Donny's Ramblings


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It Sucked and then I Cried

For several years now I’ve read a blog called Dooce.com, written by a mommy-blogger named Heather Armstrong.  I can’t recall exactly how many years I’ve been reading, but I know that when I started reading it I was still blogging about producing porn here on this blog.  I remember this, because I attempted to purchase advertising on Heather’s blog and was promptly turned down.  Since finding Jesus (who was hiding under the bed) I’ve not attempted to advertise on Heather’s blog again.  Mostly because I no longer possess much of that stuff we call “money” and therefore cannot afford such luxuries as advertising.

But I still read it.

If you’re a stick in the mud, you might not appreciate Heather’s irreverent humor. I dig it. She’s hilarious. And besides her witty blog posts, her website also contains daily photos where one might find a sweet photo of her daughter Leta, perhaps witness some random object resting comfortably on her dog’s head, or even the latest mascara she purchased at Sephora.  Yes, I find myself clicking on such photos as Mascara. Why?  Because often times there’s an amusing caption below it.  I love to laugh, Heather’s site delivers numerous reasons to do so,  so I return to it.  Daily.

Heather’s book “It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita” humorously chronicles Heather’s experiences becoming a first time mother. She holds nothing back, even when discussing how postpartum depression led to a short stay in a mental institution, and proves even such things as stays in the loony bin can be presented humorously.  And should you decide to read it, be prepared to learn more than you ever wanted to know about poop.

This past Wednesday, facing a long drive of 250 miles (each way) in order to attend the nearest book signing, I emailed Heather’s husband Jon to make sure the schedule hadn’t changed. He was kind enough to let me know that the previous evening’s signing in Portland was so well attended that several people had to be turned away, so if I wanted to insure a seat I’d likely want to show up early. I did so… 2 hours early in fact. I passed the time reading the first several chapters of the book and talking to the ladies who began to arrive not long after I did. For the longest time I was the only man in the waiting audience. In fact, I think I was probably the only single man period. If you look hard enough you might see another male or two in the crowd, but I’m certain they were drug to the event by a wife or girlfriend:

Listening to Heather Speak

Heather is just as funny in person as she is on her blog, or in her book:

Heather Armstrong Reading Her Book

If you listen closely, you might hear a mangling of English words. On this particular evening I witnessed Heather pronounce the word “crayon” the same way you or I would say the word “crown”. Apparently, a BYU degree in English does not come with a requirement to lose the southern drawl.  Which is fortunate, because it makes listening to Heather even more entertaining.  🙂

I was 4th in line to have my own copy signed:

Signing "It Sucked and then I Cried"

I’ve now read the majority of the book (a handful of pages remain before I’ve finished it). It’s very entertaining and very funny.  I particularly think mothers would enjoy and identify with it, but men shouldn’t be afraid to pick up a copy as well (and gentlemen, should you need to explain your purchase to someone just say you have a friend who needs to be scared out of impregnating his wife, and the purchase is a gift for HIM 😉 ).

Click the photo to be taken to the Amazon.com site selling Heather’s Book:


“It Sucked and Then I Cried:
How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita”

PS: It Sucked and Then I Cried has already made the New York Times Best Sellers list. Congrats to Heather for that!


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Dinesh D'Souza's "What's So Great About Christianity"

On May 19th I posted my controversial To Carrie, Regarding Atheism blog. On the 30th of May I followed up with a promise that I’d post scientific evidence for God in a future blog entry. It was my intention to create another blog post listing detailed references. I first planned to read a bit more, organize my thoughts and the evidences I’d found, and list them all out in another long, detailed blog post. But then I read this book:

With this book, D’Souza did exactly what I intended to do with my blog post, but in much more detail than I possible could have done. It is my opinion that if an atheist can read this book and not be convinced by the evidence presented… well, nothing will change his or her mind.

In the first 80 pages Mr. D’Souza addresses topics relating specifically to Christianity. He writes about such things as the murders during the Crusades, putting a proper perspective on them. He points out how many deaths resulted and over how many years, and then as a comparison he discusses the killings attributed to atheistic regimes throughout history. He also addresses several other topics that have been used to “attack” Christianity. All were good, but I was much more interested in the book AFTER I’d read beyond those first “defense of Christianity” pages. After all, I wanted to get to the scientific evidence for God.

And boy, was I happy to get there!

For now, I won’t say much more. I highly recommend buying this book for any friend that has “atheistic” tendencies or a hatred of Christianity. But before you give it to them, read it yourself! I’ve handed my copy out to others (my dad has it at the moment), and sent a copy to Carrie as well. When my dad returns the book to me I may write another entry on this subject, quoting a bit of D’Souza’s writings. I think, however, that this book needs to go in my “books that changed me” section over in the right column.

Buy it today. Just do it!

(Oh, and special thanks to Bill Giovannetti, my Pastor, for recommending that I read it)


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Dinesh D’Souza’s “What’s So Great About Christianity”

On May 19th I posted my controversial To Carrie, Regarding Atheism blog. On the 30th of May I followed up with a promise that I’d post scientific evidence for God in a future blog entry. It was my intention to create another blog post listing detailed references. I first planned to read a bit more, organize my thoughts and the evidences I’d found, and list them all out in another long, detailed blog post. But then I read this book:

With this book, D’Souza did exactly what I intended to do with my blog post, but in much more detail than I possible could have done. It is my opinion that if an atheist can read this book and not be convinced by the evidence presented… well, nothing will change his or her mind.

In the first 80 pages Mr. D’Souza addresses topics relating specifically to Christianity. He writes about such things as the murders during the Crusades, putting a proper perspective on them. He points out how many deaths resulted and over how many years, and then as a comparison he discusses the killings attributed to atheistic regimes throughout history. He also addresses several other topics that have been used to “attack” Christianity. All were good, but I was much more interested in the book AFTER I’d read beyond those first “defense of Christianity” pages. After all, I wanted to get to the scientific evidence for God.

And boy, was I happy to get there!

For now, I won’t say much more. I highly recommend buying this book for any friend that has “atheistic” tendencies or a hatred of Christianity. But before you give it to them, read it yourself! I’ve handed my copy out to others (my dad has it at the moment), and sent a copy to Carrie as well. When my dad returns the book to me I may write another entry on this subject, quoting a bit of D’Souza’s writings. I think, however, that this book needs to go in my “books that changed me” section over in the right column.

Buy it today. Just do it!

(Oh, and special thanks to Bill Giovannetti, my Pastor, for recommending that I read it)


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Books

I’ve been receiving books from major publishing companies (such as Zondervan, Thomas Nelson and others) in the hopes that I’ll read and review them for you, my constant readers. Their arrival is usually preceded by an email telling me the title of a book they’d like me to review, and a brief summary of the contents. I’m honored to be asked to do this. I didn’t contact them. They contacted me.

So what this means is that at some point very soon I’ll have another tab up there at the top of the page called “Book Reviews” (or something similar). And I’ll be brutally honest with my opinions of each book.

I plan to publish each review as a main article right here on my blog home page, and then archive a link to each article on the new “Book Reviews” page I just mentioned. I’m excited.

I’m guessing my recommendations of Donald Miller’s and Rob Bell’s books have caught someone’s attention.

They picked the right guy. I love to read.

Love it, love it, love it….


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Emotional Roller Coaster, a Healed Ear and a 45lbs Lighter Donny

I started writing this on April 3rd, 11 days ago. I wrote most of it, saved it as a draft, and haven’t returned to finish it. Today I intend to do so.

Before becoming a Christian, I’d never seriously considered ending my life.

Ever.

Ever ever ever.

So after surrendering my life to God… after He begins doing amazing, powerful, profound things for me… after having real encounters with the Creator of the Universe… why is it that after all of that I arrived at a place where I seriously wished to die?

This happened just a few days short of a month ago. John says I played it down when I very briefly mentioned it in my “Dear Daphne” letter. He says I did so because I’m afraid that if I tell the truth people won’t like me as much. People might stop reading my blog. People might think I’m not really a Christian. People might think I’m crazy and, as such, might not want to listen to me speak.

John is very blunt. I love him. He’s my best friend and he knows me pretty damned well. He calls it like he sees it and trusts me enough to know I won’t be offended when he does so. He knows I respect that about him.

And really, what is there to be afraid of? I discuss everything here, and because of that I’ve received dozens of emails thanking me for being transparent. Telling me that this blog speaks into the lives of many.

I feel that’s what I’m supposed to do here. I feel that very strongly.

So now I’m going to tell you about the emotional roller coaster I was riding.

It felt like the world came crashing down on March 16th.

On that day:

– I’d just settled in to a new place to live after the bank took my house. The new place isn’t nearly as comfortable as what I’ve been used to, and having two roommates takes a bit of adjustment, especially when you have to share a bathroom with one of them.

– That afternoon Wendy let me know that there’s no hope for reconciliation on any sort of romantic level, and when I heard her reasons for feeling that way I knew she was serious.

I had to face a very serious issue from my past that I’ve been trying to forget.

– I was still upset that, the day before, a man from the adult industry… a man I used to consider a good friend… publicly posted the following message to me, where hundreds if not thousands of people could read it:

If you think you are some reborn Christian, you have lost it. Seriously, I anticipate the day I hear/read about you offing yourself, and I will state now that not only does it not surprise me, but it doesn’t sadden me either. You have inner demons that must be cast out, and at the rate you are going, death is the only thing that will help that along.

– Feelings of rejection (Belinda) begun raising up inside, once again (sometimes I still can’t wrap my mind around how someone can move on so quickly after 6 years of being together – deep inside I know it was my fault, but that doesn’t always satisfy my questions).

– My counselor was out of town.

– My dad, too, was out of town: on vacation for the entire month.

I started thinking, “Lloyd’s right. I should do the world a favor and take myself out.”

I don’t want to discuss the full details of that day because, looking back, I am very embarrassed to have felt that way at all. But I will tell you what kept me from parking my running car in a garage at my former residence, where my garage door opener still works, and listening to music until I went to sleep: I ended up making a call for help. That call brought me down to earth enough that I deciding to check myself into a mental hospital instead of doing something really stupid.

The hospital turned me away. It was after normal admissions hours.  I was informed that in order to be admitted I’d need to go to the emergency room of a regular local hospital and ask for a counselor to be sent.

On the way to the ER I became angry and asked myself what the hell I was doing. Why was I being so stupid? It turned out not to be necessary to check in. Simply attempting to admit myself made something change inside of me, so instead of going to the ER, I went directly to the church for Friday night service…

where God healed my ear. It had been hurting pretty badly for several days. During the service, a man whose name I don’t know started praying for it. Less than 10 seconds into his prayer I started hearing popping noises, the pain went away, and it hasn’t returned.

How can one continue wallowing in self pity after God heals their ear?

God, that was a really good way to refocus my mind back onto you. Thank you for that.

The next day I read Donald Miller’s To Own a Dragon. I was very embarrassed about how I’d felt the day before. How could I have allowed such thoughts to enter my brain?

I was feeling normal again.

For a few days.

The beautiful conversations I’d been having with Wendy were over. There’s nothing more intimate than connecting with words and being on the same page. But that intimacy had to stop.

Once again, I started feeling like I had nobody who truly cared. I bought into that lie. I didn’t sink again to a level where I wanted to die, but I sure was feeling sorry for myself. Today I can’t even remember why.

Because of all of this I realized I was giving myself way too much free time to ponder things that don’t need to be pondered. I immersed myself in work, which is why this blog hasn’t been updated as regularly as I’d like. Dealer Web Concepts, the business I started to help auto dealers with their internet marketing needs, now services 7 auto dealerships in 4 towns. I had to drop one client due to a conflict of interest with another. That turned out to be a good thing, however, because I have no idea where I’d find the time to service them.

Is now a good time to take a break and mention that I’ve lost 45 lbs? I haven’t been at this weight for almost 6 years. Not long ago I read a comment made on an internet message board by Belinda’s new boyfriend, alluding to him wanting to be “the bigger man” and I couldn’t help but snicker a little. Because now he literally IS the bigger man. But I digress.

Dear God, you’ve allowed me to work past my hatred of Mark to the point where it no longer exists, now please help me lose the residual bitterness as well.

Besides immersing myself in work, I’ve begun attending more home groups. Surrounding myself with like minded people works wonders. When I was growing up, the churches I attended never had small groups. Are these a relatively new creation or were we just clueless? Home groups are amazing! And the churches I associate with have so many to choose from! I attend a Singles group, a Single Parents group, a Christian Sportsman group and another group that wouldn’t quite fit into any particular category.

Feelings of being “alone” no longer exist.

As a Christian I’m still an infant, but I’m loving every experience, good and bad. I’m so far from perfect it’s not even funny. Thank God for Romans 7 verse 17-25. I’ve used those scriptures to help lead others to surrendering their life to God, but I personally find a lot of strength to stand back up each time I fall down.

Here’s Paul, the man who wrote the majority of the New Testament upon which literally BILLIONS of people have lived their lives, talking about his personal struggles. Not struggles he USED TO HAVE, but struggles he faced as a Christian, all the time. “The Message” translation says it best:

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help!

I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it.

I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway.

My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up.

I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

As Rob Bell talks about in the first of his Nooma videos, so many people think being a Christian means you have to have your life in perfect order. But Jesus himself said he didn’t come for those who have it all together. He came for the sick.

Thank God for that.


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So Donald Miller Emailed Me

Let’s imagine you’re a Stephen King fan (I happen to be a HUGE Stephen King fan) and out of the blue you receive an email from Stephen King. I’m not talking about someone pretending to be Stephen King. I’m talking about an email from the man himself.

Since I first picked up his book Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller has been my Stephen King. Instead of reading the latest King book, I’d much rather read Miller. If you’ve known me for any length of time you understand what that statement says about how impressed I must be with Don.

It’s not that I idolize him. It’s not that I think he’s somehow a greater person than the rest of us. It’s just that I appreciate his writing ability and, even more so, I appreciate the way he’s helped rewire my mind. On many occasions I’ve made it clear that if I had grown up around the type of Christianity Donald Miller portrays in his books I never would have become a porn producer. I never would have caused so much pain in the lives of so many people. My son never would have experienced growing up in a home where daddy came around only to visit.

Every single Christian on the face of the planet needs to read Donald Miller’s books. In the left column of this blog you’ll find a section that says “Three Books That Changed Me.” Click on any one of those books and buy it. I recommend reading them in the order I have them listed. They’ll change your life for the better.

With this in mind, imagine what it must have been like to receive an email from the man himself. On March 25th, 2007, at 11:33pm I was able to have that experience. What he said was simple. I’ll copy and paste it for you:

donny,

don miller here, just writing to say hello. craig gross told me a bit of your story and it sounds amazing. thought i would make contact. i hope you are doing well there. and i am glad you have encountered God, and i know he is glad to have encountered you. do fire me an e-mail and give me an update on how things are going for you. all the best…

don

I had a feeling such an email might be coming. Craig Gross from XXXChurch.com has heard me speak of Donald Miller’s books on numerous occasions. Just this past weekend in Morton, IL we had lunch with the leaders of the church that hosted the last Porn and Pancakes event. I told one of the pastors about Donald Miller’s books and how every Christian should read them and, in fact, every church should start a small group to go through them chapter by chapter. Craig told me that I was a walking advertisement for Don and that he was going to email him about me.

The thing is, although he writes about life as a Christian, Donald Miller’s books are romantic. Not in a way that men can’t appreciate, and not in the way you might typically think of romance. It’s not possible for me to properly describe what I mean. You just have to experience them for yourself. That being said, let me at least attempt to draw you into what hooked me into reading Blue Like Jazz. I opened the book and this is the first thing I read:

“I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn’t resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes. After that I liked jazz music.

Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way. I used to not like God because God didn’t resolve. But that was before any of this happened.”

That, my friends, is what I’m talking about. What a great way to start a book! I couldn’t put it down. Don Miller’s books show a Jesus I want to know. A Jesus I want to love. A Jesus I want to serve. A relationship with God that I want to experience.

He paints with words. I can’t describe his books any better than that: the man paints with words.

On March 17th, the day I announced the Hiatus that wasn’t a Hiatus after all, I read To Own a Dragon in one sitting, down at Caldwell Park in Redding, California. In it, Don discusses growing up without a father. Once again, the book changed my life. Perhaps some day I’ll tell you more about that. Perhaps not. But that weekend changed the direction in which I was heading.

Isn’t it funny how powerful words can be?

Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself.”

How does that sentence make you feel? I know what it does to me: it makes me want to be that Jazz Musician. It makes me want to love what I’m doing SO MUCH that others love what I love, just because they witness ME doing so. I want to fall so deeply in love with God that people come to know him simply because of the joy he brings to MY life.

I know that is possible. That’s part of the reason my brother surrendered his life to God. It’s part of the reason that after being an alcoholic for years, he’s still sober to this day. It’s part of the reason he calls me with hope in his voice, where before there was none.

I have no doubts whatsoever that I’ll be reading those three books numerous times. I’ll continue, as I do now, to tell people what I’ve learned from them. I’ll share the Confession chapter of Blue Like Jazz over and over again, because IT REALLY IS THAT POWERFUL.

And I’ll always remember the day an email showed up in my mail box, without a subject line, from the author of three books that were quite instrumental in rewiring my mind.

It was great to hear from you, Don.


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Who Am I Kidding?

Like I’ll ever be able to shut my mouth

Last week was a hard week. I felt like a miserable failure due to something that happened more than a decade ago. I’d tried forgetting about it, and had been able to do so to an extent. It rose up and smacked me in the face.

The thing is, I had yet to bring it to God in prayer. Nor had I asked for his forgiveness. Even after doing so, I still felt worthless. I still felt unusable. I felt like life was over.

Ridiculous to feel this way? Sure. Yet some of those feelings linger still. My initial reaction was a desire to shut down every unnecessary action and lock myself in a cave somewhere with nothing but my Bible and some Christian books, hoping that God would eventually forgive.

I’m not going to let feelings of shame keep me in a gutter. I’ll ask God’s opinion on how to address this properly, do so, and keep moving forward.

Hiatus over (as if it ever really began). I like it here. I’ll just keep reminding myself that I’m still a broken man. The fact that I am broken doesn’t mean I can’t be fixed. God’s grace and forgiveness covers ALL sins, even those that cause us to feel worthless.

Let’s see if I can learn something from this. Sometimes it seems an individual’s mistakes end up making them a better person. Let it be so, God. Let it be so.

________________________

By the way, Donald Miller‘s To Own a Dragon is an amazing book. I read it this weekend.