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Fridays with Phil

Life, family and unshakeable faith

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#PhilCamden

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

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

Spirituality 101

Have you ever wanted to hear from God?  Is it possible for mere humans to experience God’s voice?

“Speak, We’re Listening.” These are the words framing Hillsong Conference 2015 which will see more than 30,000 people gather in Sydney’s Allphones Arena. I will be one of them.

This phrase, this cry, implies some powerful assumptions, namely:
That God is alive.
That God speaks.
That God wants to say something.
That we can hear God.

I wonder if you really believe that God speaks? And if you do, how much do you want to hear from Him?

It may start with belief in His existence, that He is a living God, but it also involves our understanding that He cares enough to respond to those who want to hear Him.

Personally, not only do I believe He can speak, I need Him to speak to me: His voice is life, it is my rock in a world of uncertainty.

My desire to hear His voice motivates my ears to listen. Without His voice, there is no fullness to our relationship. God-breathed words, His voice, are oxygen to my soul and infuse life into my spirit.

Like sheep are inclined to their shepherd’s voice for safety, I choose to align myself to the Good Shepherd’s voice. I know He cares for me and has my best interests at heart.

I have no doubt that God has good things to tell us.

Romans 10:17 (NKJV) says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

You see, hearing God is no futile activity, it is the very means by which we develop faith. And at the same time, we need faith to hear Him. One feeds the other: faith, hearing, and hearing, faith.

So how do we hear His voice?

We listen: listen in prayer, listen in worship, listen to His Spirit, listen to His Word.

I remember staying at a friend’s home. I was having trouble hearing and his wife who was a nurse, washed my ears out by forcing water to push out the blockage. A bit weird, but it worked.

That’s just like God’s Word. It is like living water. It opens our ears to hear. Today, if you are having trouble hearing from God: try washing out your ears with a good dose of the Word of God.

When you read the Bible, the Spirit of God has something to work with. There are many times when in just reading, suddenly a verse jumps out. That’s the Spirit of God taking revelation and illuminating it to our spirit, speaking it into our life and situation.

Trust the presence of His Spirit in you to communicate what God is saying to you, with or without the details.  Be encouraged that His presence in you can speak directly to your spirit as your spirit is tuned to His voice.

What God says may not be all you want to hear, but it will be all you need to know and all you need for now.  It will be enough for you to take the next step of faith and when you do, He will speak again.

Let that same God-breath that inspired the very words on the pages of your Bible, breathe life into you as you read them.

Give it a try, make room for God to speak.

I, for one, am listening.

Phil

Keep an eye out for Fridays with Phil’s next post on Friday 17th July.

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

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

Today’s potential

It is true that some get more out of their 60 minutes in the hour than others.

What makes you more likely to reach today’s potential is directly related to how you put your time to use. You see, time is life.  When we let time ‘pass by’, life sails on by with it.  Time is a non-renewable commodity.  It is more important than energy and more valuable than money.

To manage time, I have learnt that sometimes slower is actually faster.

Preparation may seem like a slower process than just getting stuck in and doing it.  However, planning your approach can actually save hours of wasted trial and error.

Whenever I am preparing for a holiday, I spend time planning as much as I can.  I prefer to arrive departure card completed as well as knowing my plan for transit from the airport so I can start enjoying a new city.

Planning isn’t a kill-joy, it actually allows you more time to be spontaneous.

In making the most of time, learn to do the shuffle.   Shuffle things around to best make use of time available.

If you’re a morning person, don’t leave your most draining tasks until late at night.  Use your time to your advantage.

When I was working in Auckland CBD, if I left home half an hour earlier, it saved me almost an hour in peak-hour traffic.  Instead of wasting time in transit, I organised my life to leave earlier and use that time on the other end for meditation before starting my work day.  I could literally save time by planning well.

Psalm 90: 10-12 says, ‘Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away… Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

I hope today that we may make the most of our time, as men and women with hearts of wisdom.

Being efficient is doing things with excellence in the least amount of time.  Being effective is knowing which things to do efficiently.  Doing the wrong things efficiently is not the most effective use of time.

It can be as simple as working out what you value.

When you decide that, it will help you prioritise your time.   Values help you determine what’s important and therefore make the tough calls when they need to be made.  The word “no” is a powerful time management tool.

Using time well is a way of honouring the important in your life, the people around you and the values you live by.

Right use of the right time for the right purpose brings about right outcomes.

Are there phone calls you can make in transit instead of when you are with other people?  Could a phone call save you driving across town for a meeting? Or could you strategically organise your meetings near each other?

I would encourage you to do the mundane, routine tasks which require less energy when your energy is low or you’re tired, not during your most valuable times or when you have the highest energy levels.

When I was coaching a young married couple, they were frustrated that they had no time off to have fun.  What time they did get off, they spent doing chores – washing, cleaning the house etc.

I encouraged them to learn to shuffle based on what they valued (i.e. time together).  They could steal slices of time on weeknights, for example, ironing on Monday, vacuuming on Wednesday, washing on Friday.  You would be amazed at how it freed up the large block of time they wanted for their weekend.

Just a few of my thoughts on harnessing today’s potential.

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?”]

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