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Fridays with Phil

Life, family and unshakeable faith

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phil camden

Why a property guru climbed Mt Everest and what it can teach us today

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I have had the privilege of becoming friends with Leah Jay in recent years, who is not only a prominent business woman, but who also lost her son Elliot (pictured below) to Motor Neurone Disease / ALS when he was just 19 years old.

Elliot Jay was a talented basketball player and bright University of Newcastle student.

At first, Elliot began to fall over, as his legs would collapse from under him and he struggled to walk up small stairs.  One day when his Dad dropped him off at work, he limped to the stairs, stopped at the base of them for a few moments, then turned, struggled back, eyes filling with tears, removed his tie and said “take me home.”

He was never to return.

In his first semester of university, his friend would joke around with him, because he would take the elevator for only a small flight of stairs.

He was walking with his mate down a popular street lined with cafes when he fell over. Onlookers thought he was drunk.  With the help of his friend and a stranger, he got back up.

Little did they know this weakening of his left calf was the beginning of the Jay family’s tragedy.

Diagnosed in 2007 at just 18 years of age, by January of 2008, Elliot had lost the use of his arms, legs and neck.  He died in April 2008, after a 12 month battle.

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In honour of her son, nine years after her his death, at 4:40am on 22nd May 2017, Leah Jay reached the highest point in the world.

She successfully climbed Mount Everest, becoming one of less than a dozen Australian women to successfully do so.

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Her goal is to climb the seven highest mountains on each of the seven continents in honour of Elliot. This was her sixth and Denali in Alaska will be her last.

 

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There is so much I never knew about the feat that is Everest.

For example, did you know, there is only a window of two weeks per year that you can climb it?

First you have to trek the Himalayas for 10 to 12 days before you even get to base camp, at an altitude of 5, 300m. Yellow tents are home for six (yes, six!) weeks.

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Things I learnt about climbing Everest from Leah’s Pursuit:

  • You climb Everest by completing three multiple rotations going up and down (back and forwards) while your body acclimatises and develops red blood cells.
  • If you could get dropped off on the top of Everest by helicopter, you would die within 10 to 15 minutes. This is why you have to do the rotations.
  • From camp 2 to camp 3 is only 2,000 feet, but it takes 7 hours of treacherous climbing an ice face.
  • Anytime your body is above base camp you can feel it wasting and become weaker.
  • As you climb, you spend about 20,000 -30,000 calories per day.
  • You climb at night, leaving at about 1am.
  • There are 30 ladders, held by ropes, between base camp and camp two.
  • Remember, you do it three times before the summit.
  • It takes six weeks to climb Everest.

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Leah wrote in her journal last year while on Everest, “I’m not super human, I’m just a girl from Newcastle. But I chose to be here.”

She said, you can’t practice the fear you will feel climbing and navigating the ladders.

With so much you can’t control, you just have to keep going and remember the pain is temporary, she said.

She was literally in the death zone.  She slept with two dead bodies outside her tent.  That’s when you start questioning your own ability and reason for being there, Leah said.

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I have learnt so much from Leah’s pursuit.

Leah didn’t just wake up one morning and go and climb the biggest mountain she could find.  She began with high tracks, then small mountains and then Everest.  Once she decided to climb Everest, she lived and breathed it.  Her whole focus was on fitness, diet, sleep, equipment and training.

I believe there is much we can take from Leah when it comes to how we live in the pursuits of our own lives.

Things I learnt about leadership from Leah’s pursuit:

  • There’s no escaping the importance of setting goals.  Those goals need to have incremental victories attached to them.  Leah had a strategic plan in place to conquer Everest.  In fact, she climbed many smaller mountains before Everest, giving her both confidence and credibility.
  • Leah knew she needed a team around her before, during, and after the climb that could make her better than she was on her own.  Her climb was only made possible by the commitment of others in her team.
  • Leah showed commitment and dedication to the team by her personal discipline to her own preparation.  She prepared her mind, body and soul.
  • Leah, to achieve what she needed to achieve, narrowed her focus.  She lived and breathed Everest.  Her eating, sleeping ,and exercise was totally focused towards the climb.  Every activity was attached to the purpose of the climb.
    Activity without a purpose is like a boat with a roaring motor but no rudder for direction. 
    Why not remove the activity in your life that is not producing or moving you towards your purpose and passion?
  • Leah was not just about being prepared, but it became her passion. When Leah shares her passion, her goal and the reason behind why she is doing what she is doing, people rally around that.  People want to attach themselves to things that matter and have meaning.
  • Remember the rotations that Leah did I outlined above?  They involved her climbing for seven hours, returning to base, and climbing another seven hours, then seven more, then again, returning all the way back down to base camp.  This is a test of how your body and mind adjust to the higher levels of altitude.  As her body adjusted, she went a little further.  Leaders note, don’t try too much too early.  Prove yourself in the small things and then you will be ready for the bigger challenges ahead.

Leah will pursue Denali, her final mountain, before returning to Newcastle for the Big Freeze, seeing locals slide into ice water, raising much needed funds for a cure for MND.

For those who want more info on this year’s Big Freeze on June 23rd 2018, you can visit www.newcastlefreeze.com – a worthy cause, I am passionate about and proud to support.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, for all those who are fighting or who have lost anyone to MND, you are not alone.  There is an army of friends, family and a community who are behind you to conquer this beast, this mountain, of a disease.  And like any great endeavour, it will be one step at a time. 

Have a blessed day,
Phil

(And sincere thanks to Leah Jay for allowing us to share her amazing images of Everest and of her beloved son, Elliot.)

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

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

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

Keep Calm and Carry On

What do you know about the man who carried Jesus’ cross?

History tells us his name was Simon. Presumably, he was a man just like you and me.

“A man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the country just then, and they forced him to carry Jesus’ cross.” (Mark 15:21)

By the time Simon was asked to carry the cross, Jesus had already suffered through scourging with whips made of leather and sharp bone. It’s no surprise that He was weak and physically unable to carry on.

Easter, then, is not only a story about triumph and victory, but also for those who at times find themselves too weak or too helpless to carry their own burdens.

It is for those of us who have been given more than we feel we can endure.

Do you know what that’s like?  The feeling of absolute powerlessness? To feel overwhelmed by what you are required to carry? Jesus does.

His body gave out.  He could not take another step in His own strength.  He literally sweated blood.

When you feel like you can’t take another step, or bear another thing, think on this: Jesus has been there and knows how you feel.

“He understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same temptations we do, yet He did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

Whatever it is that we have to carry at this time: illness, weakness, pain, trials, temptation, Jesus will help you carry it.

Jesus came into this world to identify with the human race, to experience all that we experience.  He understands you. He knows what it is like not to be able to go on, and He will be there to give you strength in your time of need.

He could have saved Himself, just as He could have prevented Himself from being there in the first place.

He was there, not because He was the victim of circumstances beyond His control, but because He chose to lay down His life for the sake of the world. In fact, He was quoted as saying to the disciples:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep… No one can take my life from Me. I lay down My life voluntarily.” (John 10:11, 17-18)

Jesus wanted to save you so He didn’t save Himself.

He was willing to die so that you can live and be reconciled to God.  That was a price He was willing to pay.

It has been said before: “it wasn’t the nails that bound Him to that tree; His love for you held Him there.

Remember God, victorious, this Easter and also remember God who knew suffering.  He was alone in His agony so that you would not be alone in yours.

I am posting this earlier in the week so that I didn’t miss the opportunity to extend an invite to you, your family and friends to get along to a Church for Good Friday & Easter Sunday services.

If you are looking for somewhere to attend, here is a link to service locations and times around the world of the Church I call home: http://www.hillsong.com/easter

Phil

Here’s to a new beginning!

Life is a journey of necessary endings that are often also the beginning of something fresh and new.

New beginnings and necessary endings go hand in hand: how you start and how you finish have as much to do with your future as the other. In fact, gracefully letting go of the past (old) will enable our head, hands, and heart to confidently take hold of the future (new).

You may say, “but endings hurt”!  Maybe so, but it’s about focusing on the changes that need to be made, not what is going to be the perceived or real loss. It’s recognising that a new beginning is not only an ending, but an opportunity for you to live and thrive. It boils down to this: to experience new beginnings in your life, you need to remove some things (as good as they are) to create space.

Did you know that some beautiful plants actually produce more buds than they can sustain and if some buds are not removed then the space the bud needs to open and blossom is not provided? It’s a vivid image. Without pruning, we don’t reach our potential.

Parents know this when their children get married; it’s a letting go that has some pain but also an acceptance of the new that brings joy and hope.

I remember when living in New Zealand, my eldest daughter moved back to Australia and I was heartbroken. However, it was there she met her husband and a new beginning that has brought our whole family joy

Some of the things that we need to let go of are good but they are taking up space that other opportunity may now need. Let go of old hope and grasp a hold of new hope. In fact, every time we say “no” to something, we are saying “yes” to something else (and visa versa).

As you read this blog, I will be on my way to the Democratic Republic of Congo for possibly the last time, after having travelled there each year for the past 7 years.

On this trip I will hand over and release some very dear friends into the leadership of what’s called, “Business, Integrity and Governance” (B.I.G) – an organisation to help raise up and encourage business, education and government sectors.

One thing I had to consider and battle with when I finished my leadership of B.I.G was not believing that “in finishing, I had somehow failed”.

Sometimes the finish as you know it is just the next step in its ultimate success and growth.

Life is full of goodbyes and hellos, of yes’s and no’s, of closing and opening, of quitting and starting. Think about your world. What needs pruning so the bud of your life’s potential can open wide to all its beauty?

Phil

Recommended reading: “Necessary endings” by Dr Henry Cloud.

Very early this morning...flying out to the Congo today.
Very early this morning…flying out to the Congo today.

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