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

Take Time for Josie

I don’t always feel like hearing someone’s story. Sometimes I am busy.

Me teaching a class in the Willard Learning Center
Me teaching a class in the Willard Learning Center

Sometimes I have other things on my mind. But never did it cross my mind that if I don’t hear what he or she has to say right now, I will never get the chance again. Well…it does now.

I was in the Willard Learning Center at Watered Gardens, a place where I help teach people who have been through hell how to get back on their feet. Some are homeless and still active drug users; but others live here, which means they have taken some very significant steps forward. If you are a resident, you have to be sober and attend classes, such as the ones I teach.

I was testing out the new projector when Josie walked in to clean the desks. At Watered Gardens, if you want food, clothes, a shower, or anything else, you have to earn it. A strong work ethic is something they begin instilling in individuals the second they walk through the door.

Charles, who was once homeless, is working roasting coffee beans for their delicious Redeemed Bean custom brew.
Charles, who was once homeless, is working roasting coffee beans for their delicious Redeemed Bean custom brew. Try some here: http://goo.gl/5G1p6B

The concept is sometimes shocking to people who have been living on government handouts for years, drinking and drugging away their days. Living on the streets or under bridges, many anxiously await the first of the month when Uncle Sam indiscriminately puts more money into their accounts. Recipients can get fifty cents cash for every dollar of food subsidies, and then it’s off to buy the drink or drug of his or her choice.

I introduced myself to Josie and could immediately tell that she was doing well. Clear eyes, coherent speech, and a sharp mind meant she had overcome many of the demons that drag others to the grave.

We began to dialogue and I asked her some benign questions: Where are you from? What brought you to Joplin, Missouri? etc. It didn’t take her long to sense my sincerity and then she started to tell me her story. Everyone who ends up on the streets has a story, and I am yet to hear a single one that begins in a happy, healthy home. Josie’s story was no exception.

“My mom died recently,” she told me. “Before they put the casket into the ground, I walked up to it with a black rose clasped behind my back. Then, with the preacher standing right beside me, I placed the rose on her casket and said, “I hope you rot in hell, you b—-.”

Josie then told me about her step-father who molested her from the time she was 2 until she was a teenager. Her mom would stand in the doorway and watch.

She started drinking at just 12 years of age to ¬†try to silence the pain. Running away multiple times proved fruitless. The police would always bring her right back to the people who were supposed to love her more than anyone else on the planet. But they didn’t love her. They violated her.

But her story didn’t end in disaster, as many do. She stopped drinking before it consumed her, which amazed her counselor. She was now in a relationship with a kind man and they were just about to get their own apartment, which is a major accomplishment for someone who has been homeless.

Watered Gardens had given her a safe place to earn life’s necessities and be around people who helped her to grow.

She then paid her boyfriend one of the most significant compliments I can imagine coming from a lady. “Even at 50 years old, he makes me feel pretty.”

I thanked her for sharing her story with me and asked if I could share it with others. I then asked her if I could be praying about anything specific for her. She told me she had a blood clot that her doctors were concerned about, then I gave her a hug and she left the classroom.

I saw her a week later at Watered Gardens, but for the next few weeks noticed that she wasn’t around. So many people who come here are transient, though, so you never know how long someone will be around.

About a month after I met Josie, I was walking up to the front door and passed Joshua, who was locking up his bike. Joshua is an incredibly nice guy and a regular at Watered Gardens. I have run into him other places as well, including a grocery store on the opposite side of town. He puts a lot of miles on those tires.

I stopped to ask him how he was doing.

“I’m just trying to make it, Brian. Life just knocked me down pretty hard.”

I told him I was sorry, then asked what had happened.

“My girlfriend died. We were only 3 days away from getting our own place. She died in her sleep…in my arms.”

His next four words broke my heart.

“Did you know Josie?”

Yes. Yes I did. But I had no idea the two people were connected. I was so glad that I had taken advantage of the only significant encounter I would ever have with her on this side of the grave. And it didn’t surprise me a bit that Joshua was the one about whom she had spoken so kindly.

He fought back the tears as he finished fastening his bike lock and I told him how sorry I was. I also told him how well she had spoken of him. I tried to offer him some comfort and walked on into the building, where every week I do my best to take time for Josie.

*For information on how you can make sure someone like Joshua or Josie has a safe and clean place to sleep at night, along with training and mentorship, please check out their “One Night” campaign with the link below. You can help sponsor the bed I chose (bed #1) for 1 night a month and have an enormous impact on somebody’s life. Feel free to contact me with any questions.

http://wateredgardens.org/onenight/

How They Get There

I helped a 33 year-old man create the first resume of his life today.Life the Fallen

He has been in jail a few times, done a lot of drugs; taken the typical path that leads to homelessness.

“My dad was a church deacon,” he said. “But he was also an emotional terrorist.”

“He used to tell me that I was God’s punishment on him for all of the bad things he had done.”

“He beat me too, of course. The last time he laid his hands on me were when I was 14. The things he used to do were…horrible. I’ve talked to him maybe three times since.”

It’s easy to look down on people like him…until you learn how they got there.

His expression as we printed off his resume will stick with me for a long time. He was genuinely proud. An expression I doubt he displays often.

“Can we get something nice to put it in?! Some kind of folder or something?”

“You bet!” I said and walked over to grab him a nice new manilla envelope.

He put the resume in the folder and said, “Perfect!”

Walking out the door, he smiled and thanked me.

I got more out of it than he did. I guarantee it. And all it took was 45 minutes of my time from start to finish.

It’s pretty easy to be a blessing to a person who has lived most of his life on the threshold of hell. A little common decency, some smiles and kind words will put a smile on his face.

But if you genuinely, deeply care for him…now that will blow him away.

I think I’ll do it again next week.