My Childhood Pastor - Phil Hollis

Rev. Phil Hollis
(April 23, 1950 - March 13, 2015)

Yesterday my childhood pastor died in a tragic motorcycle accident in Topeka, Kansas. Pastor Phil is responsible for my spiritual growth through my critical years of elementary and junior high school. I remember sitting in the adult service playing with my Matchbox Cars while listening to Phil's sermons. He is one of just a couple people, outside my family, that made a direct impact on my life which led me to becoming a pastor today. I would consider him my father in the faith.

I gave my heart to Jesus back in 1976, when I was just 7 years old, in the small Assembly of God church in Stanley, Kansas named Faith Chapel where Phil was pastor. He was very passionate in his relationship with Jesus. He would often go door to door around the church inviting people to church.

My dad served as the worship leader, and my mom served as the pianist under Pastor Phil's leadership at Faith Chapel for 5 years. It was a joy watching my parents serve as volunteers in key leadership positions in the church. Then many years later Phil's two kids, Jason and Brandon Hollis, would join me in starting Mercy Church in Kansas City, both playing critical leadership roles.

Pastor Phil would often tell me, even though I was just a little guy, that God had big plans for me and that one day he believed I would grow up to be a preacher.

The story I am going to share now is nothing short of a gift from God to me. I have been preaching a series entitled, To Infinity and Beyond at Mercy Church this month.  This week the theme is Living Beyond Yourself which is about the importance of leaving a spiritual heritage. While preparing for the message I called Pastor Phil to let him know how much I appreciated his investment in me as my pastor as a kid growing up. We ended up reminiscing about those early days in my life, 1978 - 1983. I hadn't spoken to him at any length for many years previous and getting to talk just two days before his passing was a gift. Pastor Phil, thank you for those minutes on the phone, you will be missed!

Please pray for Phil's wife, Sheila and his boys Jason and Brandon Hollis and both their families!

Good Grief - One Year Ago Today

(My sister and me in 2011)

One year ago today (on July 29, 2013) my sister Kimberle Rae passed away at 40 years of age. Still weird to say, still weird in so many ways. There is a part of me that feels like she is just away on a trip and I will see her any day now. I know this isn't true, but it feels that way. It's just very weird. I don't know how else to say it, but it's just a weird feeling. It's also weird for me because we were on the "outs" at the time of her passing ... and that really sucks. I definitely try not be on the "outs" with anyone I care about now, it's not worth it.

The deep feelings of sadness are further apart with each passing day, and that is good and I assume the way it is supposed to be. I mean I don't think you necessarily hurt any less as time goes on, you're just able to cope with the feelings of loss better.

I think it's important that we don't die with those who have died. That's not what they would want, and that is definitely no help to all those who remain. Those who live should do just that - LIVE!

There is no doubt, I have been impacted by my sister's "death" (and really I like to say, "her move to Heaven") ... it's given me a different perspective on relationship, our time here, and just that life is fragile, temporary, and very precious! Treat it as such.

Moving Forward

One of the most difficult things to do when we are afraid, tired, distressed, lonely, sad, or depressed is to keep moving forward. What we really want to do is lay down. But in life we must keep moving forward ... we must press on, no matter what.

There is a scene in the movie, Sleepless in Seattle which is the story of a man, played by Tom Hanks, who lost his wife and is having trouble moving on. And his little boy, in an attempt to help his Dad move on, calls a radio talk show host to get his Dad some help... here is that scene!

I love this movie! And for many reasons, but primarily because it has a powerful message of moving on, moving forward, pressing on even when it's hard to do so. So to all my family and friends and the few others who read my blog, if you find yourself in a difficult situation and moving forward seems impossible, just keep moving forward. One day at a time! Reminds me of an old church song that I love, One Day at a Time Sweet Jesus ...

 One day at a time sweet Jesus 
 That's all I'm asking from you. 
 Just give me the strength 
 To do everyday what I have to do. 
 Yesterday's gone sweet Jesus 
And tomorrow may never be mine. 
 Lord help me today, show me the way 
 One day at a time.

Good Grief – Holidays

If you follow my blog you know that I am grieving the loss of my sister, Kimberle Rae, and blogging about it. She passed away back at the end of July, so nearly 5 months ago now. And as I have mentioned in previous blogs, it does get easier with time, but the holidays add a new element I hadn't really planned on … missing her for the Holidays! It’s been extremely difficult for my parents, and I am sure it will be for some time.

I find the only thing that helps, outside my faith in God, is honoring her by living a life that would make her proud! I know, simple thinking, but it works for me. I don’t honor her by shutting down, or by curling up in a ball and just crying every day. Now, I have my moments, but I must move forward and live life to the full.

I know many wonder how I am doing, and I appreciate that very very much! I am touched by those who are so sympathetic and emphatic to my loss! I can tell you that when I hear of someone losing someone I am much more understanding now than I ever was before! I truly feel for them and their loss! It sucks, especially during the Holidays!

To all those who have lost someone, I pray that the Holidays will bring you peace and joy in the midst of the pain of loss you feel! My heart truly aches with yours! Much love!

Good Grief Another Day

As many of you know I am blogging some of my experience dealing with the loss of my little sister, Kimberle Rae, who passed away a little more than 3 months ago from the time of this post. And though I am doing good, considering, I still have my occasional moments of sadness, regret, grief, achy-heart, and loss, yet I continue on with life. I must. We must. It would be completely selfish not to. She would want that.

I hesitate to share this, but if you know me you know I am not afraid to tell-all! Ha ha! It’s what makes me me, the one and only. But, I have been going through much of my sister’s stuff in order to help lift the burden from my parents who already have heavy hearts dealing with her death. Many of her things are in boxes in my garage and the other night I decided it’s time to go through it. Much of it I am going to donate to the Safe House for battered women, but all the Hello Kitty Collectibles I am going to sell on e-bay and craigslist. So I bundle up, it’s cold, I go to the garage with a glass of wine and Michael Buble on the iPhone and start going through it all, there is lots of stuff! I come across a pack of her Cigarettes (Marlboro Reds) and I think, “ya know what, I am going to smoke one in memory of my sister” and mind you, I don’t smoke. I mean, I don’t smoke Cigarettes; I smoke Cigars and never inhale. Anyway, picture this in your mind, I find a lighter and light the thing, take a puff and about die of a coughing fit, while holding my glass of wine, a Hello Kitty Purse swinging from my shoulder, a Hello Kitty Bracelet on my wrist, a Hello Kitty Ring on my finger and a pair of Hello Kitty slippers on my feet … ha ha! If only she could see me now! She would have been proud! It ended in tears as I was overcome with emotion over the time I wish I had to spend with her, but can’t.

The space between my sad moments is getting larger and larger, thankfully. I, of course, will never forget her, but the sharpness of the pain is decreasing with each passing day. If I am sad, I let myself go there, unless I am with people who don’t know me. I do not believe that stuffing the emotion is good, but I also do not think it’s good to always live in the sad moments. Does that make sense? I mean there is so much more to my life and even her life than her death. She lived 40 years; there are so many wonderful memories to fill my mind and heart with. Not to mention I have a wife and 2 kids who need their Daddy! And I can’t think of a better way to honor her life than to live life to the full!

I think it’s important when we have a loss of any type to work through it in a healthy way. Don’t build a home there; you can pop up a tent there from time to time, but not a home. Move through it. That is what I am learning; keep moving forward. And sometimes that is a conscious choice, because your feelings want to live there and will live there if you let them. You cannot live by your feelings in this life, and those who do many times wind up behind bars or in a padded room and I don’t want to be in either place.

As I have mentioned before, it is a comfort knowing she is in Heaven that one day we will be reunited. That brings me much peace. You may be reading this having recently faced a loss, I am so sorry! I know it’s hard, and it hurts and sometimes you feel you can’t even breathe. Just keep breathing, keep moving! And if you’d need me and our prayer team to pray for you please let us know –

Good Grief Continued

Painting By Tom Matt (
It’s been over a month since my sister passed away and time does seem to help heal the hurt a little. I do not believe “time heals all wounds” but it does seem to take away the overwhelming sting of it all. I guess time is like distance, the further you are away from it the harder it is to see, but you still know it’s there off in the distance.

Losing someone isn’t something you just ‘get over’ but you ‘get through’ and that is just it, you must get through it, and go through it, because you’ll never ‘get over it’ completely. You’ll always miss that person, and even hurt at times about them being gone. I still miss my sister, and still cry at times about it. But I know that she would want me to go on and live my life to the fullest.

There are weird emotions that go on in and around this whole death thing, on one hand you feel obligated to be sad that they are gone because to not be sad or hurt seems to not honor their passing. Almost like, “if I’m not sad, then I don’t miss them or love them.” It’s like when people say, “I worry about you,” it’s almost like they are saying, “I love you, or I care about you.” And to not worry is to not love or care. Maybe it’s the same here, we feel that to not be sad or keep hurting for those who have passed is to not love or care. And maybe we feel to not keep hurting is to forget them? Of course this is not the case! Getting through the pain of losing someone is not forgetting them, it’s really the best way we can remember and even honor them and their life. Living our life well in memory of them is the best gift we can give them and the world we live in.

To help me I can only think of what I might want for those who survive me when I die. I want them to miss me, sure! But I do not want them to miss me so much that they cease to live life. I wouldn’t want my family or friends to shut down emotionally, and just cry about my being gone. I hope they would shed a tear, of course, even belly-cry initially, but I would want them to go on. I can honestly say that if I died tomorrow (which I pray I do not!) I would eventually want my wife and very best friend of 20 years to re-marry. Not a month after my passing, lol! But eventually I would want her to find a wonderful man to love her and love my children.  It would  be selfish to wish anything else. And trust me I haven’t always felt this way.


I am doing well, and with each day I continue to process through the loss. It’s fascinating that through this whole process I have become, in general, more thankful. I am thankful for each breath I breathe! I find myself thinking, even when things that would normally stress me out, it could always be worse! I am also aware that life is so very precious and I should live each moment with gratitude in my heart!  

Good Grief

Just a couple weeks ago my sister, Kimberle Rae Gibson, died of an accidental overdose in her home, alone (and that still makes me cry every time I think of it). It has really been difficult to reconcile my emotions.

We had been close at times and distant at other times. I loved her all the same, in the good and in the bad; though I wish I had showed it more. Too late now! Dammit, that hurts big time! I can’t even begin to imagine how much my parents are hurting … I am trying to be there for them. It sucks.

Those that knew her knew she had her challenges, but beneath it all was a lost little girl with a heart of gold. I don’t say ‘lost’ in a spiritual sense, because she had a relationship with Christ no doubt, but she struggled in this life. As we all do.

I have never lost anyone so close, I mean I have lost great grandparents, a grandmother (Nonny,) but you expect that. I even lost my bio-logical father, Glen Hakanson, in my late teens, but I didn’t know him all that well, so it wasn’t so hard, at that time, for I had a great Dad in my life that had filled that role. He died at home, alone. As I have reflected on my bio-dad’s death what bothers me the most is that he didn’t get to spend time with me. I bet he really missed me.

This became real to me during my son’s Basketball Game last year. My son was running down the court with the ball, of course, and the joy I felt from getting to watch him play, and getting to watch him grow up is beyond words! Nothing greater! (Of course equal to watching my daughter do the same!)

And all of a sudden I had this thought, “My bio father didn’t get to do this with me.” And I lost it. I began to sob uncontrollably. I had to leave the gymnasium, face planted in my hands holding in my loud cries. It sucked! I was jacked up for the rest of the day.

I was completely overwhelmed with sadness, and the realization of how he must have felt, and how he would have longed to be with me. I know he did. He had called me at various times in my life crying letting me know he loved me and missed me. I didn’t get it at the time. I was emotionless. I didn’t feel his pain, or even mine. I do now. If I only knew then what I know now, it would be different, and I could let him know that I loved him too, I just didn’t have a relationship with him. And frankly, I wasn't encouraged to love him, if anything I was discouraged. And that sucks!

Good grief, grief hurts!

The good news is that I am still wrestling with all this stuff, even seeking counsel to walk through it all in a healthy life-giving way. Thank God for God! I don't know how people do life without Him.

If I have learned anything, at this point, it would be this:

First, as much as it depends on you, seek to have a healthy relationship with your family. If at all possible, if not possible, make sure to do what you can be proud of and feel good about, when they pass. Secondly, love deeply those who are true friends, and run from those who are not! During this time it has become increasingly clear who my real friends are, and who aren't. And lastly, if you have faced loss, grief is a process that you must walk through ... it takes time, and looks different for different people. There are no easy answers, and I am sorry for your loss, it sucks! But, it is a part of life and we'll make it through! Amen? Amen!

Me and my sister on Halloween! 

Me, my bio-dad (Glen) and my mom.