A True Warrior’s Motivation

My brother-in-law set aside his life as a successful entrepreneur to serve the people and the country he loves. Make sure that whatever you are fighting for is inspired by love. It is the only drive that is inexhaustible and results in a truly fulfilling life.

Anger, resentment and revenge are motivators that burn hot. But they also burn out fast and take you with them. But when love is acted on, it is refueled by the responses of others and your own internal response. As far as motivators go, it is the only renewable resource.

Jordan Meme

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She Said Yes! How to Properly Propose to a Princess

The phone was ringing, and my heart was pounding! I was about to ask Dr. Sherrod permission to propose to his daughter. I was pretty sure he liked me, but how much?! Well,..I was about to find out.

If you know me at all, you know how it went. We have now been married ten years and have two beautiful kids. And instead of a card, I wanted to officially tell the story of our engagement. I knew I was only going to do this once, so I wanted to do it right. I wanted her to have a story to remember for the rest of her life, and hopefully I succeeded. I’ll let you be the judge.

Copy of 100_1110I told her what to pack for a weekend trip, but other than that, she had no clue what we were doing or where we were going. We got in the car and I handed her a manila envelope. She opened it, and on page one, there were directions. Where to? It didn’t say.

We started heading north, and after about 30 minutes, Nicole was pretty confident that we were heading to the Kansas City area. She was correct (as she often still is) and a couple of hours later, we pulled up at the Kansas City Zoo. Nicole LOVES animals, as evidenced by all of them on our property, and has always loved going to the zoo. So for the next few hours on that beautiful fall day, we enjoyed practically having the zoo to ourselves. It felt like I had reserved it just for us, because there was nobody there, and we had a blast!

After walking several miles and enjoying some quality time with a kangaroo, a herdEngagement Night 024 of sheep and an orangutan, we were ready to head out. We got in the car, Nicole pulled out the manila envelope, and turned to page two, and thirty minutes later we pulled up at The Intercontinental Hotel in The Plaza, our favorite outdoor shopping area in Kansas City.

After a few pictures, we got checked in and went up to our room, where we each had our own bed. You might call me old-fashioned, but I only plan on doing the marriage thing once, so I aimed to do it right the first time. It took me thirty two years to find this amazing woman, and I was willing to do anything, or not do anything, to make sure our marriage would last.

A little context here: I had been planning this for at least a month. From the selection of the hotel, restaurant, activities, to talking with the managers of each location to properly orchestrate everything. Timing was critical! If anything was out of place, it would blow the whole surprise. That’s why I was SO glad that I answered our door when someone came a’knockin’.

100_1111I saw who it was and immediately pushed them back, stepped outside and shut the door! It was the concierge with a silver platter full of decorative chocolate covered strawberries…that was supposed to arrive after we had left for dinner! I quickly made that clear and stepped back in. “It was the wrong number…room number,” I said, and probably sighed a little too loud.

We had time for a nap, then started getting ready for dinner. I had advised her to dress nicely, and she did! She was stunning! And I was starting to get nervous. I tried not to seem too preoccupied as I continued to work on the most important speech of my life.

Before we walked out of our room, I made sure that I had the ring safely tucked into my inside jacket pocket. I just hoped she didn’t notice the bulge!

They brought us the car, we got in, and Nicole pulled out the manila envelope yet again. She turned to page three, and we drove for about 25 minutes and pulled up at what is now called Rosso, Hotel Sorella Country Club Plaza’s restaurant. It’s one of them fancy restaurants what’s on top of a sky scraper and spins around real slow so you can look around.

I can still vividly remember that ride in the elevator. I was painfully aware of the ring case in my jacket, and just knew she had noticed it. And if she had noticed it, but not said anything, that’s because she knew what I was going to do in an hour and didn’t want to spoil it. And if she didn’t want to spoil it, then that meant she was going to say yes! Or maybe she wouldn’t!! I didn’t know, and I was going crazy!

Dinner was kind of a blur. I can’t remember anything I ate at all. I was looking for the manager, with whom I had spoken many times on the phone, but had no idea what he looked like. “I have to use the restroom,” I said about 30 minutes in. I got up, made sure Nicole wasn’t watching, and started looking for him. When I found him, we went back over the plan, and somewhat reluctantly, I handed him the box with the engagement ring.

I went back to our table, sat down, and tried to act normal for the next 45 minutes. She never said, “Brian, you sure do look like you’re going to throw up,” or anything like that, so I must have succeeded.

Then it was time to order dessert. I selected one, and she another. Then I waited. My heart was pounding, and I knew that what happened next would have an enormous impact on the rest of my life. Then I saw him.

Our waiter approached and time slowed. He walked up with a silver covered platter and I made my move. I got out of my chair, got down on one knee, and the waiter lifted the cover off of the tray. I grabbed the box, looked Nicole in the eyes, and began the speech I had rehearsed countless times in my mind.

cropped-engagement-night-049-1.jpg“Nicole Chandler Phillips, the last year has been the best year of my life…..and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Nicole, will you marry me?”

Her hands were over her mouth in surprise and she teared up. She said “Yes!” and the entire restaurant burst into applause! I put the ring on her finger, stood up, maybe teared up a little myself, and kissed her.

The manager then took us to a private seating area, and provided special desserts on the house. It gave us time to talk about what had just taken place, and enjoy each other’s company. I then learned happily that she had no idea that I was going to propose, but sure was glad that I did.

We arrived back at our hotel room, and this time the concierge had gotten it right. 100_1099Actually, he exceeded my expectations, most likely because of his earlier visit. There were not just beautiful chocolate covered strawberries, there was champagne, and it looked like a dozen rose bushes had exploded. There were rose petals everywhere!

We talked for quite a while and drank some champagne. Then we went to bed and I slept in the clouds.

And after being married ten years, I have never looked back.

I love you, babe. Happy 10th Anniversary!

 

The Tale of the $15 Big Mac

I love a good road trip! Load up the family, fill the SUV with a bunch of stuff you don’t

Thatcher Push Pop
Nicole has a family tradition on road trips. At every pit stop, you buy treats! Candy, soda…candy, pork rinds (if you’re my brother Allen). Thatcher is showing off his Push Pop, completely unaware that I should be greatly offended.

need, plus some clothes, and head off on an adventure. The only drawback is that sometimes you get hungry when you’re in the middle of nowhere. That’s when you get desperate. And when you get desperate, you eat McDonald’s. And when I eat McDonald’s, I typically regret it.

On a recent road trip down to visit my parents in Houston, we were in a small town in Oklahoma and we got desperate. “When are they going to start putting a Chick Fil-A in small towns?!” I asked with frustration as we pulled into a McDonald’s. I walked in with Thatcher to get a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, fries and an ice cold Sprite. I have eaten the exact same thing there for over twenty years.

I looked up at the menu and started ordering.

“I’ll take a 99 cent fries, a medium Sprite, and a FIFTEEN DOLLAR DOUBLE QUARTER POUNDER WITH CHEESE?!!!”

Panic set in as my eyes quickly scan the menu. Big Mac – $15! Quarter Pounder with Cheese- $15! Bacon Clubhouse Burger -$15! McDouble – $15!

“What the he…!” I stop just in time and look down at my 6 year-old son, Thatcher. He senses my panic, so now he’s panicked, even though he has no idea why.

“What’s wrong, Daddy?!”

“Every hamburger is fifteen stinkin’ dollars!” I reply, eyes still wide, staring at the menu. My mind starts racing back to old Twilight Zone episodes. “This is what it feels like,” I think to myself.

“So. You have more than $15, Daddy.” he says with a little levity coming back into his eyes.

“Yeah, but….it’s a McDonald’s hamburger!”

[Let’s pause here and provide some commentary.]

Completely unbeknownst to me, last week Congress passed the controversial “Burger Flipper Bonus Bill” to help provide a “living wage” for those working in the fast food industry. Its contents were uncommonly brief. “All burgers at fast food restaurants must cost a minimum of $15.00.”

[Resume “The Tale of the $15 Big Mac”]

“Can I just get a regular burger, Daddy?” Thatcher asks, still trying to wrap his mind around the situation.

McDonald's big mac beef burger
Ain’t no way I’m paying $15 for that!!

“No you can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because it costs $15!”

My confusion quickly turns to frustration, and quicker still to resolve.

“Do you know what we can get for $15?!”

“No sir.”

“We can get a heck of a lot more than a greasy McDonald’s hamburger for $15. The

government can change the cost of whatever they want, but what they can’t do is change its value. If I’m going to spend that much money, I demand far more than a low quality burger. And fortunately for us, we have a car and the freedom to choose, and we will choose something that is worth what we are going to pay.”

“It’s just as crazy as the government making companies pay a person with no experience

Strike for 15
Many restaurant chains around the country are installing kiosks to replace cashiers as a direct response to rising labor costs.

the same as they currently pay a manager. Since businesses have the freedom to choose what they spend their money on, they will choose a manager who is worth their $15 just like we will choose something that is actually worth our $15. Come on, Tiger. We’re going somewhere else.”

I grab his hand and we walk towards the door.

Thatcher and I walk out of McDonald’s determined never to darken their door again. A block down the road we find a Mexican restaurant and I get some delicious chicken fajitas for $8.99 and Thatcher gets a chicken quesadilla for $6.99.  Within a month, there were a lot of McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger Kings with “For Sale” signs on them…and a lot of burger flippers without a job.

 

A Mother’s Love: A Tribute

As parents, we have the great and grave responsibility to speak to the very

My Mom, who is called Nanny CeeCee by our kids (it's one of those mispronunciation deals that stuck) loving on Thatcher
My Mom, who is called Nanny CeeCee by our kids (it’s one of those mispronunciations that stuck) loving on Thatcher at Fort Morgan, AL

core of our children’s being and tell them what they are worth. Whether we speak truthfully or falsely, they will most likely take that belief about themselves to the grave.

Also as parents (especially the father, but not strictly so) we become the model of what our children will initially believe God is like; and only naturally from there, are a big catalyst in the equation of whether our children ever acknowledge a belief in God or not. Who wants to believe in a God who is unreliable, untrustworthy, inconsistent, angry, unloving or a jerk? Not me, thanks.

Introducing the Phillips family
Introducing the Phillips family: (left to right) Chandler, Louise, Brian (me), Thatcher, my brother Allen, Jimmie and my wife Nicole

But on the flip side, when you have a mother and a father who have always made you feel loved, even when you screwed up and were in a lot of trouble, and you read that “God is your heavenly Father”, you think “Wow! He must be an all right guy! Hard to believe He can live up to what I got here, but I’ll at least give Him a chance.”

I have two parents who meet the above description, but in honor of Mother’s Day, I will focus on my mom, Louise B. Phillips.

“Unconditional love” is an amazingly powerful force, and if you are the fortunate recipient of it, it is almost certainly demonstrated by either your parents or God. In it are peace, security, strength and confidence and I do not know of anyone who has manifested it more powerfully that my mom.

Such love is literally divine, having its source in the One who unconditionally loves us. It practically radiates off of her. It covers my brother Allen and me, but from there extends far beyond most people’s “conditional like” if I may coin a phrase. As Christians we are to love the unlovable, which is really hard. She does that. And everyone she knows would attest to it.

In high school, I observed an interesting phenomenon. On occasion, a very average looking guy would have a stunning girlfriend. I eventually made sense of it and realized that it happens on one of two occasions: either the guy has a lot of money, or he has a very healthy self-esteem. The love of our parents is the single greatest source of our self-esteem. It does not come from being told that we are good at something even when we are not. It comes from being loved when we (who know just how flawed we are) do not think  we are worthy of that love.

I am and always have been the recipient of such love from my mom and it has affected everything in my life. I definitely married up (way up, you might say), have had a sense of security that has allowed me to take great risks in my faith, business and relationships, and hopefully have been able to show others a fraction of that same love I have always witnessed first-hand. Most of all, I hope that our two kids, Thatcher and Chandler, grow up with that same sense of always being loved and thereby feeling lovable.

My mom Louise and our daughter, Chandler Louise Phillips
My mom Louise and our daughter, Chandler Louise Phillips

In this life when people want to truly honor someone else, just about the most significant manifestation of that desire is to name a child after that person. If you saved someone’s life, you may have received that rare honor. I’m still working on it myself. My mom has three beautiful young girls named after her. That’s right…three. So not only will her love that she has always shown Allen and me be passed down, but also her name and her wonderful life story along with it.

To a Mom who blesses absolutely everyone she encounters; to a Mom who gives the unlovable a divine sense of worth; to a Mom who has always loved the dickens out of me; and to a Mom who deserves more than I could ever give…

Happy Mother’s Day!

I love you, Mom.

Brian

An Apron, a Sketch, and Everything in Between

“Everyone to whom much was given….” (Luke 12:48)*

What sets you apart from everyone else?

My wife Nicole is ridiculously talented artistically. And whereas most artists’ talents are

Nicole Drawing
I can’t even write words so people can read them, and Nicole can draw people…PEOPLE!!

restricted to one or two mediums, Nicole’s abilities know no bounds. In fact, she loves finding something that is completely new to her and figuring out how to do it.

We all possess something that no one else does. It is a big part of what makes us unique. Whatever that gift is, whether it is a physical possession, a talent that is exceptional, or a personality characteristic that makes us stand out, we basically have two options of what we can do with it.

The first option is that we can use that gift to set us apart from others as someone to be admired or envied. When we do this, odds are, we will have a few people who we call “friends”. They will tend to be others with some exceptional gift (perhaps similar to ours, but not necessarily so) and our common bond will be our exceptionalism.

This approach isolates and creates a context from which the “gifted” look down on the plebeians as people who possess less value. One great risk of taking this route is that the second your “gift” is gone, those you once thought were friends will immediately cast you out among the commoners you looked down upon. That means that at the very moment you need your “friends” the most, they will completely abandon you.

Apron
Nicole’s line of luxury aprons ended up all over the world. This is from a photo shoot in Canada. Oh, and she designed the first aprons before she even knew how to sew.

Then there is a second option. Rather than using that with which you were blessed to bolster your personal image, you instead use it primarily as a means of blessing others. One is not likely to reach this conclusion from outside of a Judaeo Christian worldview which teaches that “Every good and perfect gift comes from above….” (James 1:17)  From that perspective, we have been entrusted with our gifts and since the ultimate source is God, we have no right to feel arrogant about it.

This approach, you will quickly find, produces some amazing results.

People who live like this are magnetic. They

Pirate Decor
Did I mention that she does parties? Yep, even pirate ones.

bring people together and something more akin to community takes place, rather than the isolation created by Option A. Secondly, and perhaps even more amazing than the first, you will discover that you actually get more enjoyment out of your gift when you allow others to enjoy it with you. There is a reason we try so hard to teach our children to share when they are young, and that is because it is genuinely Good.When you do Good things with your gifts, is it any surprise that Good things happen?

Nicole could very easily use her gifts to look down on others as less talented than she is, because quite frankly almost everyone is less artistically talented than she is. But the thing is, she doesn’t. Instead of viewing life through the prism of her gifts, she views her gifts through the prism of her Christian life. As a result, her gifts give her an amazing opportunity to bless others in her own unique way.

Easter Egg Table
And sometimes Nicole just goes all out so a bunch of kids will have a day they will never forget.

And bless she does!

How can you use your unique gifts to be a blessing to others?

 

 

*This is merely one application of this verse, and I first thought of the principle then the verse, rather than reaching the principle from the verse via exegesis.

The Power of Purpose

Two men, doing the same thing, at the same place and at the same time.

One of those men is perfectly content. Actually, he is more than content. He is enjoying himself thoroughly and could continue doing exactly what he is doing for hours.

The other man, however, does not look content at all. In fact, if you were to sneak up behind him and listen carefully, you would hear him mutter some very choice words in relation to his thoughts on his current task.

One is angry and being drained. The other has a big smile on his face and is being uplifted. The task is cutting thousands of feet of ribbon into one foot strips.

Preparing lunch is not a chore at Watered Gardens. It is an opportunity to serve.
Preparing lunch is not a chore at Watered Gardens. It is an opportunity to serve.

The only difference between the two men and what they are doing is the reason for which they are doing it.

That is the power of purpose.

This is not a fictitious scenario. I know, because I was the one who was smiling. The individual across from me was a man named Jared.

We were at a place called Watered Gardens Rescue Mission, where I volunteer and where the poor and homeless can come in and earn many of life’s necessities.

Jared was annoyed because he was not accustomed to having to work for what he receives. To him, spending 2 hours cutting ribbon was merely an obstacle between he and the 4 items of clothing he would receive at the end of those two hours.

To me, I was doing something of significance. Cutting the ribbon was incidental. I was helping others get their lives back on track. Teaching them how to become productive members of society. Some have no interest in learning or growing, but many are sick of the homeless life and are ready to move forward.

Those are the ones who transform something as monotonous as cutting ribbon into something that gives you genuine joy.

That is the power of purpose.

chick-fil-a-umbrella
Only one fast food chain will help a mom with two kids to her car in the rain. They have helped my wife multiple times and she will never forget it.

This scenario is no different than the everyday work place.You and I show up at work and go home that night either feeling empty and drained, or feeling like we have accomplished something of significance.

Purpose is the reason you are treated so differently at Chick Fil-A than you are at McDonalds. It is the reason flight attendants on Southwest Airlines make you laugh when they do the pre-flight demonstration and you pay attention. Whereas with every other airline, you do your best to tune them out.

Purpose has the power to transform a monotonous task like cutting ribbon into something fulfilling and enriching.

You, as a leader, have the power to create a sense of purpose for those you lead, just like the founders of the aforementioned companies have famously done.

Vintage Southwest
Southwest Airlines puts its employees before everyone else, knowing if they are treated well, they will in turn treat their customers well.

There is fast food. Then there is Chick Fil-A. There are airlines. Then there is Southwest. What distinguishes these two businesses from every other one in their industry is the reason they do what they do.

That is the power of purpose.

*Coming Soon: Creating Purpose that Resonates

Life with Headphones On: Hearing What you Never Knew Was There

It is amazing what you can hear when you really, really listen.

My brother Allen enjoys and selects his music like a connoisseur enjoys a

My brother Allen (on the left) and me enjoying time together at the beach house.
My brother Allen (on the left) and me enjoying time together at the beach house.

good bottle of wine; dissecting sounds, instruments, techniques and influences. Unless you do the same, you have probably not heard of Animal Collective, Boards of Canada, or 90% of the other bands he listens to.

Many, like me, simply listen to the music on the radio. Allen will hear a random song he likes, find out the band, then purchase their music. If he really likes it, he will begin reading about the band and who inspired them. “What other bands influenced them?” is a question he is always asking. And since he has been enjoying music like that for many years, he has gone back from one level of influence to another to discover the pioneers of various styles of music.

Recently we were running errands together and he played a song from his Ipod on the stereo in his car. We listened to a few other songs by the same artist as we went to a couple of stores and then made our way back home.

When we got back, he pulled out his very nice V-Moda headphones and said, “Now listen to the same song on these.”

I sat down, put them on, and began to listen. At first, my eyes got big. There was so much to be heard, my mind couldn’t take it all in. I noticed my eyes were looking back and forth, like they could actually find the source of the many layers of instruments; instruments I hadn’t even known were playing when I listened to the exact same song in the car.

For four minutes and thirty-two seconds, I was transfixed. Then, when it was over, I still sat there for a while in an attempt to process all of the input my brain had just been exposed to. I stood up and simply said, “Wow!”

We process the vast amount of what goes on in our lives like we listen to music on the radio. We hear or experience something, and we like it or don’t like it. We keep going down the same road based on this preference or lack thereof and keep moving on, often taking little time to truly process what we experience.

We experience hurt and pain, exhaustion and depression…joy, love, passion and apathy. The stimuli are people, events, challenges and even the weather. Each one tossing us around emotionally like a rudderless ship on sometimes calm, but sometimes very turbulent seas.

Life is seldom dull. It is seldom easy, either. Especially not for long.Music Director Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra 2011 European Tour

Believe it or not, in the midst of all the chaos, an entire symphony is playing in the background of our lives. As we drive to work, sit in boring meetings, eat our breakfast…it is constantly performing, its beautiful notes and harmonies practically begging for an audience. Heard or unheard, the symphony plays on.

There is, however, only one way to hear these instruments that are drowned out by our daily lives. Silence. You must do for yourself what headphones do for your ears and block out any and all external noises and distractions and simply listen.

At first you may hear nothing, because your world is silent, but your mind is not. It is still rambling on about how you need to pack your gym bag so you can work out this afternoon. If you have a pen and paper handy and write that down, your mind no longer feels the need to think about it, so it is gone. Do so with the other things that come to mind and eventually even your mind can experience silence.

That is when the first notes become audible. The tune will likely sound somewhat familiar, since you’ve caught glimpses of it from time to time, without ever realizing its source.

Soon, more and more instruments break their silence and an entire symphony is playing. But it is not playing for your entertainment. It is playing because it IS. It exists at all times, whether or not you ever take the time to notice. It is a mysterious combination of your deepest thoughts, your deepest feelings (including the ones you try so hard to suppress), your own mind’s analyses, and most importantly, the quiet whispers of a loving God.

All of these sources are not simply conveying information. They are intercommunicating in a complicated, yet beautiful, musical piece. As you allow yourself to think your deepest thoughts and feel your deepest feelings, God not only hears them, but also speaks into them, often giving them new meaning, new significance.

Something from your past that you don’t even like to think about comes to mind, and with it the pain it always brings. This time, however, you don’t retreat from it. You allow yourself to hurt and acknowledge the wrong that was done to you.

As the initial swell of pain begins to subside something new emerges. On the other side of the pain, a kind voice speaks to you and reveal the mysteries behind that event. As He brings to light the glorious blessings that would have never come to pass in your life and others’ otherwise, He almost magically transforms that time of intense pain into a source of deep and lasting joy.

A part of the song that sounds much like the source of daily stress that eats at you comes to the fore, and at first you start to get up and turn off that dreadful tune. But you stop yourself. You force yourself to sit and listen to a collection of minor notes and clashing chords. It hurts your ears at first and it is more cacophony than harmony.

But as your peace returns, you begin to make sense of the song, and almost enjoy it. A flash of insight comes! For the first time, you clearly perceive the source of this internal conflict, and even better, what you can do to alleviate it.

When you feel the musicians are done performing, and get up from your chair, you will notice a difference. As you go through your day, some may think you seem distracted a bit more than usual; less affected, somehow, by the frantic goings on around you. And in a rare quiet moment at the office, someone will look over and see you looking very intently at something, follow your gaze, and find nothing at the end of it to justify such a stare.

“What is he looking at?!”

No, not looking. Listening.