Man on a Mission

Fifty-six years on my life clock. As you can imagine, there’s a lot to tell. So quite a bit of paring down and condensing went into the next few words. I have found that lots of words are boring unless they are word pictures. So here is my go at it.

When a man hits this stage in life, he tends to count the years that he supposes he has left to leave a legacy.  For me, that means to my sons, spiritual sons, and those I have yet before me to possibly influence. I wanted to put to good use the things I had learned the hard way both growing up fatherless and being a fatherless dad. If it were not for my father in heaven and a handful of men I have watched, imitated, and questioned about fatherhood, I would have failed. Utterly failed. A guy learns gratitude when he recognizes that the debt he owes can only be repaid by “paying it forward.”

Rewind 50 or so years. My age is about five. My dad was a salesman, and Mother was a stay-at-home mom. One boy (me) and three girls, one 3 1/2  and the other two one-year-old twins. We all lived in a single-wide mobile home in a park called “Wagon Wheel Valley.” Less than zero lot lines, and most everyone knew the others in the park. You could often hear the neighbors having loud “family discussions” as we played on the narrow, two-lane asphalt road that ran throughout the park.

Short version, my dad was there one day and gone the next. It was a couple of years before I discovered that he left with the next door neighbor’s wife and disappeared to Florida. So from there the struggle began. Two stepdads, several different mobile homes, transferred schools…..the rest is pretty predictable for a fatherless kid.

So here’s the picture – a naive kid searching for his dad.  Endless searching to fill that void, that fatherless hole. Not learning some of the little things a dad teaches a son that can cripple a kid’s emotions and identity by their absence.

It’s amazing what you don’t know when you grow up fatherless. Much of what I learned in my early years as a dad was by trial and error. Being a fatherless dad is like flying a jet liner with all the controls identified in an unknown language or with unknown symbols, and being a fatherless dad was and is just like that-flying blind-no experience-no simulator runs.

Experience is a great teacher. Her lessons are both instantaneous and progressive. My purpose is to give some positive direction to dads with no reference points in raising great kids today, as well as direction and positive instruction on how to be a man. Once I realized I was in over my head, I sought out help to salvage all that I had failed at with being a good dad and husband. What a mess I made!  However, I’m so grateful to those men who helped me along after my fumbling the ball in the father and husband responsibilities.


  1. Start Here. Starting is more than half the battle in being a good dad. Experiences of older dads can serve as markers or navigational points for fatherless dads to begin at in their fatherhood journey. If you never start, you have no beginning. Sounds simple. This is the toughest step. Ready…..Set……..GO!!
  2. Give yourself permission to fail. Failure is not considered acceptable in our culture, but it’s all right to make mistakes. I have heard it said that “perfect is the killer of good,” and John Maxwell says “fail forward.”  Take your time and build with good tools, experiences, and disciplines learned on the journey.
  3. Family can’t be built in a day.  But days and the life experiences in them build family. All great structures of the world were not built overnight. They take time. Building family happens over years and creeps into the later generations of our kids.
  4. Shape your days.  A good day is not always a fun day, and a rough day doesn’t always end badly.  Make the best of it and help capture life lessons for the whole family. Tomorrow is coming, and you have lived another day to grow.
  5. Don’t let your yesterday determine your tomorrow. Many of us have yesterdays that we are not proud of, that were profoundly difficult and injurious. That’s all right. Today is the first day of your future. We all have debts owed to bad decisions or unfortunate, uncontrollable events that transpired in our lives. You’ve started. Find the good things that exist right now. Move forward and build a wonderful future.
  6. It’s all right to not know. We will never have all the answers. It’s all right to admit you don’t know and to seek wise counsel.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help, coaching, and mentoring. Humility is the first step to being a great dad. Somebody will have your answer through his experience. “Seek, and you will find.”
  7. Study the greatest model of Fatherhood. There are so many examples of  the greatest father that ever existed in the Bible. Yep! Read about God’s fathering to His kids and His people. Regardless of your belief, God’s a great Father. Look at the examples  recorded in Scripture. (You can also call Him Daddy).



Fatherless Fathers

What to do when your father model is absent

So you’re a father.  You have a child (or children).  You’ve had nine months to get used to the idea and prepare for fatherhood.  A whole nine months.  So, nine months to download all you need to know about fatherhood.  Because you want to be the very best dad you can to your children.

Here’s the interesting thing about fatherhood. It’s a learn-as-you-go sport.  I mean art. But even then, an emerging super dad needs to see being a father demonstrated from the apprentice position.  He needs a mentor.  Even with a mentor, being a father is still very challenging, perhaps the greatest challenge a guy could ever have in a lifetime.

So you’re a guy like me – “broken boy-broken man” guy – and you’re a father.  Now the challenge is greater.  It’s doubled down, compressed to the 10th power, unmitigated pressure.  And you look into eyes of your little treasure(s) and realize that you’re definitely in the weeds and can’t see two feet in front of you.  How do I lead?  What do I do?  How do I say all the important things a dad needs to say to his kids?  How do I even know what those important things are?  How do I comfort a broken heart?

Silence.  Crickets chirping.  Void.  No markers or reference points to look back on to project into the future.  Neither can you look forward into the future to plan, orchestrate and strategize for you family.  C.K. Chesterton once said (para.) “if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.”

We will never know everything there is to know about being a dad.  And there will be lots of occasions when experience is our teacher. But that’s the beauty of having an experienced, seasoned mentor.  He coaches you through the situation, investing his experiential wisdom into your life and your immediate fathering moment.

6 Steps to Settling the Fatherless Storm

1. Stop.  Breath.  Steady.  Forward.  You are where you are by no cause or fault of your own.  So, move forward, one step at a time.  It will be a while before you get your running legs and when you do remember that fatherhood is not a sprinting event.  Fatherhood is a life-long marathon.

2. Don’t freeze up;  it’s better to move forward and make adjustments than to sit still.  I once was told that a parked car doesn’t go anywhere. Navigating a non moving vehicle is only arm chair quarter backing.  It’s not navigation.  Course correction is best done, and only done on the move.  Move now.
3. Feel free to fail but fail forward.  Failure can be a wonderful teacher and mentor.  She is, however, brutally honest and shows little mercy, save the fact she is steady and true. John Maxwell, in his book Failing Forward writes,  “The essence of man is imperfection. Know that you’re going to make mistakes.  The fellow who never makes a mistake takes his orders from one who does.  Wake up and realize this:  Failure is simply a price we pay to achieve success.”

4. Embrace the position of apprentice.   Part of being a good father is being first, a son. It’s just the natural flow.  Life as a fatherless kid was confusing enough at times and complex all the time.  You had to grow up quicker and take on adult responsibilities before the natural design intended.  In so doing, a boy misses out on a coaching /mentor relationship that he can only get from his father.  Absent dad-absent experience and opportunity to imitate dad in the how to’s of manhood/fatherhood.

5. Find a mentor-teacher-trainer.  These great men are called Double Duty Dads.  They are experienced dads who have had a modicum of success at being a family man. Their success is not their point, nor are they perfect examples of a father, but they are living examples of one. A living example is someone who has moved forward, learned, and mastered the craft of being a father.  They don’t quit.  They keep moving forward.  Leading always.

6. Study fathers in other cultures, both the positive and negitive characteristics. 

The 3 L’sLove, Lead, Learn.  You can’t be a father without these three movements in operation in your fathering game.  It’s like a three legged stool.  All three must be working in triune.