I don’t tell you enough how much I love and appreciate you. We talk every day, but seldom do I express just how much you mean to me. Maybe it’s because I struggle to find the words, or the place. Maybe it’s because I’m ignorant. Or maybe it’s because I know you don’t need it. Regardless of what I say, nothing will change. You’ll always be selfless. You’ll always be there. No matter what.
I’m writing this today – Father’s Day – not because you need to hear this but that you should hear this.
I’m writing this publicly because others do need to hear this. I want other people to hear what it means to dedicate a life to servitude. I want other fathers to see what it means to be consistent, day over day, for 9,815 days and counting. I want people that know me to get a window into the foundation that has shaped me. My whole life I have had the blessing of a consistent force pushing me to be incrementally better. My hope is that through this, others get a glimpse of the formative wisdom and action that I get every day, and that they too become incrementally better.
You honour God and you honour others with your words, but more importantly your actions. Today I hope to honour you with my words, but I hope to continue honouring you every other day with my actions. That is the man you are and the man I hope to become. A man of action.
Kevin Philp – most people don’t know that’s your real name. Everyone knows you as Kip. I think the story behind that is fitting. It tells a story of how you’ve evolved.
As a teenager you came to Christ through an experience that would leave most people broken. You were seventeen years old, in the midst of running a large scale operation supplying drug dealers. Drugs you get from a chemist, not a grower. You, being the giving person you are, showed up to a halloween party with enough supply for everyone. But when you got there everyone was already buzzing. So you, unwilling to let anything go to waste (as I’ve seen with you unwilling to throw out any food, no matter how expired), decided to take it yourself. I wasn’t there but I’ve heard the story. You thought you were dying. You sat down and someone or something told you that you were dead. At this point you were freaking out (who wouldn’t?). Your “friends” wrestled you into the bed of your pick-up truck to get you out of there. While they’re burning down a back country road you fought them off and dove head first out the back, rolling down the street wearing nothing but hairy underwear (It was halloween and that was the only thing left of your caveman costume). Your friends circled around you and said forget it, let’s go. They got in your truck and drove off while you lay bloodied on this back road.
At this point most people would have given up. Accepted the fate they were just told minutes ago at the party: “you’re dead”. But you didn’t. You started singing a Christmas carol – the only thing connected to Jesus that you could think of. You weren’t connected to God – at least you didn’t think you were – but God was connected to you. He had a plan for you, and at this moment you surrendered.
Cops found you. You cleaned yourself up. And you moved north to get away from the life that had consumed you. In that process you started volunteering at a church. Again, God had a plan. Volunteering turned into a role as a youth pastor (I’m skipping over lots of nuance). And during this time you met mom – still just teenagers.
Now at age nineteen you’ve got a wife, a son, and a new calling in your life from a God just two years prior you had no relationship with. Again, a common theme: servitude in the face of uncertainty.
But you took that on and ran with it. I can not imagine what that would be like. Can. Not. Imagine. You’re nineteen, supporting a wife who is in school, and a son who is probably a handful. But beyond that, you’re a rock and foundation for so many others that need you. For you, being a youth pastor didn’t just mean teaching people about God at youth group or on Sunday. It meant seeking people and simply being their friend. Showing love where they might not get it otherwise. Giving people a safe place to grow, while pushing them to be better. You opened your home (sometimes to Mom’s dismay) and invited people who needed connection to come and connect in a safe place with people who care. This continued for 26 years. First in Huntsville, then to Stratford, then to Orangeville, and finally in Burlington. All the while you’re following God’s calling – listening to that voice that spoke to you while you sang that Christmas carol. This entire time, you’ve been serving.
And the results have been powerful. I won’t name names for the sake of privacy – and to be honest, I probably only know 5% of the lives you’ve changed, maybe. But even the 5% I do know, I know for certain it has made this world a materially better place. Countless times I’ve heard people share how much you’ve changed their life. Some of these people have gone on to lead powerful movements and be a force of good in the world on a large scale. Your impact has not been arithmetic, it has been exponential. Not only does that make me proud, it’s challenged me to do the same. As humans, our natural inclination is to live an insular, self-centered life. You cut against that. You live a life for others.
It is in this journey that your name changed from Kevin to Kip. Arriving in Burlington there was already another pastor on staff named Kevin, and we all know that two of any name is confusing, so your new youth group decided that you needed a new name. “K” and “P”, your two initials just needed a vowel. Kop, Kap, and Kup were phonetically taken. Kep is a bit odd. So Kip was born. This came years before Napoleon Dynamite – so I think we can safely say that Kip Dynamite was inspired by you. A badass martial artist with a killer moustache and lean physique. The only creative liberty they took in the movie is that Mom and his love interest Lafawnduh have some subtle differences. Other than that, Kip Philp and Kip Dynamite are basically the same person.
But it’s not just a legendary movie character that you’ve inspired. You’ve inspired me.
You have been my hero since before I could comprehend what a hero was. But what has made this heroism special is that it has only grown as I’ve gotten older. Most boys want to be like their dad when they are young. They see their dad as the coolest, strongest person they know. And for you that actually proved to be true – you taught me to play guitar, the drums, and to ride a motorcycle. You have three black belts and can still bang out more push ups than me. I mean, how cool is that?
But as I’ve grown older, I recognize just how much wisdom you have imparted to me and on me. Again, words and actions.
The way you treat mom. You have loved her every day with words and actions. You affirm her and you make sure others affirm her. You are strong for her, but want Mom to be first.
The way you see others. You see the best in people, always. In a world where judgement is the de facto disposition, you take action to alleviate the fear of judgement in people and build the foundation for people to build themselves up. I think that comes from a place of empathy. You reinvented yourself and you have dedicated your life to helping others reinvent themselves.
The way you treat others. You seek out opportunities to be helpful. If someone needs something you are there – no questions asked. But not just that, you find ways to help people help themselves. And you don’t stop. You are relentless. When people want to quit on themselves, you don’t quit on them. Like I said, you take action.
And the way you treat your kids. I think what makes you such a special father is that you are different with each of us. You recognize the uniqueness in each of us and have positioned yourself to be the father that we each need. You are consistent in your love and energy with all three of us, but the way in which you deliver that is different.
In my early years, you recognized that I needed positive affirmation. I needed confidence. I was a small, wimpy, emotional kid that was insecure. So you pushed me by doing things alongside me, and you made sure I had a tight feedback loop. Everything I did, you were there. You made sure I had all the resources I needed to succeed – and any little successes I had, you made sure to recognize. As I grew older this changed, because I changed. I no longer needed positive affirmation – you had helped shape me into a person of confidence. So your posture changed – I needed the opposite. I needed someone to challenge me. I needed someone to humble me.
You became a countervailing force in my life. I needed this, and you recognized that. You helped me evolve, but as I evolved, the way in which you supported me did too. And I appreciate that. I appreciate the way in which you continue to do that. You push me to keep evolving, and you match pace.
I won’t project words on Kaylie and Seth because I know they each have a special bond with you that only each of you would understand – just like no one will understand the bond you and I have. But what I will say is that the product speaks for itself. Kaylie and Seth are such special people. I am blessed to call them siblings and that’s because of you and mom (both biologically, and the way in which you shaped us). All three of us are wildly different, but have a common thread between us of shared values and strength of character. The common denominator: you and mom.
You’ve raised us to put God and others before ourselves. You’ve done so with your words, but more importantly by showing us. By living the life that we should aspire to, and equipping us with the tools to do it.
We appreciate you. I appreciate you.
But most importantly, God appreciates you. You have a strong relationship with The Father, which has made you a great Father. Thank you and Happy Father’s Day.