me, set an enemy of my daughter's heart

Roses growing through grate fence Often lately, we’ve found ourselves there stuck between emotion and disappointment.  Tears threatened to fall from her reddening, yet stubborn eyes as she stood before me while doing her best not to look directly at me.  I leaned over her lording big controlling words meant to strip down her actions to unthoughtful disobedience aimed to hurt and defy.

There we stood, worlds apart screaming at the moon wanting love without give trouncing on delicate soil uninvited yet demanding so long to lullabies equaling love I know she loves me.  She knows I love her, but there are times lately when I feel absolutely lost parenting Elizabeth, my oldest.  The fact that she’s only approaching her teen years intimidates me, especially when others are quick to respond that I should brace myself for when she is a teenager.  And the waves won’t quit as my younger daughters race to break on those teen shores, too.  As we near then, the joke of owning an escape cabin visited monthly sways further from comedy and closer to reality.  Until I own a cabin, patience must be cultivated in my thorny heart.

“There will be times when you won’t like me very much, and I need you to understand that I’m okay with that.”

Patience hangs from a branch rooted in love and there my heart finds clarity and returns to Christ-led parenting.

In times overrun by emotion and disappointment in my shortcomings as a parent and her defiance as a child, I grow impatient and irate and steal moments from guiding love sharp enough to cut through the most mired emotional tangles.  Simply put, I am my own worst enemy as a parent when my love is based more on my kids liking me than me loving them.  And by loving them, I mean caring enough to wage steady war against their little hearts set selfishly inward, evidenced by possessive pronouns littering their speak.  The real challenge is in separating from my own selfish heart enough to let the love of Christ guide me as a parent rather than my heart mercenarily demanding obedience for love.

Love doesn’t demand; obedience blooms in a heart loved so well.

Like a veteran gardener plucking weeds from good soil, I vigilantly remind myself to hold higher value to where we’re going instead of how we’re getting there.  And this is important to remember, for it’s easy to get lost in wanting to be loved back by your children.  If I will love her defiant heart well, I must set myself as an enemy to her heart.

Practically speaking, her tears shouldn’t shape the way I love her, neither should her accusations of me not understanding her and not caring about how she feels.  My role is to lead her through fierce times where Love will be saving grace.  Lots of parenting can be left to positioning - how I position my heart, will determine how I’m able to reach through innate selfishness that plagues their little hearts as it plagues and preys on all human hearts.  My goal is to set them free, free to love truthfully.

In short, parenting is the most difficult thing an adult will ever aspire to do.

parent as prophet.

The architect must be a prophet... a prophet in the true sense of the term... if he can't see at least ten years ahead don't call him an architect.Frank Lloyd Wright

The same must be true in parenting also.  Architect, one who shapes and builds.  Prophet, one who sees the form before the build.

With the complexities of culture changing and evolving, media shaping perspectives and acceptabilities and a world moving much too fast, it is more than easy to get lost in parenting techniques.  It seems as though many strategies given to assist and guide good parenting are geared more to contain the child in good behavior rather than preparing to unleash them into the life waiting for them.

And more so everyday, I am convinced that it is the latter parental ambition that should be reached for.

An architect must have a plan to raise a structure from a brick to a building.  It is no more luck than it is chance.

Buildings are not just built.  They are constructed by design and with intentional, planned effort.  Careful attention is given to measurements and incremental values that may seem insignificant to those simply observing the structure being built, but the architect marries himself to the details for he knows that the future, the success and the strength of what he is building lies in the attentive detail to the parts forming the whole to be.  It is not so much the exterior that the architect is concerned with.  He is painstakingly obsessed with the structure from the inside out.  Even when the eventual outside will boast of innovative design and personal genius, the inside must be correct, inch by inch and detail by detail.

Much like parenting in techniques, I’m sure it is quite easy for an architect to reduce his genius to a builder of buildings rather than one who sees the form before the build and raises a structure to life.

The architect must be a prophet who sees not only a finished product but a form finding purpose and significance now while belonging still to the future ahead.

Is this not parenting also?

The parent must be a prophet... who builds now based on what he has glimpsed ahead, carefully building, constructing and reinforcing, the child for the life ahead of them.

...a prophet in the truest sense of the term ...if he can’t see at least ten years ahead don’t call him a parent.

For me, and I assume the same for you as a parent, if I am merely conditioning my daughters to react to ‘yes’ and ‘no’ and right and wrong - giving attention to formless details rooted in immediate response and good behavior - what confident hope do I have that my daughters will one day become all that they can be?

I am trying to rid myself of attitudes aiming at quick, get in line, kind of behavior and reaching to be the parent unleashing them, exposing them and preparing them for the life ahead.  I want them to live with a deep, intrinsic sense of purpose in life, hearts burning with passion and form strong enough to stand.

I don’t have the answers.  

I’m often more confounded by the trivial than confident as a parent, often more lost stumbling insecurely than always strongly leading them, 
often saying things I don’t necessarily mean in emotion and anger than speaking love and truth often worried that it all won’t be enough than faithfully putting seeds in the soil of their heart often ill concerned with the exterior, what others might think, than diligently tightening bolts within their loose little hearts I pray for prophet eyes to see ahead, the possibility of all they can become, and I glimpse the form of God’s hand lifting dust into life.

It is there that I try to parent from the most.  I speak to them as if they have an already accepted day ahead that they belong to, not in terms of a career choice for them, but in a life where they live now leading them to the who, what, when, where, why and how of it all.  As a parent with prophet eyes, I share with them the significant glimpse and together we spy God together and the reason holding within them reveals clearly.

The vision holding in my heart for each of my girls is a day when I will let them go from my hand into another day.

We will look into each others eyes, they will not wilt, as she says goodbye to only my daughter and embraces the woman she has been becoming.

That day will be familiar as I will have visited it often by then, crossing the line of present to future, creating and shaping them from there.

*an innovative design of Frank Lloyd Wright calling from years ahead of its build

how cooking saved us.

“I love you, Daddy.” Those four words uttered unprompted and purely spoken from the heart, not simply the mouth, sets my world on ablaze.  Everything is alright then.

No argument is too thick to separate, no struggle too tangling, no misunderstanding too alienating, no hurt too deep; in the hearing and in the give and take of those words, all is set aright, and I’m reminded that we are okay again.

Parenting requires full effort. I should be clear.  Effective parenting demands full effort.

And, of course, prayer ...lots of prayer.


When I became a single parent, I no longer had a choice in how much effort I’d give.  The girls looked to me for everything.

“Dad, what should I wear?” “What should I get my friend for her birthday?” “Can you do my hair?” “Can we go and get a manicure?” “Can you meet my friend’s mom so she can sleep over?” ...the friend, not the mom:) “Dad, I think I need a bra?” “Dad, what is sex?”

The first few months as a single dad felt like an absolute whirlwind.  I was widowed and they were half orphaned.  Emotions ran deep and erupted frantically at times.  Many of those early days were spent just getting through the day to find any space to feel comfortable in our own family.  An obvious void rested heavy, them motherless and grieving with an inexperienced single father.  Granted, I had the enormous support from my mother who has been nothing short of amazing, but at the end of the day and in the settling dust, I am my daughters’ only parent.  It is both my privilege and responsibility to show them the way, teach them how and lead them into tomorrow.

I say to them often, especially in tougher times when they are hurting or frustrated, “God gave you me and me you.  And he didn’t make a mistake.”

Honestly, I was as lost in parenting as I was in grief.

So I went for a walk and under a starlit sky, glowing alive, I lost that part of me dying and came back a different man.

I wasn’t a dad, and I wasn’t single.  I was, and would be from then forward, a parent, open-hearted to life with my three beautiful daughters through the pain, the hurting, the confusion and the lonely.

The stars just made perfect sense in a whole new way that night.  The way they hung perfectly, positioned precisely and shined brightly millions of miles away, as if broadcasting a message of hope in the endless panoramic expanse of the night sky, whispering order and security and future, raptured me from living as a victim in a day I felt I didn’t belong to.  Instead, I felt closer to God that night standing under the stars, his stars, and asked simply of him to just help me build the family that we, my wife and I, once started together.

Slowly over the next few weeks, we began to grow again.  I wasn’t as concerned with how to necessarily raise three little girls however little girls should be.  I would raise them in the exact context we newly lived in.

I introduced them to adventure to keep their hearts curious and growing.  We attacked our weaknesses together.  I learned how to do a pony tail, and they learned how to fish.  They taught me how to paint nails, and I showed them how to scout a hiking trail.  Our life together will always be my most beautiful treasure.  I absolutely adore it.

Tonight, as on most Wednesday evenings, we continued on with one of my favorite new family traditions: family cook night.  It’s quite simple of a tradition.  We cook, together.

For us, the kitchen is definitely an adventure.  Our measurements are generous, and each of us thinks we really know what we’re doing.  Emily’s a pro at cutting anything; Elizabeth expertly dabbles in everything; and Chloe can stir like a boss.  Honestly, it’s crazy stressful watching it all happen, but the payoff is magic.  Our hearts are open, conversation flows freely, music typically plays in the background and we just go at it celebrating our togetherness in a new family way.

When the kitchen lights are turned off and the sink is full, half of dirty dishes and half clean, those four words find me, and again, I’m reminded that we are all okay.


Not many parenting techniques will pay off quite like the simplicity of simply being together fully in the moment.  Everything thick and troubling is cut right through.

As parents, time is a commodity that we sometimes don’t have much of, but the more you generously give of the time you have, fully invested into the lives of your children, the greater and more fruitful of a payoff you’ll share in the years ahead.  Together.

[gallery link="file" columns="5"]

in the way she should go.

“You must earn the right to quit.” And with those words floating wisely across the room finding only a lonely stare in my daughter’s young eyes, I returned to the corner of the room and the lotus position from which I came.

Another parenting stroke of genius gently leading my daughter from a place of despair and desolation to perspective as the ocean deep and endless sky sprawl.  One day she’ll look back with forever adoration thanking God for gracing her life with such magnificence.

That’s what it looked like seconds after I spoke a Confucian smoke screen hung with ornate words that impressed only me.  It was one of those lines spoken valued so good that repetition was a must for certainty that the hearer surely missed the glory.

She just sat there unaffected by my words, despite repetition and rephrasing, overwhelmed with emotion and armed with countless reasons to quit.  I miss the mark in my parenting relationship with my daughters.  It happens quite often.

I say the wrong things and do the wrong things every day, but I am convinced that perfection in parenting is a misdirected illusion cutting the legs out from under many parents sinking in mistakes.


My oldest is growing into her own faster than I can count days.  Before I know it and much sooner than I care to even entertain at the moment, the day will come when she hugs my neck in a hurry on her way out the door to cut her own path in life.

Already behind us are those days when I carried her and ruled righteously in her life with a firm and unquestioned ‘yes’ or ‘no’.  Life was simple.  That was then.

Now and in the days ahead, she is beginning to (and will continue to) push boundaries, question my judgement and reasoning and stretch out the legs strengthening beneath her.  This is an important formative process that must happen, but also must be shaped by the parent.

“Train up a child in the way (s)he should go; even when (s)he is old (s)he will not depart from it.”  - Proverbs 22:6

And hear me clearly when I say that this, her stretching, pushing, objecting, protesting, is all good.


Our conversation was more than simply my words being spoken to her, or at her.  A milestone now sets behind us marking her maturing.

You see, training your child to go at life the right way happens in the smallest of opportunities.  This particular opportunity came in the form of a conversation about giving up because of rejection and difficulty.

Elizabeth has been a dancer for over 5 years now.  She’s learned the basics in several different forms of dancing as she’s been a part of two different dance schools.  Dancing is simply a regular part of her identity as a young girl.  As the new session began, Elizabeth chose to enroll in an advanced ballet class, one that would surely push her ability beyond anything that she’s aspired to accomplish as of yet.  After the first class, I could tell she was frustrated and sinking into a bad attitude.  Then her new teacher suggested she move to a more basic ballet class where she could master base techniques.

Suddenly in her own mind, Elizabeth couldn’t dance.  She wouldn’t.

Vanished were the years of dance behind her.  The recitals, the classes and all accomplished, gone lost in her perceived rejection and difficulty.

In the grand scheme of circumstance and reality, her difficulty seems minute and insignificant.  That was my initial evaluation of it, but I undervalued a great struggle for her; a tension between do and don’t, try and quit, win and lose, significance and perseverance.

She made a handwritten list detailing no less than ten reasons why she would quit dance.  With that list written in the little handwriting that I helped teach, she had my attention.

She was shrinking, giving up without giving greater effort in heavier circumstance.


“If you quit now, what will you be?”

...silence, but her eyes said everything.

With a hushed voice she nearly whispered, “A quitter.”


As a parent, I never want my kids to feel forced to do anything that they do not want to do.  If she really wants to quit dancing and move onto other activities, she’s free to do so, but she has to earn the right to make a mature decision, to quit.

For the sake of her future standing in wait for her, I made her commit to a mature decision.  She would have to commit to three more weeks of her new ballet class, trying hard, giving full effort and having a positive attitude.  Then once she completed three weeks, we would revisit the discussion.

As kids grow, so must parenting techniques and relationship.  The mistake I observe in parenting is to try to parent the same way as kids grow older and face more mature situations.

We prayed simple words and committed to simple action.  Packed into the cryptic statement that I began our conversation with bathed in her tears, was truth far simpler and greater than I originally intended.  She understood that she couldn’t just quit because a habit would be given room to grow and that life required perseverance through difficulty.

I’m convinced that a good portion of any parenting success with me is due to a sort of subconsciously driven dumb luck pulling wisdom and experience from my past into their present.

After I picked her up from her new class, she smiled almost slyly like she learned a new secret, and told me that she loves her new ballet class.

Gone were the worries that convinced her she should quit.

One on One: interview with John Finch

Recently I scheduled time to sit down and share a meal with a friend of mine who scales the level of tremendous in my life ...and in the lives of many others.  My buddy John shines no less than brilliant in life.  The absolute best thing about him is you get the sense that he is as sure as he is unsure of what he is doing in life right now.  It's not that John is unclear or unknowing.  He clearly knows what he wants to do and must do in life.  How he does what he wants to do is the challenge that he daily rises to.  Day in and day out, John has tirelessly thought of questions to ask on how to launch a ministry and help lead men out of hurt into hope and tomorrow.  In this way particularly, John encourages me deeply without even being aware. John was a child who tragically lost a father and grew to become a man defined by hurt and abandonment.  Yet through God's grace and miraculous forgiveness, he became a father refusing to lose his own children.  John simply is a tremendous man with a dream too big for his shoulders.  That's why he trusts God fiercely.

And this trust has led John to start a project called, The Father Effect.

I'd like to introduce my friend John Finch to you and let you in on the high points of our recent conversation captured in the 5 questions below.  After reading through our conversation and hearing John's heart, watch the short film he made and share it with your friends.


One on One: interview with John Finch

What led you to walk away from stability in an established 17 year career to pursue launching The Father Effect?

Everything began to change when I hit one of the lowest points in my life.  February 20, 2009, I reached a point of real brokenness.  I was an alcoholic and on a particular work trip I scheduled to see a customer, who was also an alcoholic, we stayed up drinking until about 5am.  I somehow arrived back at my hotel room and laid down for about an hour before I had to be up to catch an early flight back to Dallas.  As I drove to the airport, still drunk, I remember thinking that if I got pulled over, I could get busted for a DWI.  I also went into confession mode like countless times before, telling God that I would never drink again.  All the while, I knew very well the next time I hit the road it was game on.  At one point on my way to the Nashville airport, I said out loud to God, "you are going to have to slap me up side the head to get my attention".  And that's exactly what happened shortly afterward.  February 20, 2009, our world came crashing down around us - both of my in laws were diagnosed with cancer, I had knee surgery, the stress on my relationship with my wife and kids was being strained because of all of my travel, and I had recently walked into an emergency room because I thought I was having a heart attack, just to name a few of the things.

I don’t think God did those things to me, but I believe he surfaced in the midst of them and caught my attention.  Little did I know that that was only the beginning.

Nearly a year later at the beginning of 2010, God had really started to stir my heart.  Part of what God was impressing upon me was the fact that I was gone so much - two or three days a week - for as long as I had had kids, and it had started to take a toll on my family, both my wife and kids.  I also began to get a picture of just how massive a problem absent fathers had become to most everyone that I knew.  One weekend in early June of that year, I starting praying for God's direction and guidance about this stirring.  I asked God to give me some kind of confirmation.  I determined to spend the weekend praying and devoted to quality family time.  At the end of a long day on Saturday, laughing having great time together, I put them to bed and walked back down the stairs to pray and think a bit more.  Within 5 minutes, my middle daughter came down the stairs with the oldest not far behind and she simply asked with tears in her eyes, "Dad, why are you traveling so much?"  Before I knew, they were both crying.  Neither one of them had ever asked me that question.  There was my confirmation from God.  I assured them both that I was going to stop traveling and be home more.  The next week, I put in my two weeks’ notice.

Tell me about the first day of your new life. What was it like?

The first day of my new life was freedom and healing like I’d never known before.  This quote that I once came across describes the feeling best. "I was homesick for a place I had never been."  I cannot explain it other than I felt God in every detail.  I felt as though I had a new perspective about everything.  I had a father wound and needed healing.  One simple question that God posed to me turned my life upside down.  Almost instantly I discovered forgiveness.  Really, I think forgiveness found me in the question - "How could I be so angry, bitter, and resentful towards a man who did not know how to be a dad?"  It was as if God had given me a new pair of glasses that made me see everything in a way that I had never seen them before.  My relationship with my wife was new, my relationship with my kids was new, and even the world was new.  All because the baggage of my past had been lifted from my shoulders.  I had spend 30 years of my life living in the past blaming my dad for all my troubles.

Three days after I left my job to launch the ministry I met a guy named Charlie.  Charlie was the car transporter who had come to pick up my company car from the job I had just left.  Within 5 minutes of conversation, Charlie asked me what I was going to do now that I had left my job.  I told him a little bit about all that I had been through, and he began to cry as he told me the story about his father.  Charlie said that when he was 5 years old, his dad took him to a ballgame with some of his dad's friends.  He said that his dad bought him a huge bucket of popcorn and bragged on him to his buddies like he was superman.  Charlie said that he doesn't remember much after that because his dad left the family.  For many years, Charlie said that he would get this strange feeling of peace when he went to the movies and bought a bucket of popcorn.  In his mid 60's, some fifty years later, he soon realized that it was all because of that day at the ballgame with his dad.

What are the most valuable lessons learned or truths realized since starting The Father Effect?

I am continuing to learn so many things that it would be impossible to list them all here, but here are a few of the important things.  I am not alone, we are all broken, and I could be a better father.  Satan had convinced me for 30 years that I was all alone and that I was the only one going through the struggles and issues.  Once I realized that everyone else had issues and struggles too, I didn't feel alone.  And when I came to understand just how widespread the Father Wound was, I didn't feel alone, understanding that everyone has issues and are wounded in some way because of the experiences of life.  I, like many men, thought that I was a pretty good father, but I was satisfied with only that, being a pretty good father.  I soon came to understand that I could be a great father and the importance of striving for that made me a better father.  I began walking in daily awareness of my actions and words as a father.  And part of becoming a better father was loving my kids’ mom.  Understanding that the way I treat my wife is how my girls see normal to be was eye-opening for me.  Knowing that they were watching my every move and that I was setting the standard by which they are going to measure every man, and more importantly, their future husbands.

What are your hopes for the film?  What's the next step?

My hope for the film is that it ignites a movement of fathers who walk in daily awareness of the significant and lifelong influence they have on their kids because the words and actions they use every day. I hope that it results in us being able to equip, educate, and encourage men with the resources they need to become great fathers.  I pray that God uses it to reach millions of men and that it is seen in thousands of churches, universities, and addiction treatment centers all over the world, freeing men to be the fathers God has called them to be.  The messages that need to be told are numerous and they are the catalyst for conversations that need to be had between fathers and kids and between husbands and wives. Twenty years from today, what do you hope to have accomplished?

Twenty years from today, I hope to have helped redefined what it means to be a father.  I hope this film and many others we make have changed the lives of generations - children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren - because it changed the hearts of fathers.  My hope and prayer is that I have been obedient to what God has called me to do.  And, twenty years from now, I hope to be sitting on a beach somewhere in Maui with my grandkids telling my wife "We did pretty good, huh".