Category Archives: recovery

The Principle of the Path on Getting Lost

This continues my discussion of Andy Stanley’s book, The Principle of the Path. The principle says: the direction you take in life, not your intentions, determine where you will end up. If you head into an uncharted forest, you will probably get lost even if that is not your intention.

The sad thing about getting lost in life is you usually don’t find your way back in hours or days. Typically you stay lost for years, even decades. Maybe you can relate.

Is Getting Lost God’s Fault?

I’ve had many people complain to me about their situation in life. They chart a life of self-destruction and then when it blows up they say, Why did God let this happen to me? Whoa. Say what? How did this become God’s fault? Most often, their situation is a result of their choosing to walk a certain path with very predictable results. To blame the consequences on God is an easy way to dodge responsibility. They need to own the consequences.

Good Intentions Aren’t Good Enough

Andy Stanley describes their problem saying that people don’t understand the connection between their behavior and the consequences that follow:

They’ve come to believe the popular notion that as long as their intentions are good, as long as their hearts are in the right place (whatever that means), as long as they do their best and try their hardest, it doesn’t really matter which path they take. They believe somehow they will end up in a good place. But life doesn’t work that way. page 20

He Partied Like a Rock Star

In chapter three he uses an example from the book of Proverbs in the Bible. It’s a story of a young man who goes to town and is seduced by a prostitute. He doesn’t see the down side to his decision. He feels like a rock star in a club but Proverbs says, “…he followed her like an ox led to slaughter”…like a deer stepping into a noose…like a bird flying into a snare…he has no idea it will cost him his life.” (Proverbs 7:22,23)

Why Do We Choose to Blow Up Our Lives?

Any casual observer can see the foolishness of his decision. Why can’t he see his fate? There are a few reasons:

  • He lacks experience. He doesn’t have the wisdom to connect the dots.
  • He minimizes and justifies his behavior, rationalizing why it’s not that bad. Why he deserves it.
  • He is proud. He thinks he’s the exception. Only fools are led astray. That won’t happen to him.
  • He tells himself it’s a one time event. He’ll just do it this once and be over it.

Do these excuses look familiar?  Have you used them in the past or are you using them now?

I write this blog to help people reclaim their life. My hope in reviewing The Principle of the Path is that you will use the wisdom to not just reclaim your life but hopefully prevent you from losing it in the first place.

Question: Which of the excuses above have you used? How many years did you decision keep you lost? Leave your comments below. Thanks.

Hard Times Reveal Strength or Weakness

You never know how prepared you are until you hit hard times. Andy Stanley makes this point in his book, The Principle of the Path. This is part three in a series on the book.

Hard Times Don’t Cause Problems. Hard Times Reveal Problems.

It’s true isn’t it? Hard times are revealing. Andy says that economic downturns don’t cause problems as much as they reveal them. When you are flush with income, it doesn’t really matter how well you save or invest. You can afford to run up some debt because you always have enough to make the next payment. No one really knows if you are financially responsible or not because there is always enough money to go around.

But turn off the cash flow and it’s amazing what you find.  Some people are able to whether the storm because they’ve developed a cash reserve. They aren’t overextended on credit so they don’t have many bills to pay. Others aren’t so lucky. When the money dries up they are in crisis. No reserves and heavily leveraged.

Warren Buffet said you never know who is skinny dipping until the tide goes out. Exactly. Hard times are revealing.

Death and Sickness Reveal Your Relational Path

I’m currently involved in a funeral preparation for a family in my church.  As I drove away from the hospital on the night of the death I was impressed with the level of support that immediately surrounded the family of the deceased.  I have another church member suffering a significant, life-threatening disease. They too have been pleasantly surprised at the depth of support they have received during this time. As hard as these two situations are, they both revealed something very positive.  Through the years they walked a path that cultivated strong relationships with quality people.

What Path Are You Following?

But not everyone is so lucky. The Principle of the Path is a warning that we are all on a path somewhere.  You might think life is good and you are headed in the right direction until you hit hard times. You might not have the money you thought you had. You might not have the friends you thought you had. You might not have the connection with God that you wished you had.

The Principle of the Path asks, if you hit hard times today, are you deep enough financially, relationaly, spiritually, etc. to not just survive but overcome?  Answer that question and then make the corrections necessary to get on the path that will help you thrive, even in the face of hard times.

Question: What have hard times revealed in your life? Leave your comment below.

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Lance Armstrong and The Principle of the Path

I started discussing The Principle of the Path last week before Lance Armstrong hit the news. But actually, Lance Armstrong is a great example for this discussion. lance armstrong

The Principle of the Path is a book by Andy Stanley.

The Principle of the Path is this: Direction, not intention, determines our destination. It doesn’t matter how much you want to go to Florida. If you are driving north out of Chicago, it’s not going to happen.

We Need A New Direction, Not a Solution

In chapter two of The Principle of the Path, Andy makes an interesting point: we often don’t need a solution. We need a new direction. For example, if I find myself in Green Bay after driving two hours north of Chicago, I don’t need a solution. There is no solution. There is no quick fix. What I need is a new direction. I’ve got to admit that I’ve wasted four hours, turn around, and get on the road to Florida.

Lance Armstrong Doesn’t Need a Solution

This is where Lance Armstrong might heed Andy’s advice. Lance doesn’t need a solution right now. Nothing will fix what he broke. He might think that making an apology will at least buy him back the right to compete in future sporting events. But if he looks at his apology as a solution he’s sadly mistaken. What people want to see is a new direction. They want to see that month after month and year after year he follows a new path. Then, and only then, might they decide to grant him the right to compete again.

The Mistake of Apologies

This is where offenders often go wrong. They come clean and confess. That is SO HUGE to them they think they’ve done something radical. Something noble. They think they’ve found a solution to their problem. They want the world to applaud them and allow them to continue on. But that’s only the beginning, not the end.

What people do after the apology tells us what we want to know: will they follow a new path? Have they found the right direction? Will they stay the course? Only time will tell if Lance Armstrong sets a new course and follows it as closely as he followed his bike tour routes.

Are You Looking for a Solution or a New Direction?

What about you? Maybe you are in a jam right now. You realize that you’ve blown it. Are your scrambling for a solution? Desperate for THE answer? Consider a new direction.

New Direction + Time = A Better Place

Question: Can you relate to this distinction between solution and direction? Have you wasted time looking for a solution when what you needed was to start moving in a new direction? Take a second and tell me about it below.

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The Principle of the Path and Good Decision-Making

I’ve read a number of self-help books and I’ve found that they often fail in two areas: one, they focus too much on the problem and not enough on the solution. You might say they focus more on the “self” part than the “help” part. At first they seem helpful because they described your problem well but then you realize you are no better off.

The other problem with self-help books is they are too complex. Either they tell you way more than you need to know or they use terminology that is best left in the classroom. People don’t need to know the name of the psychologist who first proposed a theory. They need to know the next step to take TODAY to recover from the mess they are in.

Andy Stanley Knows Good Decision-Making

One writer that understands how to help people is Andy Stanley. He speaks on a variety of topics but the area that he excels at is how to make good decisions. It seems so easy, yet a series of bad decisions over a period of days can get you in so deep that it takes years to recover.

The Principle of the Path

In his book, The Principle of the Path, Andy starts by telling how he and his buddy narrowly avoided driving off a newly constructed freeway that led right into a swamp. They bypassed barriers late at night thinking the freeway was nearly complete. It wasn’t. He takes this simple analogy to teach what he calls, The Principle of the Path: direction, not intention, leads to your destination.

He and his buddy were headed into a swamp. It didn’t matter that they didn’t know about the swamp. It didn’t matter that they didn’t want to crash into the swamp. It also didn’t matter that they were hoping to save a little time and get home early. The minute they bypassed the barriers and headed down the freeway, their destination WAS the swamp. It was only a fluke encounter that kept them from reaching their destination.

What Barriers Have You Crossed?

You might look at that analogy and say, “Well, duh. Only idiots bypass road construction barriers.” But stop and think about some of the barriers you’ve crossed, maybe not on the freeway, but what about financial barriers, or relational barriers, or sexual barriers…areas you knew you shouldn’t go but went anyway, hoping for the best…only the best didn’t happen. Or there might be spiritual or health barriers you crossed.

I’m going to take a few days to walk through some of the better insights in The Principle of the Path. Look for them in the days to come. My hope is to help us see the “swamp” coming up before you hit it and avert some disasters.

Question: What are some of the “swamps” you drove into from bypassing barriers?

Finding Your Life After Living in Exile

A while back I did a series of posts on how to recover from a “Crash and Burn” experience.  It came from a series of talks I did about the Bible stories that tell of the years that Jews lived in exile.

Living in exile

I’d like to revisit that idea. In fact, I’m toying with the idea for a future book. I thought I might just explore the idea here with you for a minute.

The Bible is a Story of Exile

As I looked at the Bible, it dawned on me   that you could look at the entire narrative as following an exile motif, that is, an overarching theme of exile.  You barely get into the Bible when God sends Adam and Eve into exile from the Garden of Eden. Humanity is still in that exile today.

Or in Genesis 12, God calls Abraham to the Promised Land. But when he arrives he faces a famine and goes to Egypt, “in exile”.  After returning to Canaan his descendants again return to Egypt to live for over 400 years in exile.

Even after they escape they remain in the Wilderness for another 40 years.  At last they return to The Promised Land, but a few hundred years later they land in exile again, this time in Babylon.

Finally, both Jews and Christians scatter from Jerusalem after the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D.  As the Bible says, we travel as aliens and strangers in a foreign land.

Exile is Our Story

I find the Bible’s theme of exile comforting because it was in those hard places that people met God.  So when we find ourselves in a personal exile: divorced, unemployed, grieving a death, displaced, de-friended, or any one of a number of lonely places in life, we can find a Bible story that speaks to us.  We learn of a God who is present to comfort us and lead us back to a land of promise.

Question: What exile are you in now or have you been in the past? Please leave a comment below.

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God Comforts Devastated People

Do you ever wonder how God feels when you’ve totally screwed up your life?  I love the Bible because you don’t have to wonder.  Story after story tells you what God thinks: God comforts devastated people.


God comforts devastated people.

One story is about Jerusalem.  Jerusalem was destroyed, people were killed, and the rest of the people were taken to live in captivity in Babylon, modern-day Iraq.

As you can imagine, the people were devastated. They were sick that their rejection of God had caused them to self-destruct, but worse than that, they were convinced God had broken his covenant with them. They felt abandoned by God. 

Do You Feel Disregarded by God?

In fact, the Bible tells us one of their complaints. They say…

My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God. Isaiah 40:27

Israel was at fault.  They disobeyed God for generations and wondered if God would ever have anything to do with them again.

You might feel the same way… like you messed up and now you are on the outside looking in. You worry that God has washed his hands of you.

When people go through hard times, they wonder, Does God care?  

God Comforts Devastated People.

God answers that question. He speaks to his prophet, Isaiah, telling him what to tell his people:

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. Isaiah 40:1,2

God tells Isaiah to comfort the people and speak tenderly to them. Those are good first words aren’t they? I’m glad God’s first words weren’t “Tell them to get their act together!” The word “comfort” literally means to “cause to breathe again”. The worst was over and now they could breathe again.  God hadn’t abandoned them.

Maybe that’s what you need to hear today. Maybe it’s time for you to breathe again. God doesn’t want to condemn you. He wants to speak tenderly to you and help you start over again.

Reclaim Your Life by Reframing Your Life

This post is a rant/plea that comes on the heels of my speaking at the treatment center today.  I’m taking a break in my series on God’s forgiveness to simply share my heart. My hope is to inspire you to reclaim your life.

Reclaim Your Life

Reclaim Your Life

I was talking to my group today about some practical steps they could take to forgive their offenders and reclaim their lives; things like: set boundaries for your life, get a good support system, etc.  As I spoke it struck me how these aren’t just “helpful tips”.  These could be the difference between life and death.

Some Give Up

I flashed back to a funeral I did two weeks ago for a young client who ended their life. They had been in treatment earlier this year but found recovery too hard and opted out. I spoke to some of the friends at the funeral who were also in recovery. I  asked them to not grow weary in their journey. They could reclaim their life with God’s help.

As I spoke this morning, I stopped and reminded the group about this and how much I want them to succeed. I don’t just teach a class and go home. I love these people. Many of them are in treatment for a few months and start attending my church. I get to know them.  I want them to know that they can reclaim their life. It’s not impossible.

Reclaim Your Life by Reframing Your Life

I just wish they could see what I see in them. I don’t know anything about their history other than they have an addiction. I wasn’t there when they overdosed or spent time in jail or woke up in bed with a stranger or got fired from their job, or lost custody of their kids, etc.  None of those images cloud my view of them.

I see who they are TODAY and who they CAN be tomorrow.  I see them at their best. I see a room full of possibilities. But I’m afraid when they look in the mirror they see a history of defeat.

See What God Sees

I mention this because I think God sees us more like I see these people. He chooses to not remember our past. He forgives our past and invests in our present so we can reclaim our future.  If I am full of compassion and want only the best for people…how much more does God feel these things?

I encounter so many people every week whose life gets very narrow. They stop seeing the possibilities and live in dread of the worst case scenario. If we could only see in ourselves what God sees in us. We have to stop looking at our future through the lens of our past.

I wonder about you today. I hope you are in a good place emotionally and spiritually. But if you are not I want to speak a word of encouragement to you. You can reclaim your life. I don’t care what happened yesterday or today…how much ground you think you lost. You can get it back and more.

Question: What makes you feel like giving up? Leave your comment below or, for confidentiality, reply to me directly at

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