The Sour Hour / The Ineffective Father

Chapter 14 The Effective Father by Gordan MacDonald

This chapter is classic as MacDonald highlights a parental failure in his home soon after writing this book. His thoughts stimulated this prayer…

How could it be, God,

That at one moment

I could confidently express

What I believe to be

The principles of genius

In raising children,

Of being an effective father?


But at another time

Fall so utterly impotent

So as to suspect

That I know nothing

That I’ve done nothing

That it all amounts to nothing?


After having poured

The treasures of Heaven

Into this life of mine,

Are you often hurt like this?

Are there strange divine moments

When you also feel this futility,

This ‘powerlessness’

when those called by your

Family name are out of control

And ruin your celebration?


Do you ever share this feeling

That cuts tonight so deeply into my spirit?

If you do,

I, too, am sorry.”

Please Show Me That You Care

Chapter 13 The Effective Father by Gordan MacDonald

p.223 – “There are several ways a father extends approval to his children. Call the first of them simply ‘verbal affirmation.’ Affirming others is the act of expressing how valuable we think they are as persons. We affirm people for what they are; we appreciate people for what they do. Both are quite necessary.”

p.224 – “Fathers respond to their children and affirm them in all kinds of ways. Private signals such as winks, gestures, taps on the shoulders, lots of hugs and kisses, here and there a special word: they are all part of the special vocabulary of affirmation. Children learn the language quickly; they know how dad feels; it’s obvious to them when he is pleased and when he’s not. Once they have this system of communication figured out and know that dad is responsive to their performance as persons, they will do anything to receive a continuing flow of that affirmation.”

p.225 – Herein lies a call to sensitivity. What does my child want to do? What does he do best? And where does he need approval? What qualities of character and personality do I see that need to be highlighted and praised so that my children can know that I consider them important? These questions need thoughtful response.”

p.226 – ” Genuine affirmation is important not only for the momentary feeling of security that it provides, but it opens the gateway to healthy future relationships. A daughter’s first attempts to reach across the sex barrier to please men will be with her father. It is from him that she first needs to know if she is attractive, if her conversation is interesting and her creativity worthwhile. If her father applauds her mental and spiritual attributes at an early age, she will learn not to rely solely on shallow qualities like sex appeal to attract other men in her adult years. Affirmation from her father in proper doses will convince her that she is important as a person and not as a sex object”….the effective father “will urge her to copy the admirable traits of her mother. Through approval and affirmation he will constantly highlight her developing capacities. He will point out the achievements of other women who are accomplishing things in the world and he will encourage her to make worthwhile contributions of her own.”

p.227 – “Don’t forget the moments of disaster when a daughter loses out on a date or a son is left out of a special group he longs to join. These are the times when the effective father gets to work and reaffirms the worth of his children. His opinion counts, and he must make it known.”

p.231 – “Researcher reveals that girls who enter into promiscuous sexual relationships at an early age almost always come from homes where fathers have been unaffectionate and have failed to meet the need of their young daughters to be touched and physically affirmed.”

6th Principle

“I am aware that I always live on the edge of ineffectiveness and must continually reach out to God for wisdom and skill to accomplish my task.”

To Raise A Great Cathedral

Chapter 12 The Effective Father by Gordan MacDonald

p.184 – “To shape lives: the phrase suggests the sculptor at work, cutting, chipping, chiseling out of ‘raw material’ a beautiful object of art. Is the effective father an artist? If so, what is he trying to create? The technological world might suggest that it is a person of great skill: an engineer, a scientist, an author, a physician, or a craftsman. But skill is not a top biblical priority. The God of the Bible makes it plain that fathers are responsible to produce people of deep inner spirit. Spirit, not skill, is essential.”

p.185 – “The message (Proverbs 8:35,36) for fathers is simple: use those tools on fatherhood which introduce wisdom into the lives of your children because wisdom brings one’s life to its fullest potential. Ignore those tools which develop wisdom in your children, and you may be pointing them toward a life marked with struggles, misjudgments, and empty achievements.”

p.185 – “Wisdom is not a natural or instinctive characteristic. We are not born with it. It is something which is first given, then exercised, and finally mastered. It becomes the center of one’s life. But achieving wisdom is a process which involves much experience…The wise person learns self-control. He makes decisions based on long-rage perspective. He is sensitive to the real issues of human and heavenly relationships. He understands the purpose of his life and how to use the materials of creation to achieve that purpose. He’s aware of his weaknesses and how they can be exploited by others, so he carefully avoids such possibilities. Finally, he knows how to serve people, and he hungers to relate to the Living God. Who of us would not like to raise children to be wise?”

p.186 – MacDonald suggests Solomon has 3 specific thoughts for parents…

  1. Parents should be deeply concerned that they shape the part of a child which produces both habit and desire
  2. Parents must see the necessity of spiritual conditioning, the enlarging of one’s capacity to act in a wise and Christlike way
  3. Parents see the need for punishment, a way of confronting the child with the consequences of living unwisely.

p.190 – “When children begin to evaluate a person’s blessings in terms of spiritual and relational capacity, I will know that the training process has reached its goal.

p.191 – “It becomes increasingly important for them (children) to be aware that God wants to use their lives to make a significant impact on society. How many children hear their fathers pray for their future? Do we impress upon them the daily imperative of seeking the wisdom of God’s Spirit to make sound decisions? It is not unwise to teach a healthy fear of making mistakes in planning for the future. Life is simply too precious to be wasted.”

p.192 – “What kind of a man is it who can persuade a nation to conserve in times of plenty so that they will not starve in times of want?” —MacDonald speaking about Joseph

p.193 – “…wisdom cannot grow without discipline.”

p.193 – “When a father disciplines his children, he is enlarging their capacity to endure and produce. To put it in another way, to be disciplined is to be conditioned to performance. The athlete pushes his body to the outer limits of its capacities until he is utterly exhausted. Why? Because he wants to be prepared for the race. He wants the run to be a pushover, relatively easy because he has trained so hard.”

p.194 – “Discipline is the deliberate stress we introduce into our children’s lives to stretch their capacities for performance. But punishment is the painful consequence which is the result of misdeeds and violations of family standards and principles.”

p.195 – “Discipline helps children learn that feelings do not run their lives. Fluctuating moods, fatigue, ignorance, and even some types of pain will limit us to substandard performance if we allow them to do so. So a wise father, keeping this in mind, attempts to help his children understand that they can push through these barriers and increase their abilities and capacities.”

p.213 – An effective father – “He doesn’t support a family; he raises it. The harvest appears when a child has grown into wisdom of life and Christ-likeness of behavior. In the final analysis, we seek not to raise children of sill but children of the spirit. That’s what God wants.”

5th Principle

“I accept and affirm my children for who they are, appreciate them for what they are accomplishing, and cover them with affection because they are mine.”

Life in White Water

Chapter 11 The Effective Father by Gordan MacDonald

p.140 -Thinking about principles of fathers foresight… “The effective father is foresightful; he is not impulsive–the very opposite. Impulsive fathers usually find themselves taken by surprise, and that forces them to act on the spur of the moment. They lose touch with the significance of circumstances about them; therefore, they overreact or underreact to many situations. Either everything seems to be a crisis or nothing is a crisis. They’re never quite sure.”

p.145 – “Adults often underestimate the capacity of small children to sense uneasy situations brewing in the home. The children may not be able to define the event or its implications, but they are well aware that something is unsteady, that status quo is in jeopardy.”

p.146 – “Children need to know that there’s a hand on the saddle of their lives, providing balance should anything upset their equilibrium. If they sense that the hand is missing or has become undependable, they lapse into some form of upset: a stomach ache, babyish behavior reminiscent of three years earlier, aggressiveness, and other attempts at gaining attention.”

p.160 – “A foresightful father is always aware of patterns and trends of opinion and influence he sees in his children. He listens to their informal conversation and evaluates their view of things. He watches their performance in critical situations and looks to see if their responses are positive and healthy.”

p.161 – “A foresightful father is watching for conflicts that arise among family members.”

p.168 – “…the only thing worse than not having laws in a family is laying down laws but not enforcing them. This makes children uneasy and unable to discern what is right and wrong. It develops conditions in which disregard for other laws will grow in later years.”

p.170 – “There are many things we could have purchased both for ourselves and for the children, but we have painfully developed the ability to say a reasonable number of ‘no’s.’ While we may be able to handle some of these things responsibly, we are not sure that our young children can do so. It is better to practice some restraint than to splurge–and discover when it is too late that you have launched children into the world who can’t control their materialistic desires.”

p.172 – “I think the foresightful father has to prepare himself for some painful leadership decisions upon which will hang his future relationship with his children. That’s why it’s wise to have the process of decision-making well in hand and practiced before the moment of truth.”

p.176 – “A third significant key to decision-making is taking into account the effects on other people of things our children wish to have or desire to do. An effective father begins in the earliest years to point out to his children–in the words of John Donne–that no man is an island. Everything we say, do, or have affects someone else. Our decisions, our exercise of personal rights, the pursuit of our goals cannot be conducted in a relational vacuum.”

4th Principle

“I am filling my children’s lives with perspectives and patterns which produce wisdom; I am lovingly purging their lives of unwholesome influences and tendencies that impede their progress toward maturity.”

No Busy Signals Here

Chapter 10 The Effective Father by Gordan MacDonald

p.112 – “Among the dimensions of effective fatherhood, we have to include the indispensable ingredient of approachability—that one can communicate with Dad without strenuous effort and that when he’s engaged in family dialogue, he will be open, responsive, and concerned.”

p.118 – “Many fathers do not listen well because they would rather speak. They feel that what they have to say is more important than what they have to hear. There may be an ironic tragedy to that gross misunderstanding, because the man who does not know how to listen will not really know what to say.”

p.120 – “…the effective father deliberately develops a facility to listen to his family—to hear what is being said, and sometimes to hear what is not being said. He has finely tuned his open ear to hear tones of voice, certain kinds of silence and broodishness, special styles or crying, code-words which imply frustration, heartbreak or rebellion, pained looks of distress, and slumping postures of personal defeat and discouragement. He hears the signals and interprets them…The art of listening takes time, work, and prayer; it does not come by instinct. Conversely, it is inexcusable for any man to say that he does not have the gift of sensitivity. If he lacks it, it is because he has failed to work at it for reasons best known to himself.”

p.121 – “Kids want and deserve prime time with Dad–alone”

p.124 – “The more a child becomes aware of a father’s willingness to listen, the more a father will begin to hear.”

p.132 – “The approachability of fathers in the early years of their children’s lives will reduce the number of defense mechanisms their children will erect. If they experience sledge-hammer reactions in their sour moments, children will create a remarkable facility for passing responsibility, making excuses, or perhaps taking no risks at all. What father wants that? Much better that they find in their fathers–effective fathers–tender responses when their child-sized hearts are faint. Sour moments are not time for busy signals.”

3rd Principle

“I have sharpened my sensitivity to my family’s needs, committed my inner being to God’s laws, and fixed a foresightful eye on opportunities and hazards ahead. I want to make sure that every family experience builds my children up and matures them.”

Wear Shoes You Want Filled

Chapter 9 The Effective Father by Gordan MacDonald

p.100 – “Like it or not, a father makes impressions upon his children with far more than words. His behavior, the pattern of conduct in his own life becomes both documentation and justification for anything an offspring wishes to do.”

p.101 – “The former (effective father) takes note of the importance of exposure to his children—that every moment he is with them is a chance to make a positive impression for the purpose of character building and spirit development. But the latter doesn’t see this. His view of the family is one of simply living together and finding the home to be little more than a meeting place in which to eat, sleep, and have a little fun.”

p.102 – “The importance of modeling a lifestyle demands time and opportunity. Sometimes we have to create experiences that will jam the family together where learning can take place. For our family, canoe camping trips are a time for constant exposure. Camping offers a chance to face stress and inconvenience together. We can see each other in the best and worst of circumstances, and we have a chance to make measurements of each other’s reactions.”

p. 104 – “Children do not always learn in the schoolroom how to treat one another with dignity and affection. You can’t diagram respect, forgiveness, or servanthood. It isn’t found in any encyclopedia that I know of. It is observed and then put into motion.”

p.104 – “The way in which an effective father relates to the children’s mother is of incalculable significance.”

p.104 – “The children also watch us in our conflict. They observe our attempt to pick our way across the prickly field of disagreement, how we choose our words, how we express our disappointment in something the other one has done or thinks. They hear the words ‘I’m sorry,’ and ‘I forgive you,’ and they learn something about how they should treat other human beings.”

p.108 – “We can never overcalculate the intense study of children when they see their father facing a crisis. How will he act when a flash flood puts six inches of water in the basement? What happens when the misguided hammer hits his thumb? And what of the moment when the umpire wrongly calls him out in the annual Sunday school picnic softball game? Each response under heat in daily living is worth ten thousand verbal statements of personal faith and morality.”


I had the opportunity to speak with a wonderful young man this past week about church planting. This young man attends college to specialize in reaching youth. Although he loves youth, he has a passion to plant a church someday. As we discussed church planting several personal thoughts were stirred up in my mind. I thought about things that would have been useful to my young aspiring ego and shared them with him.

My exhortation’s to him:

  1. Be attracted to service rather than position
  2. Be attracted to submission rather than power
  3. Be attracted to humility rather than authority
  4. Be attracted to faithfulness rather than followers
  5. Be attracted to theological depth rather than numerical success



A leader’s attraction to HIM will keep the path of truth clear and bring stability despite the different forces of church leadership. Attraction to Jesus encourages the teacher/preacher to practice eternal life. Attraction to God will keep the church leader close to THE Word rarely digressing from it. Knowledge of Him will cause one’s pulpit to become the highlight of church member’s week. Why? Because time spent knowing the Lord equips the teacher/preacher to clearly articulate God and HIS Word. The messenger’s attraction and knowledge of God is what invites and demands the attention of the listener. The teacher / preacher must be aware that listeners recognize WORD-less sermons. The host of expository ambassadors available via the internet, allows followers of Christ to distinguish unbalanced sermons; sermons where the messenger leads and the Word sits in the background.  Pastor’s who are attracted to God are attracted to His word and will deliver unadulterated truth, because they are unwilling to settle for Christians to live shallow lives for their Savior.  


Why are many leaders excelling?

They are attracted to God and their people love it. I know of four gentlemen who God is using to lead flocks that are maturing while also growing numerically. All four men are consumed with God in their prayer and study (private life)! The teachers who are driven by the Word are dramatically different then ones who steer the Word. Remember, followers will be more inspired by the Word then by the teacher.

Fragile: Handle with Care

Chapter 8 The Effective Father by Gordan MacDonald

p. 88 – “Discipline and instruction means that sometimes a father has to take corrective action with his children. But it also means that the correction be done in such a way that it builds or redirects. It does not devastate. It is ‘of the Lord’.”

p. 90 – “An effective father walks in the footsteps of the prophets; he is a ‘prophet-type’ to his children, and as such, he must have a grasp on the proper standards of behavior that the Bible sets forth. He must be sensitized to violations, and he must be prepared to deal with them before the consequences set in.”

p. 91 – “A careful examination of my own rebukes tells me that a large number of them are not designed to build character into the lives of my kids; rather, they are designed to halt certain things which are momentarily inconvenient for me. Since I am bigger than they are, I can make my will supreme. Thus, I may speak sharply or in anger because I am irritable, or I am tired, or because I want some peace for myself. In fact my rebukes may not be rebukes at all; they may simply be adult temper tantrums, as I’ve noted before.”

p.91 – “Rebukes build, correct, and warn. ‘A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool,’ the Proverbs writers says (17:10). If in fact we are sending rebukes that deep into our children, then we had better be extremely careful about the nature of those rebukes. Before the effort is made, the effective father will weigh the contents, circumstances, and consequences of what he is about to say. Can it wait to a more appropriate time? Is it launched from a platform of love, or is it merely a sign of vengeance or irritability? And finally, will not only center on the bad behavior which is leading to disaster, but also on the proper behavior which should replace it…Training our children to hear rebukes and act upon them is a major aspect of our fatherly relationship when our children are young. If we have convinced them that the rebuke doesn’t threaten their standing before us, their dignity, and their right to make a new attempt at what they have in mind, they will learn the value of a constructive rebuke.”

p.93 – “The anger can be expressed in words, and it should be expressed at the action–not at the person.”

p.94 – “Rebukes may displease and disappoint a child for a moment, but in the long run he will be built up and therefore thankful.”

No Day Is Ever Wasted

Chapter 7 The Effective Father by Gordan MacDonald

Be sure to read this next one 😉 – Don’t underestimate the POWER of TiMe.

p. 79 – “It is said of Boswell, the famous biographer of Samuel Johnson, that he often referred to a special day in his childhood when his father took him fishing. The day in his childhood when his father took him fishing. The day was fixed in his adult mind, and he often reflected upon many of the things his father had taught him in the course of their fishing experience together. After having heard of that particular excursion so often, it occurred to someone much later to check the journal that Boswell’s father kept and determine what had been said about the fishing trip from the parental perspective. Turning to that date, the reader found only one sentence entered: ‘Gone fishing today with my son; a day wasted.'”

p. 80 – “Family life is an existential classroom; it lasts for about eighteen years. Within the classroom are children who are like large lumps of clay. The longer they live, the harder they clay will become unless the potter consciously sustains the molding process, keeping the clay pliable–‘shapable’. Each day the effective father stamps into the lives of his children words, attitudes, habits, and responses which one day will become automatic. It would be frightening if a father did not realize this fact. For teach he will—whether he is aware of it or not. Ironically, teaching can be done either through design or neglect. Teaching, conscious or unconscious, will make an indelible impression upon a child’s personality and become part of a composite of future character performance. The weaknesses and laws of the father will be passed on to the children in either case. So the questions confront us: do we teach to build or teach to cripple?”

p. 81 – “How does a child discover his or her abilities, gifts, and capabilities and then put them to work? One answer to that question might be to think about how many opportunities a father has to ask his children to assist him in family responsibilities. A bicycle needs to be repaired. There are at least three ways to approach the need: the lazy father postpones any action. The busy father typically grabs a few minutes, quickly runs the bike into the garage, turns a few screws and delivers it to his child with the job done. But the wise father adds a few minutes to his schedule and shows his child how to make the repair by sharing the work. He may have his patience tested, but the decision will pay off.”

p. 83 – “Driving along with children, a teaching father engages his passengers in conversation with simple why questions…what questions are also valuable…Add to your bag the how-questions.”

p. 84 – ” Entertaining guests can be a chance to let children plan the menu, create innovative table decorations, and assist in serving.”

p. 84 – “Call it the teachable moment. We rarely create them; rather, we sense them. The intellect of a child has doors like the entry ways of a building. A teachable moment happens when that door has, through some circumstance, been thrown open. Fathers learn that the signals of a teachable moment vary with each child. For some, the signal is seen in a wistful look on the face; for others, it begins with certain kinds of questions. Don’t overlook the ‘captive audience moments’ at the table, in the car, and in the moments just before bedtime. When the doors to a child’s mind are open, he is probably ready for any kind of experience of learning his parents want him to have. When the doors are closed, teaching a child will be like trying to jam things through the crack at the bottom…Teachable moments also come at times of need. Sickness, injure, pressure to finish some project for school, all provide extra special opportunities for closeness. when the doors are open, the effective father rushes to the entrance with the things a child needs to hear.”

A Fountain of Life

Chapter 6 The Effective Father by Gordan MacDonald

p.67 – “The first way an effective father sets pace is by talking.

p.67 – “The first way an effective father sets pace is by talking.

 The previous sentence was repeated because it is worth its weight in gold. Don’t forget it may not just be the way one speaks his words, but the absence of his words.

p.69 – “A father initiates action in his family through words, and he motivates continuous action through words. he gives leadership instructions, telling his children what he wishes them to be, to learn, or to do. The idea is not to sit like a sultan, giving orders that maintain his own comfort or leisure. Rather, he is to assume the role of family manager, using his perspective to bring the family experience to a level of productivity and maturity. When he talks with his children, he must keep a number of ground rules which control effective verbal communication. For example, he must discover that talking with children demands a heavy-duty effort at verbal clarity.

p.69-70 – “Clarity and precisions are not the hallmarks of many fathers in their verbal communication with children. Among the more common faults is that of failing to choose concepts that are clear to a child. We must ask ourselves if the thing we are directing a child to do is actually capable of being accomplished–at least in the horizon of his world.”

p.70 – “A time limit is also important for young children, and it’s part of the ground rules. Time, like words, means different things to different people. Time moves slowly for a child; it flies for an adult. Forgetting this, it is easy for a father to expect his children to regard the value of time just as he does. But in fact they do not.”

p.71 – “let me add another ground rule which fathers often violate and therefore render themselves ineffective: certainty of command. Are the sounds a father makes certain or uncertain.”

p.72 – “In John’s home, volume is the scale of seriousness. Soft sounds are uncertain; loud ones mean business…That is the systems of command John’s father has inadvertently created.”

p.73 – “Effective fathers practice certain sounds; they mean what they say. Delayed obedience is considered disobedience. This means that the effective father doesn’t count to ten; he doesn’t raise his voice; he doesn’t repeat that which he is sure was heard the first time. The request is made once in clarity and in certainty. No one has any doubt as to what the response should be…the first time.

p.73 – “Children will drift from dead-center obedience just as long as a lazy father allows them to. Therefore an effective father is always evaluating the time it takes to get a response from a clear-cut signal. When he senses drift, he must immediately retune the relationship.”

p.74 – “the man who asks his children to play quietly, eat in a more orderly way, or wash their hands, or prepare for bed but overlooks the results when his words are ignored, is really a dishonest father. His statements are really indications of ‘wish’ rather than ‘want’ for the family’s good. It doesn’t take a child long to see that his father doesn’t mean what he says; he doesn’t bother to check up on the results of what he’s asked of the children.”

p.75 – “Add to the dishonest father the name of the threatening father. He thinks he is giving directions, but he unwittingly gives choices instead. And they are usually prefaced with the word if…Threats are usually bluffs, and the shrewd child reads them as a pro quarterback reads defenses. To put it another way, he can calculate the odds of the threatened consequence better than Jimmy the Greek.”

p.75-76 – “The exploding father doesn’t understand the ground rules of response either. He just blows up, spewing words in every direction. He’s been inconvenienced, embarrassed, or he simply feels defeated because ‘he don’t get no respect.'”

p.76,77 – “The silent father says nothing….sounds of the silent father include ‘don’t bug me. I don’t care. Do what you want to do. They are the more familiar verbal sweeps of his fatherly baton. He avoids decisions, actually laughs if the children make wisecracks at their mother during dinner, and avoids with a groan any comment about their moral and spiritual development.”

p.78 – “dishonest father, threatening father, exploding father, and the silent father”

p.78 – “…the pacesetter launches his words to bring his family to maturity of mindset and lifestyle. Let his words always be a fountain of life—not a pit of destruction. (Proverbs 10:11)