Finding a New Life in Christ
About the Guest
On today's broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with Jim Daly, president and CEO of Focus on the Family and author of the book Finding Home, about the tragic events that shaped his life and his faith. Join us today as Jim tells what finally brought him to Christ and the blessings that eventually followed, including a college scholarship and a godly wife.
Jim DalyJim Daly's personal journey from orphan to head of an international Christian organization dedicated to helping families thrive is a powerful story. Abandoned by his alcoholic father at age 5, Daly lost his mother to cancer four years later - a wound deepened when his grieving stepfather emptied the family home and took off with almost everything while Daly, the youngest of five children, and his siblings were at their mother's funeral. Several tough years in foster care followed, before Daly...more
On today’s broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with Jim Daly, president and CEO of Focus on the Family and author of the book Finding Home, about the tragic events that shaped his life and his faith.
Finding a New Life in Christ
Bob: People often assume that individuals in position of leadership in the Christian community probably grew up in a Christian home. Jim Daly, who is today the president of Focus on the Family never heard the Gospel, as far as he can remember, until he was a teenager.
Jim: I can just remember my mom coming to the Lord before she died, and somebody mentioning that to me, and I didn't know what that mean. And nobody thought to stop and explain it to me. So we just bumbled along for another few years, and then Coach Paul Moro – I called him "Coach Mo" scholarshipped me and a couple of other guys to go to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp, and it was a Wednesday night, I remember, and that night, the Wednesday night I accepted the Lord and, again, it was just the grace of God.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, June 4th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Coach Mo wasn't the only one talking to Jim Daly that night – God was calling his name, too. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. You know, if things had gone a little differently, it could be that we'd be sitting here talking to a pro quarterback, you know that, don't you? I mean, it was – everything was lined up.
Dennis: A retired, Bob, retired.
Bob: It's true– and over-the-hill, washed up …
Jim: A tough crowd.
Dennis: Jim Daly, who is CEO and president of Focus on the Family joins us again – welcome – well, maybe it's Coach – it could be Coach …
Bob: It could be Coach, yeah, it could be Coach.
Dennis: Coach Daly, now, welcome to the broadcast.
Jim: Great to be here.
Dennis: We were just with Coach Dungy.
Jim: He's a good guy, I've met him.
Dennis: That could have been the deal, Bob.
Bob: They could have swapped. He could be running Focus on the Family and you oculd be leading the Indianapolis Colts.
Jim: Not a bad trade, okay. Sounds good.
Dennis: He didn't choose the football or quarterback or coaching profession …
Bob: But you would have been a pretty good quarterback, wouldn't you?
Jim: Well, I mean, who knows? You're always better than you were.
But I think no – I mean – that was one of those experiences where the Lord – it's just like being your dad. I was there, I was being recruited out of high school by UNLV and TCU and some other colleges, and I remember praying before this game my senior year. I said, "Lord, if you don't want me to play college football because it's going to take me in the wrong direction," which meant party style and all those things that college guys usually don't have good boundaries around, I said, "Break a bone today but don't let it hurt.
Dennis: You really prayed that?
Jim: I really prayed that. It was Big Bear in Southern California, the third of the game, I'll never forget, second down, and someone got thrown out of the game for throwing a punch on our team, which never happened in the four years. And a sophomore kid, Parrish Robbins (sp). In the huddle, his eyes are as big as pancakes. This kid was so afraid to be hit. And we're in the huddle, a straight drop-back pass, and he asked, "What do I do?" and I told him, and this linebacker came running in, and he just missed the blocking assignment, and this linebacker drilled me.
Dennis: Creamed you, huh?
Jim: I played quarterback, and I went down, and I'm in the huddle, and my right shoulder was separated already – I was playing with a separated shoulder, and I thought, "That's okay, it's okay, and I reached in and under my left collarbone, my left side of my shoulder pads, I felt my collarbone, and it was broken. My left collarbone, but it didn't hurt.
And I’m in the huddle saying, "Hey, you guys, I think God's answering my prayer," and they're like, "Time out, our quarterback's got a concussion." They thought I had lost it. But God had answered that prayer.
Bob: So you were out of the game.
Jim: Yup, that was it. The last time I put on a uniform.
Bob: That was it for football for you?
Jim: Yep, and I still play pickup games, I love that, but, you know, it was just one of those things where, again, I think, you put it out there, the Lord will demonstrate His faithfulness to you.
Bob: But wasn't there – later on that night, weren't you going, "Lord, I was just kidding about the bone thing, and" …
Jim: Break a bone, don't let it hurt, so – hey, it worked for me.
Dennis: You know, the Lord had a plan for you, and you've written about that plan in your book, "Finding Home," and as we've talked about on earlier broadcasts, Jim, your life and, as I read it, I have to say, I just kind of cringed at points. I grieved for you, as a boy, as a teenager, young man growing up in a home that you experienced and intact family, a divorce, being raised by a single mom, being raised in a foster family that was more dysfunctional, as you said, than your real family was. And then being raised by your father, who had abandoned you and, again, by a single parent after your mom's death.
And so you experienced being an orphan – I mean, I just thought of all the things you've experienced, but it was Gospel, and it was confronting Jesus Christ that ultimately took your life and – well, it didn't turn it on a dime, but it was the pivotal point of your life. Take us back to that time in that FCA group when you met the Savior and tell us how it happened.
Jim: Sure, my football coach in high school, Coach Paul Moro, I called him "Coach Mo," and Coach Mo scholarshipped me a couple of other guys to go to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Camp at Point Loma, California.
And it was a Wednesday night, I remember, and I can't remember exactly what the speaker was talking about. He was talking about being lonely and being on your own and not knowing what being a man is all about, and I felt like he was talking right to me.
Dennis: Now, had you had any kind of spiritual background? In your book, you described your family as a CEO? A CEO family? Explain that to our listeners.
Jim: Christmas Easter Only. That's when you go to church – Christmas and Easter only. And, it's true. I think my mom – my mom had a spiritual background. She came to the Lord just the day before she died, but she understood the Golden Rule and those kinds of spiritual dimensions, and she used to try to teach those to us – tell the truth, be kind toward others – but there was no basis for it. There wasn't a relationship with Jesus.
Dennis: Had you ever heard the Gospel?
Jim: Not directly, no. Not in that way. My older brothers and sisters went to church with the Hope family that led my mom to the Lord. I was too little, but they would take my siblings to Bible study at the church and things like that, but I never really heard it.
Bob: And your older brother, Mike, had come to know Christ in the Navy. Did he communicate any of that back to you?
Jim: Not really, because we were disconnected. So Mike was not engaged with the rest of the family at that time. He was off in Vietnam doing what they do, and I can just remember my mom coming to the Lord before she died, and somebody mentioning that to me, and that the Hopes had led her to the Lord. I didn't know what that meant, and nobody thought to stop and explain it to me– or the other kids, for that matter.
So we just bumbled along for another few years, and then Coach Mo took it upon himself as a schoolteacher, I just can't believe – and I know there are many good schoolteachers out there like this – Christians who are in the thick of it, in the battle, and he would invite me over to his house for dinner, he and his wife, Joyce. They talked about adopting me at one point, but I couldn't hurt my brother like that. I didn't feel like my brother, Dave, would appreciate that. So I just – I told him I couldn't do it, but I wanted to. Oh, I wanted to live at their house, because it was normal! I felt like this is it. This is what normal is. But he just would invite me over and took me to the FCA camp and was just my friend.
Dennis: So he took you to this camp …
Jim: He took me to the camp. That night I – the Wednesday night I accepted the Lord and, yeah, it didn't turn on a dime. You know, I was living with my brother in high school. I mean, imagine that. My 20-year-old brother, and I'm 15. He's 22.
Dennis: No parents around.
Jim: No parents, no boundaries. I mean, I'd come home when I wanted to come home. I'd be out, 1, 2, 3 in the morning on a Tuesday night. You know, Dave didn't care all that much.
Dennis: It had to be angels.
Jim: Yeah, it had to be.
Dennis: You have to believe in angels.
Jim: And, yeah, so the – and the Lord just provided those boundaries. There was always that thing I felt like I couldn't step over that pit. I couldn't go that far. And I think, again, it was just the grace of God.
Bob: You know, some 15-year-olds will go to FCA camp, and they'll hear a message, and they'll go, you know, "I need to pray and receive Christ," and they do that, and there may be something that goes on for a day or two or three, and then it's kind of back into the old patterns. Was that the case for you?
Jim: I think some of those old patterns – fortunately, at 15, you haven't shaped a lot of those bad habits yet.
Jim: You're just learning what those bad habits are, and I think, for that reason, I didn't have a relapse because there was nothing to relapse to. But I think the Lord, again, I think he just strengthened the boundaries that I knew I think that my mom began to put began to put into me about saying it straight, owning your stuff, telling the truth, being kind toward others – those were things I grew up with. So I think it just reinforced those fundamentals. And I wobbled along. I mean, there were days that I didn't make the right decisions, and I did stupid things as a 17-year-old, as a 20-year-old.
But when I got back from Japan – I studied in Japan, and the Lord just provided a way through a scholarship to study at Waseda University. And when I got back from that experience, that's when I felt like the Lord got my heart and soul; that I understood it; that I really gave it all to Him at that moment.
Dennis: You know, Jim, growing up in a home like you came from, generally, that creates fear in a man's heart. First of all, men already struggle with intimacy and being honest with the opposite sex. What was your dating life like before you met your wife? Did you date a lot of girls or shy away from girls or – what was it like?
Jim: Hey, these are tough questions, now, what are you doing to me? Well, you know, that was a weakness for me in high school and college, again, without those boundaries. But I can remember the Lord speaking very directly to my heart saying, "Stop dating, because you know what that leads to." And I, for about a year and a half, two years, I didn't date, and I thought I was going to go through life single. And I was determined to do that if that's what the Lord wanted me to do.
And I went to a Wednesday night service and Lake Arrowhead Christian Fellowship, and I went to that service. I didn't really know the pastor and didn't know many of the people there, and he – we still have this on tape – he came up to me. He said, "I think I have a word from the Lord from you," which my first response was, "That's odd."
Dennis: Well, I think it's odd you taped it. How do you have this on tape?
Jim: This is at the service, so the church had – the tape was running. So we've got a copy of this tape. And he said to me, "You know, the Lord has your mate picked out for you, and she's going to have a heart for the things of God," and I'm sitting there going, "What do you do with false prophets today? Do you stone them or what do you?" Honestly, that's what's going on in the back of my mind. That was a Wednesday night.
Now, I've not dated for two years, almost two years. Saturday I go to a wedding, I'm the best man at my friend's wedding, Dan Videtto (sp), and I meet Jean three days later. And when she was walking out of the wedding, I said, "I think that's the woman I'm going to marry."
Bob: Now, had you spoken to her, or was this just looking across the room going …
Jim: No, we had a little talk, but Dan and Tina, the married couple, they, from that point forward, were trying to get us together. And it took them nine months because, ironically, Jean was not dating, either, and the last attempt on their part to try to get us together was an Amy Grant concert, and they said, "We're going to try one more time," and we said, "Okay, we'll go out, but we'll go out as friends because I'm not dating," and Jean said the same thing, we're not – "Don't let him buy my ticket because I'm not dating." We're very proud of the fact that we weren't dating. So we went out.
Bob: You know, as you tell that story, I think of something, and I've never forgotten this, but our friend, Tommy Nelson, one time was talking to singles, and he said, "If you're single," he said, "your assignment is to run and as fast toward Jesus as you can, and if you're doing that and out of the corner of your eye you see somebody running in the same direction at the same speed, take a second look."
And that's what happened that night. You both took a second look, didn't you?
Jim: I did, and it's been great. I mean, the Lord, like everything, Dennis, just provided even my wife.
Dennis: Well, how long did you date before you proposed?
Jim: Thirteen months.
Dennis: Okay. How did you propose?
Jim: Under a tree – a big, big oak tree in Santa Barbara.
Dennis: Oh, that's a great spot. There are some magnificent oaks there.
Jim: Yeah, for me, it just represented everything good and strong and sturdy. So we drove up for the day from Southern California, and in the evening, about 5:00, I knelt down, and I said, "Jean, I'd like to marry you."
Dennis: Did she have any idea what she was getting in terms of your background?"
Jim: Yeah, we had talked about it, we had talked about it, but she was fearless.
Dennis: She came from what kind of background?
Jim: She's actually stable. She's got a mom and dad still living, and six brothers and sisters, and …
Dennis: … compared to you, kind of "Leave it to Beaver."
Jim: Leave it to Beaver, but there's a lot of news, weather, and sports in that family, and I love them, but, you know, I think they've had their issues, as well, over the years. But Jean and I, as we were – you know, we got married, we're both bringing – like everyone – bringing baggage into that relationship.
I can remember one night, our third year of being married, and I was brushing my teeth, and I came into the bedroom, and she's sobbing in the bed. And I said, "What's the matter?" I mean, and I was just kind of happy-go-lucky, "What's wrong, Jean?" And she said, "I just don't think I should stay married to you. I don't feel good enough to be your wife." Which shocked me. What does that mean?
And she said, "I just don't feel like I'm adequate, that I'm good enough." And I remember laying in bed together, we were crying, and I just said, "Jean, there's only two ways that we're going to do this. We're going to stay married because divorce is not an option, so we're either going to it happily or unhappily. And with everything that's gone on in my life, I would really prefer to do this happily." And I think that set a foundation for our relationship that we rely on to this day.
Dennis: What had happened in her life? What wall had she hit that something crumbled and broke, and she saw through to what reality was, and what she was going to have to face herself?
Jim: I think, for Jean, like so many women, a, she's a beautiful girl, but I think there was just such an utter lack of self-esteem, and that whole image, body image thing, and depression – her family does suffer from some depression, and Jean does, as well. It's something she and I have had to cope with.
But just feeling inadequate, feeling like she doesn't measure up and all those things. It would be great to have her with us at some point to talk about that, but, you know, we've both come along in that journey, and the Lord – the things that she's learning have a lot to do with her own sense of worth. And so many women today don't have that – you know that here at FamilyLife, with the mail and the response that you get.
There is something happening in women today that is very destructive, and that is just, "I don't measure up. I'm not good enough. I'm not Brittney Spears." So what?
Dennis: There are so many of those images.
Bob: Jim, when your journey ultimately led you to join up with Focus on the Family, that had to be one of those little cognitive dissonance, you know, "Do I belong here? Is there really a place for a guy like me and my background here," or was it more of a, you know, for such a time as this, maybe my background was all about me being here?
Jim: No, I think – I worked in business. I graduated with a business degree, and that was my goal. I was just going to try the best I could in the business world and provide for my family, and we set off on that course. And then just out of the blue I was on the phone with someone that worked on Campus Crusade years before, Ron Wilson, and he had moved to Focus on the Family, and he said, "Have you thought about working in nonprofit?" I said, "Not really."
But he said, "Let me give you a call, because there's a position that should come open here at Focus." Well, 10 months went by, and I didn't hear from him.
Dennis: How old were you at this point?
Jim: I'm 28, 29, working with International Paper. And there I was, and I was excited about it. I thought it would be great for the reasons that you described, Bob. It was more about, "That's something I could give my life to – helping families be stronger," given everything I had experienced.
Dennis: I would think, yes.
Jim: You know, that's a call. That's something I could get behind. And I can remember being excited about that. Well, 10 months went, I never heard from Ron at all. I remember saying to the Lord, "Lord, I don't want to make something happen just in case it's not your will. So I'm going to just get my nose back into my work, and if you want to make it happen, can you make it happen?" And 10 months later, I went out – this is amazing – I went out with the plant manager, Tom Schwam (sp), and he said, "Jim, we're going to give you a promotion." I was 28, and it was going to be to head up the sales, the whole sales group in the Western part of the U.S.
I remember driving back from that dinner saying, "Okay, Lord, now I understand what you had in mind. It's this promotion, Jean and I will be able to buy the house we wanted to buy," and I get home that night and on the message machine was Ron Wilson – 10 months later saying, "Jim, that position is available now. Do you still want to apply for it." And I called him the next day, and I said, "It's got to be now."
I went down, interviewed and Focus, you know, it's history. I got there in 1989. So it's just another indication of how the Lord was looking after us, and we were just wanting to be faithful.
Dennis: I think what's cool about that story is you were tested, and your call, you cause, your mission, and you stepped out in faith and obeyed. I think there's a lot of people, Jim, who come to the fork in the road right there, and they waver, and they can't step out – I'm not saying all people need to move in the direction of going to work for a ministry. Some are, I believe, called to the corporate community, and that's their ministry, and that's where they need to make it matter. Focus on the Family and FamilyLife are dependent upon people who are out there in the thick of things there to keep ministries like ours going, but I applaud your faith at that point to be willing at a time when your career path could have taken off and take a step of faith.
I've got one last assignment for you, and this may be the toughest question and assignment I've given you in the three times we've talked to here on FamilyLife Today.
Bob: Hang on, before you spring that on him, can I let our listeners know how they can get a copy of his book?
Dennis: I'll let you do that.
Bob: All right, the book is called "Finding Home," and we have it in our FamilyLife Resource Center. Probably the easiest way to get a copy is to go to our website, FamilyLife.com. On the right side of the home page, you will see a button that says "Today's Broadcast," and in there is a button that says "Learn More." If you click there, it will take you to area of the site where there is more information about our program, transcripts of today's broadcast are available. In fact, you can leave comments, interact with what you've heard today, get in touch with us at FamilyLife Today, and you can also request a copy of the book, "Finding Home" by Jim Daly.
Again, the website is FamilyLife.com, click where it says "Today's Broadcast" on the right side of the screen, and you can request a copy of Jim's book from us online or, if it's easier, call 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, 1-800-358-6329. When you call, just mention you'd like a copy of the book, "Finding Home" by Jim Daly, and someone on our team will make arrangements to have it sent out to you.
And let me also mention that this month we are asking listeners to consider making a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today, and when you do, there is a CD we'd love to send you that features a message by our friend, Stu Weber. Stu is a former Army Ranger and a Green Beret. He served in Vietnam and today he is the pastor of a church in suburban Portland, Oregon, and Stu really understands what's at the heart of biblical masculinity. This message is called "Applied Manhood," and in it Stu helps us understand, as guys, what it means to be a man, and how we can live in balance as a man.
Now, the CD is our way of saying thank you for your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today when you make a donation of any amount, and you can do that online or by calling 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation. If you're donating online, when you come to the keycode box on the donation form, we need you to type the word "Stu" in there – s-t-u – and that way we'll know to send you a copy of Stu Weber's CD. If you're calling to make your donation at 1-800-FLTODAY just mention that you'd like the CD on manhood, or the CD by Stu Weber. We'll know what you're talking about and, again, we're happy to send it out to you. We appreciate your partnership with us and, again, this is our way of saying thanks for helping us and keeping us on the air in this city and in other cities all across the country. Dennis?
Dennis: Well, Jim Daly, it's been an honor to have you here at FamilyLife, and Focus on the Family are great partners. We're involved in a number of partnerships with you guys in collaborative efforts to strengthen the church and give the orphans a voice. And already this week we've heard the story that you talk about in your book, just the drama of the family you came from.
And we know that your mom wasn't perfect, and your dad wasn't perfect, but one of the things I've done from time to time just to show the power of honor and the power of the Fifth Commandment is to ask a guest to give their parents a tribute, a verbal tribute as we close the broadcast. And just a few moments ago you went back in my office, and I showed you the tribute I'd written to my mom before she died and then to my father after he was gone. And both of your parents are gone, but I was wondering if you would mind, right now, giving both your mom and your dad a tribute and, basically, what I'd like you to do is just picture them seated right across from you here in the studio and just honor them with a verbal tribute. Would you do that?
Jim: Absolutely. If my mom were here, I'd say, "Mom, thank you for the lessons, thank you for the humor, thank you for your unyielding love, unconditional love that I felt from you and all those wonderful lessons that you provided. And thank you for lifting my spirits when I was down, even that time when I was seven and Dad didn't bring the mitt. I can remember you encouraging me and taking care of those things by bringing a different gift for me. So, Mom, I love you. Thank you, thank you for being my mom.
And, Dad, Dad, I know you love me. I want to say thank you for the times you ran your fingers through my hair and gave me a hug. But, Dad, those broken promises, know that I learned from them; that I'm not going to repeat that; that I love you even though so many times you let me down. But you're still my dad, and I care about you. I want to say thank you for bringing me into this world, for letting God do what He would do in my life by giving me physical life. And although you weren't there so many times, there were times that your hug and your smile and breakfast on Sunday made a world of difference to me. So thank you, thank you, Dad.
Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow.
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