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.

the loss of effective parenting.

I see their smiles now easy and free.  Peace quiets worry at this sight. And joy fills my heart in the deep of night.

Most days lived under our shared roof sprawl out without much difficulty.  Comfort and security exists again.  I remember the days burning hot and dry when we lived a million miles from one another exiled to our own island on fire.  How unending those days felt!  How unrelenting those waves beat against our shore while offering no respite.

The days, weeks and months following their mother's death, my wife then, will forever be immortalized as a graceful metamorphosis on the timeline of our family, the grand redesign of us now, then and ahead.  For nearly 3 years now, we have been learning life again, finding joy in mundane free from extraordinary ordeal.  Finding joy in day unfolding with boring, unassuming regularity; that’s how you know your heart is beating alive and not a shell of yesteryear.

To be clear, happiness is what we pull from the sky, the smiles we try to wear as long as we can bare, but joy ...joy finds us as the sky falls to find us.

Joy swells in white flags waving and in the end of the pursuit of happiness.  It glimmers rebelliously amidst darker days blanketed by fear, worry, doubt and is the praise of screw ups who know better than to trust the feeble strength of their own hand.

The light in each of their eyes dims, their faces hang in heavier moments, and I’m reminded again close to my chest I have no guarantees.  Nothing promised apart from the breath drawn right now; not even the next day as I once believed.

Belief, that’s all we have and the only choice ever really needed to be made.

And that’s what fuels joy: belief.

The folly of the proud is self-reliance, but the triumph of the humble is joy despite all things, anything, independent of day, night, struggle, ease and especially fairness.

Maybe you’re like me in that I worry often as a parent.  I push hard into most days and try to squeeze as much as I can out of it because there are no absolutes or guarantees that my effort put into my children will produce well - adjusted, loving people whose hearts belong to God and affections to the life given soon to them.  I know as many parents who do everything as right as one can do who sit up late at night wondering what went wrong as the others who stumbled about aimlessly trampling inconsistently in selfish and ignorant circles whose kids end up running an honorable bid for sainthood.

There are simply no guarantees in life as there are in parenting.  “Train up a child in the way he should go”* . . . and he may in fact stray.  He may return one day to God’s grace and goodness, but maybe he won’t.  No one saves, save for God.  That’s why we must only believe.

Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?"  Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."**

And so in our quest and effort as parents, we must courageously believe in God’s love and plan more than our pocketed strategies and parenting techniques said to tame the heart of the unruliest, liveliest little child.  For when we trust in God’s ability in their lives and despite our parenting, we transcend human effort of dust trying to cover dust and allow Eternity to shape, form and guide into all ahead.

As a dad to three little beautiful girls, my heart winces a little more with each increasingly complex conversation.  I do good in my own effort as their dad, but soon we’ll travel hand in hand to an impasse where my foot will slip and my hand not able to hold.

Right there my heart better be ready to let go and grab hold of God’s grace and ability.  Right then, my heart must be able to believe or all that I’ve done is try diligently to look capable for as long as I could until my hand could hold no longer.


“The law says, ‘do this,’ and it is never done.  Grace says, ‘believe in this,’ and everything is already done.” -Martin Luther

Believe in the future already owned by the One who purchased a day unable to be bought by impoverished hearts.  Be free.  Belong.  Trust.


image found @ www.ronitbaras.com  ||  *Proverbs 22:6  ||  **John 6:28-29


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".



CONNECT WITH JOHN @ thefathereffect.com


down the trail.

[gallery link="file" columns="5"] Same mistake ...again.

Words, emotions, actions, all lit by the heat of the moment.  Right there.  Right in front of us both.  Regrets pile high once dust settles and calm returns.

Losing sight of who they can be and how to get there with them easily falls victim to all busy schedules, sticky details and chunky events of life unfolding. She lied again.  Again.  

Didn’t she learn from the last time I punished her and raised my voice emphatically?  Apparently, what I say does not matter enough to direct her to making the right choices.

What else would be the cause? She doesn’t respect me anymore.

Standing there looking back at me lying again.  In her eyes rest a distance.  I’m not getting through to her.  Control her every more and response.

“Stand up straight when I am talking to you!”  “Don’t you walk away from me!”  “Sit still, right there.”

In the immediate, I am blinded.  Nothing behind or ahead hold value, only now right there in the heat of the moment.  And there I lose touch with her.  That is the reason a distance rests in her eyes standing there looking back at me.  We stand apart in two different locations, a gap ever widening.

As a single dad and only parent to my three little daughters, I have become much more insecure.  With all of my heart, I only want them to grow healthy and robustly from little girls to young ladies secure in who they are and into loving and wise mature women set on a purposeful course in life.  The fear of not getting them there tangles and trips me.  The fear is now.  It is all I see.  And that is precisely the problem.  I react quickly and out of context losing sight of my ultimate desire.  In quick reactionary parenting, I am just being bounced between little details isolated and void of the overall beauty and full potential holding instead of seeing those little details as not isolated but parts of the whole and opportunities to get her there.

A few months ago while racing down a single track path through a wide open prairie on my mountain bike, I severely misjudged a turn.  Over the handle bars and through the air I tumbled landing squarely on my head and sliding through the dirt and dry grass on my back.  In the adrenaline rush, I popped right back up to my feet.  Everything blurry and spinning.  My stomach tightened and knees weakened as I reached for the ground both signs of a concussion.  After a couple minutes, I climbed back on my bike, cracked helmet and bleeding, for three more miles to finish the course.  The wreck and the injuries incurred were my doing.  One of the most dangerous things to do while mountain biking is to look down right over your handle bars.  In doing so, you miss what is right ahead.  The path is only right there, but there is so much ahead.  And you need to see the whole path ahead to anticipate response.  Turns, logs laying in path, roots, creeks, switch backs, hills and more all ahead on the course.

The danger of looking only right at the moment is to get lost in the immediacy of details unfolding and forget all ahead.  Life holds only immediate value.  Preoccupied and controlled by the moment only, you are left to only reacting.  Life is about much more than flinching, wincing and reacting.  So is parenting.

When I stare into the moment and lose sight of who she can be and will be, all ahead fades into the distant forever.  Both of us sink into a moment rushing, emotions running high and now bleeds like forever.  In this way exactly, parenting shares a parallel with mountain biking.  Life intersecting life.  Truth pedaling and parenting.  In both, eyes must lift out of moments heated and sticky and stay fixed ahead.

I am learning to securely parent my three little daughters in looking down the trail, anticipating response and proactively participating rather than waiting to react in moments and details.