FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Foolish Is as Foolish Does

with Andrew Palau | April 5, 2012
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Former prodigal Andrew Palau knows what it's like to walk far away from God and then to return. Andrew talks about his mischievous childhood and rebellious teen years where he experimented with drugs and alcohol. Andrew helps listeners understand the mind of the prodigal.

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  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Former prodigal Andrew Palau knows what it's like to walk far away from God and then to return. Andrew talks about his mischievous childhood and rebellious teen years where he experimented with drugs and alcohol. Andrew helps listeners understand the mind of the prodigal.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Former prodigal Andrew Palau knows what it’s like to walk far away from God and then to return.

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Foolish Is as Foolish Does

With Andrew Palau
April 05, 2012
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Bob:  Luis Palau is a well-known international evangelist.  He’s preached to tens of millions of people all around the world.  When his son, Andrew, was a teenager, he was having none of it.  His parents knew there was trouble.

Andrew:  They did know there was trouble.  They had found drug paraphernalia.  They had tried to send me to a camp down in southern Oregon, and I just staunchly refused.  I think they knew that, “If anything good was going to happen in this boy’s life, it’s going to be God’s work.”  They knew it just was going to take a miracle of God. 

But they also always believed that I would become a man of God.  So, in the midst of the most challenging situation, they always had confidence in the Word of God that God could radically transform, and change, and make a difference, and even give me something to do in the Kingdom.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, April 5th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.   Andrew Palau shares with us today about what he put his parents through during his prodigal years.   Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us.  Many times we have shared with listeners the verse in Third John.  Third John 4 says, “I have no greater joy than this that my children are walking in the truth.”  I’ve said to a lot of parents, “If that’s true, then I think the converse may be true as well.  ‘I have no greater pain than this—if my children aren’t doing well spiritually.’”  There’s almost nothing harder for a mom or a dad than to see a son or a daughter who is not doing well in their faith.

Dennis:  Yes.  Barbara and I have experienced that.  Someday I hope we can tell more of the whole story around that, but there’s no love like that of a mom and a dad for their son or daughter.  When they aren’t doing well, I don’t care what else is happening in your life—something’s just haywire.  It’s not right.

We have a guest with us on the broadcast today who knows firsthand what it’s like.  Shall we use the metaphor of what is talked about in the story of the prodigal in the New Testament?  He knows what it’s like to slop with the hogs.

Andrew:  That’s it.

Dennis:  Would that be an overstatement, Andrew?

Andrew:  No.  That’s right in the strike zone.

Dennis:  That’s the voice of Andrew Palau, and he joins us on the broadcast.  Andrew and his wife Wendy have three children.  They live in the Portland area.  He is an evangelist for—maybe you recognize that last name, Palau.  There’s a gentleman from Argentina whose name is Luis Palau, who has had an evangelistic association.  How many years now?

Andrew:  Over 50 years.

Dennis:  Fifty years of faithfully proclaiming the Gospel.  Now, you’re on the team with your dad.

Andrew:  Can you believe it?

Dennis:  But it wasn’t always so; was it?

Andrew:  No.  Joke’s on me.  I’m like a poster child for how this thing works out.

Dennis:  You have written a book, and it’s interesting.  It’s called The Secret Life of a Fool.  You begin the book with a story of a plane crash.  Now, I’m just curious.  Why do you begin with that illustration and that story?

Andrew:  Well, it’s interesting.  I had been thinking about putting a tool together, which would be my testimony—the Gospel around my testimony—for many years—for 18 years now since I came to know Christ.  I was waiting and waiting for the Lord’s timing.  I felt like I needed to get some maturity under my belt and this sort of thing.  I had organized to have someone come and help me to put some of these thoughts together.  We were meeting in Jamaica; my wife is Jamaican. 

On the week before he came out to see us, we were on a plane that crashed on the beach in Kingston, Jamaica.  It just seemed like it was just of the Lord, that in that time, where I recognized some things that I talked about—that Scripture tells us about—that our life is like a vapor, and God doesn’t promise us tomorrow.  Those truths just hit so deeply in this new way for me.  It just seemed like a perfect introduction—as if the Lord doesn’t waste anything.  So He—maybe it was a bit too boring—so He gave me a nice intro.

Bob:  You’re talking pretty calmly about this plane crash.  Were you in a plane, going down, thinking, “This is it”?

Andrew:  No, as a matter of fact.  We were in a plane, and it was going down; but we were unaware of it.  It was me, my wife, my three children.  It was a 737/800—you know—the stretch 737s that they put extra passengers on.  We were in a squall of a rainstorm.  The pilot made a mistake—overshot the runway.  In an instant, we crashed—no warning.  The results were terrible. 

Fortunately, it was one of the few plane crashes of its category in which no one died; but it was very clear to us that God had intervened and protected us, and He was going to use this.  I think the book is one of the ways in which He might bring glory to Himself and help us to recognize that life is serious and we have some work to do.

Dennis:  The book really is the story of a lot of bad decisions.

Andrew:  Yes, endless.

Dennis:  I mean, starting in your teenage years—and the thing I had to ask you—you were a pyromaniac!  You had a lot of experience with gasoline.

Andrew:  Yes, I think boys obviously seem to be inclined toward these kinds of things.  Now, people put Mentos® in a Pepsi® bottle and watch it explode; but we just took it to the wrong level in all kinds of stuff.

Dennis:  Yes.  Tell our listeners about dropping the one-gallon containers of gasoline off the overpass.

Andrew:  Yes, we had the best intentions, of course.  We would fill up the old apple cider jugs—you remember, with the little handle there?  We’d fill it with gas, and put a piece of paper in the top, and do a little Molotov cocktail off of this bridge, onto this road. 

We’d wait until cars were maybe a mile or so back; and as they’d come around the corner, we’d drop it.  It would make a big fireball.  We’d see the cars sort of lock up their brakes and fishtail.  We’d chuckle and run off in the woods.  It was ridiculous. 

I struggled in putting the stories together for the book because it’s sort of shameful.  Even looking you guys in the eyes, I’m going, “Oh, brother.  Do we really have to go there?”; but people do ridiculous things.  They get involved with stuff, and a lot of people can relate.

Bob:  Now, this is Andrew Palau, the son of international evangelist, Luis Palau, who is running off doing these acts of vandalism near your hometown.

Andrew:  Yes.  And there are many others I couldn’t put in the book.  My dad was worried like, “Do you think the police could come after you for some of this stuff?”  “I don’t think so.”

Bob:  Andrew, what were you doing?  You grew up in a home where you heard the Gospel.  You saw the love of Christ.  It was pretty clear.  Your family was walking with the Lord, and you were kind of off here doing your own thing.  What was going on?

Andrew:  Well, I think it was fairly typical rebellion, you know.  It wasn’t really that stereotypical, “I hate God, and I hate religion.  You can’t shove it down my throat”; but it was just this love of self—this selfish, self-centered attitude.

Dennis:  Yes, you talk about it in your book.  You didn’t have a father wound.  You said your dad was really a good father, and your mom and dad committed to each other, and raised you to fear God, to obey Him.  This really became—being a fool—really became a point of identity for you; didn’t it? 

Andrew:  Yes.

Dennis:  It is how you gained acceptance into the crowd and to who you ran around with.

Andrew:  Yes, absolutely.  I think finding a little place where you can do the most ridiculous thing at night and laugh about it the next day.  That’s kind of how I just sort of put notches in my belt and found my place in this world.  Once I found that I was doing well with it, it just stuck; and off I went for 27 years.

Bob:  Did Mom and Dad know what Andrew was off doing, dropping gasoline tanks over the side of the bridge?  Were they aware that any of this was happening in your life?

Andrew:  I think, early on, not so much.  No, I wasn’t after getting their attention or any such thing; but they began to pick up on it.  They were not fools themselves.  They could see the crowd I was running with, and they found drug paraphernalia over time.  These things were foreign to them.  They might not know what a particular instrument was used for; but they know, “It’s up to no good,” and they know it smells and something’s gone wrong.  I probably crashed five cars.  Oh, they were just tearing their hair out.

Bob:  So when would have been the time in your life—was this like when you turned 12 or 13 that you headed on the wrong path?  How long was the period where you’re off doing stuff that Mom and Dad are kind of aware, “Our son is headed in the wrong direction”?

Andrew:  I would say I started drinking and smoking dope when I was probably 13, 14, 15 years old; and I think the idea that that could be happening to them was so foreign that it didn’t come to their awareness for a number of years afterwards.

Dennis:  They were clueless.

Andrew:  They were fairly clueless.  Dad’s Argentine and he didn’t have any experience in such things.  Mom is a straight-laced Oregonian.  They were missionaries on the mission field in Latin America, coming back up to the U.S. when I was about six or seven, and just getting into the swing of the American life.  All-American boy stuff is not that positive, necessarily, these days.  They were a little oblivious, I am sure, to all that, in those early days.

Bob:  So at 13 you’re drinking and starting to smoke dope.

Andrew:  Yes, stealing liquor out of my friends’ parents’ liquor cabinets, stealing beer out of garages.

Dennis:  So help us understand the mind of the prodigal because here’s a parent who is listening, and they’re scared to death their son or their daughter is going to go down a similar trail.  What you’re really describing is a young man who grew up in a home where the Scriptures were taught, right from wrong were contrasted, you had a dad who—I  mean, your dad’s not perfect; but he’s committed to Jesus Christ, and he’s provided a great model of integrity. 

He’s not a dictator.  He’s a sweet-spirited man who has proclaimed Christ around the world.  I mean, were you feeling guilty, filled with shame, and just not even able to look at your parents in the morning as you got ready to go to junior high and high school?

Andrew:  Well, it’s just as you say.  My parents really were gracious to me, loved me and my brothers.  They practiced what they preached inasmuch as is humanly possible.  I don’t know what else they could possibly do; and I had a great church, a great example there in the youth group and the pastor. I didn’t see a lot of hypocrisy there or any such thing; but just from the youngest of ages, I was just determined to go my own way. 

I don’t remember there being a lot of thoughtfulness into, “Their way versus my way.”  I would just see them—I knew that I had their support, and their love, and their encouragement; but I just had such a selfish, self-interested—it’s hard to describe it any other way except for that while I would sort of say, “I’m a lover, not a fighter.”  I wasn’t an angry guy.  I certainly did not care, ultimately, about my parents’ feelings, about the direction they were going. 

I just thought I knew better.  I cared more about what my friends thought of me than I did about them.  It breaks my heart to think of how ignorant I was to the pain that I caused my parents.  Now I’ve got 13- and 14-year-old boys myself, and my little girl, Sadie—I think about them.  “What would drive them to behave that way?  How could they do it?”—the betrayal that you experience.

Dennis:  Yes, the lies and the deceit you had to be expressing toward them.

Andrew:  Even when I showed my mom the book, now 18 years later, and we’re working together in ministry all these years—some of the particular details—I could tell it really hurt her.  It broke her heart, and it made me sad to think of it.  We determined together that this is the story that needs to be told so that people do understand that this does happen and that there is hope.

Bob:  In high school, there were days when you were stoned all day.

Andrew:  Yes.

Bob:  That was just how you were living life.  By this time, Mom and Dad had to know, “We’ve got some trouble here.”

Andrew:  Yes.  It’s amazing how much I did play it off, though.  I would just go day by day and show up at the house and play things off quite well.  They did know there was trouble.  They had found drug paraphernalia.  They had tried to send me to a camp down in southern Oregon, and I just staunchly refused.  I think they knew, “If anything good was going to happen in this boy’s life, it’s going to be God’s work.  We will be this example.  We will live the life as a testimony that when we say God offers life, and life in abundance—when the Scripture tells us about these things, that it’s actually the fact.” 

They decided to live that life, to pray faithfully for me, and to share with me the Good News because they knew that the Good News was the power of God unto salvation for my life.  They knew that nothing they could do to manipulate me or to introduce various reasonable considerations would change me.  They knew it just was going to take a miracle of God; but they also always believed that I would become a man of God.  So in the midst of the most challenging situation, they always had confidence in the Word of God that God could radically transform, and change, and make a difference, and even give me something to do in the Kingdom.

Dennis:  You actually had a grandmother who believed you would proclaim the Gospel.

Andrew:  Yes, and she mentioned it in a sort of obviously prophetic way when I was born.  We were in Cali, Colombia, where I was born.  Dad called and said, “Here’s this third little rascal.”  She said, “Well, I believe this one is going to be an evangelist.”  Dad believed it.  She wasn’t prone to giving such pronouncements; but she said it, and he grabbed on to it, held on to it, mentioned it to me here and there along the way, just to get my goat, I think.  Lo and behold, the joke is on me.

Bob:  Were there times, in the midst of this, when you decided, “I have to clean up my act.  I have to quit drinking.  I have to quit smoking.  I can tell that this is the wrong path I’m on, and I’m going to reform myself for a few days or a week.”  Did you have that; or was it just like, “I am loving life, and this is how life’s going to be for me.”

Andrew:  Not really—maybe, to let things simmer down.  I didn’t want to get in trouble.  I hated confrontation, so I would try to let things simmer down; but I never said, “I’m going to quit smoking.  I’m going to quit drinking.”  I just found an easier way to do it and stay out of trouble.

Bob:  Was there ever an intervention, ever a time when your parents or anybody else sat down and said, “Look, Andrew, we’ve got to get help for you.”

Andrew:  There were some attempts, but I just resisted them.  I think that my parents pressed it to the point where they realized, “We have to decide now:   Are we kicking him out of the house, or are we going to hold him closer and try to bring any introduction of the things of God in the ways we can for the years that we have him?” 

They chose not to throw me out of the house, not to wring my neck—God bless them!  They had every reason and right in the world, but they decided to hold me closer and try to express the love of God in tangible ways and let me know that they loved me and that they had hope for me.  That’s the route that they took.

Bob:  Looking back, is there anything your mom or dad could have done differently, when you were in high school, that might have taken you on a different course?

Andrew:  I don’t think they could have done anything that would have taken me down a different course.  That’s a great question.  I sometimes can’t believe that they didn’t just crack down on me a little harder; but the fact of the matter is, I don’t think that would have made a difference for me. 

I was so determined.  When you—if you read the book, and you look at all the incidents that I went through until the Lord, finally, in His mercy, intervened and revealed Himself to me, you would see, “What could a parent do that that kind of frightening situation wouldn’t have done to shape this guy up?”

Dennis:  Your behavior was insane.

Andrew:  Yes.  It was ridiculous.

Bob:  When you talk, Secret Life of a Fool; right?

Dennis:  Secret Life of a Fool.  You were betraying the laws of God—the law of gravity; and when you betray the law of gravity, you’re going to get profoundly hurt.

Andrew:  Yes.

Dennis:  We’re going to talk a little bit later about your personal conversion to Christ and how, even though you grew up in an evangelist’s home, it wasn’t until really 18 years ago—and you’re 45 now.  When you were 27—when you, ultimately, came to faith in Christ.  But I’m just wondering right now—if we’re talking and a guy who has either clicked on the radio and come across your story, and he’s been riveted by The Secret Life of a Fool.  He’s going, “That’s me.  I can’t wait until tomorrow to hear the rest of the story.”  What would you say to him, right now, and Who would you introduce him to?

Andrew:  Yes.  Well, I would really encourage anyone who has wandered on to this station—I would say, “It is not by chance that you are here.”  If you feel compelled and you feel like things are occurring in your life that are drawing you to consider things differently—that that is exactly what is happening.  The Lord loves you, and He is after you.  The Bible says that the Enemy comes to kill and to destroy; but God says to you, “I offer you life and life in abundance.”  It’s real and it’s possible for you.

You’re never too far from the Lord.  You know, the thing that you need to realize is that God loves you.  He says in Jeremiah, “Before I created you in your mother’s womb, I knew you.”  That’s one of the little illustrations, of which there are many across Scripture, where He tries to help you understand that He loves you deeply, and He understands, and He knows you because He created you.  He created you for a purpose, and for each of us it was to be in a relationship with Him.  That is the purpose for which you were created. 

We have a problem.  The purpose for which we were created for is broken, and you’re not alone.  I mentioned it earlier in the program.  The Bible says in Isaiah, “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each one to their own way.”  That sounds like bad news, and it is; but the Good News, which we’re always left with, is that it goes on to say, “But God laid on Jesus the sins of us all.”  No matter how far you’ve gone, there is hope. 

That is exactly why Jesus Christ went to the cross because there is a penalty to be paid.  You feel it pressing down on you, and you struggle to sleep at night because of the burden of the shame and guilt of your life.  I know.  I struggled with that so much, and I used alcohol to cover that up and to hide from that reality; but the relationship you were made for can be made whole again because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. 

You know, we’re all created by God; but we don’t become His child until we believe in Him and receive Him.  This is what I would call you to do.  What is going so well in your life right now?  I would challenge you to consider that, “You would reject an offer like this?  The God of the universe calling you, saying, ‘Come, walk with Me.  Be my child.  I am faithful and I am able to forgive you, to cleanse you, and to bring you into My family.’” I would urge you to do it.  You hear Him knocking at the door of your heart?  Open the door and He will do this work in your life.

Dennis:  And He does come in, and He does make all things new.  I was thinking of John, Chapter 5, as you were talking there, Andrew.  Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you.  Whoever hears My Word and believes Him Who sent Me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgment but is passed from death to life.” 

All that shame and guilt that you’ve expressed in this broadcast—Jesus Christ came to bear and to release us from.  I just say to that person, who is listening, if you’ve never done this—pull off to the side of the road, stop what you’re doing—maybe it’s after work.  If you need to still maintain what you’re doing at work, but just get down on your knees and say, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner, and come in because I hear You knocking.”

Bob:  The remodeling starts when we say, “Lord, I hear You. I’m ready.”  If our listeners, hearing Andrew’s story, are thinking, “You know what?  I’ve been living the wrong way.  I’m ready for the remodeling to happen in my own life,” let me encourage you—go to  Click on the link that you see there that says, “Two Ways to Live”.  Read through that online presentation about the choices we make in life—how we’re going to choose to live our lives.

Again, go to  Click the link that says, “Two Ways to Live”.  If you’re ready today to take the step of entering into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we’d like to send you a book called Pursuing God.  We’ll send it absolutely free, with no strings attached.  Just go to and request your copy, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to request a copy.  Again, the book is called Pursuing God.  We think it will be helpful as you begin taking those first steps toward God and a relationship with Him.

Let me also encourage you to get a copy of the new book that Andrew Palau has written, his autobiography.  It’s called The Secret Life of a Fool.  You can request a copy when you go online at, or call us toll-free: 1-800-358-6329.  That’s 1-800 “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.  Ask for a copy of Andrew Palau’s new book, The Secret Life of a Fool, when you get in touch with us.

Now, we also want to make sure we say, “Thank you,” to those listeners who occasionally will get in touch with us and express your support for this program by making a donation.  We are listener-supported.  It’s the money we receive from listeners like you that helps pay the cost of producing and syndicating this daily radio program.

So we’re always encouraged when we hear from you.  That’s an indication that God is using this program in your life, and we love getting your feedback and your comments as well.  This week, if you can support us with a donation, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you Barbara Rainey’s new devotional guide for families called Growing Together in Forgiveness—seven stories to be read aloud to the family to help you cultivate a culture of forgiveness in your own heart and in your own home.

When you go online at to make an online donation, you click the link that says, “I Care”.  When you make your online donation, we’ll get a copy of Barbara’s book sent out to you; or call toll-free 1-800-FL-TODAY.  You can make a donation over the phone, and just ask for your copy of the forgiveness devotional when you get in touch with us.  Again, we want to say, “Thanks,” in advance for your support.  We appreciate your partnership with us here at FamilyLife Today.


And we hope you can be back with us again tomorrow.  Andrew Palau is going to be here again.  We’re going to hear about the turning point in his life that came as he heard his father preach the Gospel again.  I hope you can join us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today

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