weight gain etc. You get the picture.

It’s the dilemma of many people in our world who neither choose the illness, nor choose the effects the drugs may have.  But in the end we make a decision, it’s the lesser of these evils.

I wonder, how do you make the right choices in life? Choices like:

What medication do I take, if any?
Will I marry this person?
What degree do I study?
Should we start a family?
Should we buy a house?
Do I spend $200k on a trial drug?
Do I want quality of life or extended life?

Here is how I try to make the right choice.

Don’t let happiness be your guide, let peace.  When you have peace, joy is around the corner and joy is a necessary ingredient for lasting happiness and satisfaction. As one person put it, “Being sick well means living with joy despite the illness.

Seek counsel from experts in their field and wise people.  Remember sometimes those with knowledge aren’t the ones who have wisdom.  Wisdom is knowing how to use knowledge. Give time to thoughtful contemplation, this is different to just accumulation of facts.  Value other people’s opinions but remember they may have different values and life goals to you.

Consider this: what will be the impact on others? Try, to the best of your ability, to play out the consequences and see if it ends with increased experiences of love for you and the ones closest to you. Don’t base your decisions on what YOU want but on what is needed.

Allow your heart to get involved and search for what is instinctively true and right.  I’m not talking about what feels good to the senses but what has a deep and pervading “I know” attached to it.  It reaches to the personal integrity of what you believe is morally and ethically right.

For me, the Bible has given me some moral and ethical absolutes and prayer helps me practice those by God’s grace.  Sometimes the absolutes outweigh the popular and the majority.

Your decision to have life may mean certain things you now live with must die: bad habits, unhealthy relationships, negative thought patterns. In this way, sometimes life is found in death.  Don’t let pride or fear stop you from changing a wrong choice or making a right one.

Making the right choice, even those that hurt, is a balance between heart and head. I would encourage you to trust yourself and know yourself, don’t fear what others may think. Sometimes the right decision costs us something personally.

Remember this, right decisions take courage no matter what the outcome may be.

My hope for you today is that you choose the best life possible.

Phil

I believe we can Freeze MND!

With my family, looking forward to the Big Freeze!
With my family, looking forward to the Big Freeze!

Like me, Neale Daniher has Motor Neurone Disease (MND), also known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

This weekend, Neale is spearheading a campaign to raise money for a cure.  On Monday June 8th, several well-known footy personalities will be dunked in a giant pool of ice before a blockbuster Collingwood FC vs Melbourne FC game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

MND in Australia alone kills 2-3 people each day and they are replaced daily with others being diagnosed.

Neale calls it the BEAST.  My neurologist, Professor Dominic Rowe, a leader in research for a cure at Macquarie University, calls it the BASTARD.  Doctors, in university exit surveys, are known for voting MND the disease they would LEAST like to get.

MND kills most of those with it within 27 months of diagnosis. Death comes by the muscles wasting away until the person can no longer walk, talk, eat, or move any part of their body but the eyes, and then eventually, they can’t breath.

There is a cure, we just haven’t found it yet!

Personally I’m believing a cure will be found in the not-too-distant future.  I think we can turn Motor Neurone Disease around.

Why is a cure so important?

I believe a cure is the best way we can honour those who have died of the disease before us.  They courageously and valiantly faced their death.  All those who have died from MND have somehow contributed to the cure of the future.  Their death has motivated many to desperately and tirelessly work to find a cure today.

I think of those who can now give testimony of having been cured from cancer and at the same time, I think of those who, because of their death, are the reason we can celebrate that cure today.

Another reason I believe a cure is so important is that it aligns itself with the heart of God for humanity, a good God who desires for us to live life abundantly.  Whenever anybody works to protect, provide and promote life, they work in line with the will and purpose of God for humanity.

I am throwing my full support behind Neale and his team to help raise as much awareness and funds as possible.  If you would like to find out more or lend your support, you can visit www.freezemnd.com.

Phil

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.

Phil

The only way to freedom

Too often we see people take out brutal revenge on others for even the smallest grievance.  You may recall the man shot dead because he was texting in a movie. We have seen too many “coward” or senseless punches, reactions in the heat of the moment.

Could it be that we have become a society intolerant of others who make mistakes or let us down? 

I wonder if the unrealistic expectation we place on others to be perfect is escalating feelings of frustration and disappointment, ultimately taking the luster out of life.

None of us are perfect.  That’s the very premise upon which we need a Saviour who gives us grace in our imperfection.

Life really begins when we accept that and embrace the forgiveness readily available to all of us.  Psalm 86:5 says, “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.”

Perhaps one of the reasons that we fail to go easy on others is that we are too hard on ourselves?

We are our own worst critic.

We see the young lady tormented because she doesn’t have the body portrayed in magazines.  Likewise, we see the young man feeling inadequate because he doesn’t match up to the hero portrayed on TV screens.

Jesus tells us to “love others as we love ourselves”.  To live in the overflow of love towards others, we must first love ourselves.

To take it a step further, to live without harsh judgment towards others, we need to live without harsh judgment towards ourselves.

In this life of love that we are called to live, we simply can’t negate the need to forgive: others and ourselves.

As I watch my body becoming less than what I would like, due to MND / ALS, I need to be less condemning of my body and more forgiving of its imperfections in order to appreciate the present strengths I do have.

My forgiveness towards my body is not surrendering to its weaknesses, but rather giving me the strength to believe for better days ahead.  It is a grace that opens my life to God’s healing presence.

Forgiving those who have hurt you is not surrendering to the pain or accepting their behaviour, it is grace extended so that you too can be free to love others and love yourself.

What is it in your life that you need to forgive today so you can live a life free to love?

Phil

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.

Phil

[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 http://www.adifferentlight.com.au/blog

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: