Geeked: very hyper or excited about something or someone.
Raheem was all geeked up when he found out we were going to the Super Bowl.
Until this past weekend in Grand Rapids, Michigan I’d never heard that term. Is this a Michigan thing, or am I simply out of the loop?
Several people let me know that my testimony got them “all geeked up”. One man asked if my dad is “geeked” that I’ve surrendered my life to God and left the porn business. I told him “yes”, because after a split second of contemplation I decided he must mean “stoked”, as in, “Is your dad stoked that you’ve left porn?” Or perhaps “psyched”, as in, “Is your dad psyched that you’ve left porn?”
Whether psyched or stoked or geeked, many people are very happy that I no longer produce pornography. From my ex-wife to her Aunt Nancy, to her cousin Tracy, to her mother Barbara; from my father Donny to my mother Phyllis to both of my dead grandparents, Robert and Margaret (for whom I feel confident I can speak in this case), people are very pleased. Even “Snuggly” (also known as Dave Belles) and Danielle, a couple whom I just met this weekend, are very happy about my surrender to God. By the way, Snuggly, I made a promise to J.R. that I’d reveal the nickname you so love to the world, and I am a man of my word. Snuggly now goes down in Internet History! (Tee Hee Hee)
There are others not so happy about it. Belinda thinks I’ve completely lost my mind. My best friend John agrees with her. One of Playboy’s Vice Presidents emailed me a one word message that read simply, “Jesus?” to which I replied, “Yes, Jesus!”
This weekend was a fantastic experience. XXXChurch had me flown in late Friday evening. On Saturday morning I told my story in front of 540 men at a men’s breakfast labeled Porn and Pancakes. What I didn’t know was that I’d also be speaking twice on Sunday morning in front of the congregation of a church known as Daybreak. They have a service at 9:45am followed by a service at 11am. The butterflies in my stomach began a mad flutter when a man I met Saturday night at a Progressive Dinner told me the Daybreak congregation totals between 1,500 and 2,000 people. I’ve never spoken in front of such a crowd.
With that in mind I lost my appetite, but thankfully it didn’t stay away for long and I enjoyed a great dinner experience with J.R.’s neighbors – thanks for letting me hang out with all of you! The appetizers were incredible, the stuffed Salmon was excellent, and the potatoes were to die for. The conversation during desert had to be my favorite part of that evening, however. I sincerely hope JR’s neighbor Sharon has recovered from the heart attack she suffered upon hearing the answer to her question. Our conversation went something like this:
“Hello, I’m Sharon. Nice to meet you!”
“Hey Sharon. I’m Donny. It’s good meeting you too!”
“So, Donny, what do you do for a living?”
“Well, I was a porn producer for the last 9 years, but…”
(a loud thunk may or may not have been heard at this point)
Sharon? Are you okay? Do you need to be taken to the hospital?
On Saturday morning at the Porn and Pancakes event JR Mahon interviewed me on stage. Some of the men that attended let me know they really enjoyed hearing my story. Several of them said they’d simply never considered the material I shared with them and that they’d come to realize consumers of pornography are just as involved with the whole porn-cycle as those who produce it. Others were inspired that I’d give up a financially lucrative career to pursue a personal relationship with Jesus and let me know their faith had been increased by hearing how God’s love for me had finally broken through and had delivered me from the path I’d been walking.
Some of their comments were very flattering, but the Senior Pastor of the church that hosted the event made sure to keep me humble by pulling me aside to provide a bit of counsel I really needed to hear. He wanted to make sure I was aware that I am nowhere near being ready to provide advice for men struggling with porn addiction. I assured him that Bill Giovannetti from my local church constantly reminds of this very same thing. Bill tells me that I’m a Paul, but drives home the part of Paul’s story where it took 3 years from the time of his conversion to the place where his ministry began. I’d like to assure these men of God, and the rest of you, that while I’m both humbled and honored to be allowed to share my story already, when asked for advice I tell most that I’m definitely in no position to be their counselor. Craig Gross, JR Mahon, the staff of XXXChurch or their local Pastoral staff are who they really need to speak with.
For the past several weeks Wes Dupin, Senior Pastor of Daybreak, has been presenting a series of messages called Change Me to his church. When Wes was approached by Craig Gross and familiarized with my story, he agreed it would be perfect to share with his congregation on the last day of the series. When I was told about this I was so humbled and honored I wanted to cry.
The first service scared the crap out of me. While waiting for the time when I’d step out on stage, I nervously bit the nails off my fingers. When those were gone I began chewing the skin below them. Pastor Wes addressed the crowd and prepared them for the alter call that he planned to give after the service. He introduced Craig Gross. Craig talked a bit about the ministry of XXXChurch and shared how, more than 2 years ago, he’d met a porn producer going by the name of “Donovan Phillips” at a porn convention in Las Vegas. He went on to tell about how I had always been friendly to his staff while at shows, and had even introduced some of my friends to them, but that I’d slam the ministry hard on their message boards and in comments posted to their blog. I have the distinction of being the only person ever nuked off their boards because of the horrible way I attacked them. You could say I became a royal pain in their ass.
After sharing a bit of my story, Craig let the crowd know that “Donovan Phillips” was actually “Donny Pauling” and that Donny Pauling had surrendered his life to God and was present to share the story in person. I was invited on stage. As I stepped from behind the curtain into the spotlight the nervousness completely disappeared with the clapping from the audience.
I have to admit it was so much fun to sit on that stage with Craig and Wes, sharing my story with all of the people that attended the two services yesterday morning. The second service was easier than the first.
BUT HERE’S THE PART THAT TOUCHED ME MOST: the way my story touched the people who heard it.
Dozens spoke with me after the services, but 3 of them stand out above the others. At the conclusion of the first story a beautiful woman walked up and wrapped her arms around me, burying her face in my chest. She bawled her eyes out, wetting my shirt with her tears. When she was finally able to talk she thanked me for being so open with the crowd. She particularly appreciated that I was able to admit how much my work hurt the girls I’d recruited into the business. She let me know she hated porn more than she could put into words. As a young girl, her brothers were addicted to porn and used to molest her repeatedly. An ex-husband had also been a porn addict and abused her as well. My story and the responsibility I took for my actions, she told me, had done a lot of healing in her heart. I couldn’t speak. I told her I didn’t know how to respond. I just hugged her tightly until she was finished crying.
I knew God would use my story to help those affected by pornography, but in that same service another woman let me know that she’d been touched by a completely different part of my story: my hatred for Christians. As the son of a Pastor, I had grown to hate Christians and loved throwing my porn-producing profession in their faces at every opportunity. This woman had also developed some of the same feelings, yet she was actively involved in her church. During the alter call that followed the early service she’d come forward to repent of her hatred and had asked God to help her deal with it. A light went off in my head that let me know God wishes to use my life for His glory in more ways than I’d imagined.
During the second service, the scenario of a woman weeping against my chest was repeated. This time it was a beautiful brown-eyed girl who had recently surrendered her own life to God after a past that included serious drug addiction, stripping, and appearing on pornographic websites. She sobbed as she thanked me for leaving porn production for Jesus and let me know she’d been asking God to let her hear stories of people in situations similar to hers. God, she felt, had answered her prayers by allowing her to hear my story and speak with me about her own. I talked to her for quite awhile. If she reads this I want her to know that our conversation helped build my faith as well. Thank you, beautiful Danielle.
My heart is broken and humbled before you. I love you SO MUCH. Tears fill my eyes right now as I think back to all the people with whom I conversed in Michigan. They may use really weird figures of speech, but they were such an encouragement and I thank you thank you thank you for allowing me to meet them. I beg you to continue using my life as an example of your truly amazing grace, which is definitely not a cliché. I crave your presence in my life every day and am overcome by the power of that presence and the depth of your love.
Thank you for sending the word “porn” to Mike Foster’s ears as he prayed to you that day in the shower… thank you that he and Craig Gross obeyed your will and formed the XXXChurch ministry. And thank you for the courage you gave them to be in there on the porn show floor with us, sharing the true love of your Son with those of us who needed to hear and be reminded of it. Jesus would have been in there with us doing the same thing.
Scrub me clean and use me in the same way: to help share that love with the rest of the world.
Keep reminding me, in any way you see fit, that it is not my place to judge anyone else, nor is it acceptable to hate those Pharisees who choose to do so. The latter part of that sentence is the part with which I need the most help.
Use this blog to spread your love, too. I write in the hope that you will do so. Not only do Christians write and comment on what’s written here, many of my posts are also quoted on adult industry message boards where others read what you’re doing in my life. Even though some of them ridicule me I realize seeds continue to be planted despite that ridicule. I smile as I read their comments.
I SOOO look forward to discovering where this journey leads next. I’m ready to do whatever you ask.
When the podcast is available I’ll make sure to blog about it so you can all hear it for yourselves.