Donny's Ramblings


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Two More Recognized Saints? Some Thoughts.

There are now two more “Saints” recognized by the Catholic Church. I know some of my Protestant friends are probably rolling their eyes and shaking their heads. I wanted to share some thoughts.

From the time I began arguing with Catholics five years ago about how wrong they were on so many different things, until I was confirmed into the Church on Easter Vigil, I’ve noticed something that I find difficult to put into appropriate words: everything seems “bigger.” What do I mean by this? I mean the Catholic Church really emphasizes how we’re all in communion with one another, as well as those who have gone before us and will come after us. All of the souls on heaven and earth who are in Christ are part of one huge family.

You know how some families are families, while others are FAMILIES? I mean, some families obviously love and respect each other, but there are others who seem to know everything about every family member and make huge deals about every single event relating to each one of them, from birthdays to ball games to graduations, but instead of only the parents celebrating all of that, the second cousins twice removed also show up and are just as into it all. Know what I’m talking about?

THAT is what the Catholic Church does. A faithful Christian from centuries ago is celebrated like we’d celebrate some family member, still walking the earth just across town, whose valiant acts are bringing worldwide attention and honor to our family name.

All of this comes from the rich celebration of Christianity past and present, and the belief that all Saints are still alive and well, just in heaven interceding for us. Christ’s Bride is a very deep, complex, amazing bride.

I’ve had those close to me roll their eyes and say skeptically some comment or other about statues or paintings or stained glass or… any number of things. I like pointing out that such traditions started at a time when most humans were illiterate. Statutes and paintings and stained glass were all teaching tools, which clergy used to share the stories of the faith with an audience that couldn’t read about it for themselves. I love it.

The Church acknowledges that God gave us five senses, and it firmly believes all five of them should be engaged in worshipping our Creator. Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, and hearing are all important. This is why such things as incense and bells are used during Mass (which is a prayer to God, I might add, and contrary to the belief that Catholics don’t read their Bibles, each Mass has more scriptural readings than I’ve ever heard at any one particular service in my life prior to having attended Mass). Each of these things has a deep, historical meaning.

While some might not appreciate it, it is my opinion that such things make the big picture… even bigger.


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On Being a Bit Annoyed, On Being Drawn to Catholicism, and On Being Donny

I would like to share a few reasons, some of which you might find a bit off-the-wall, on why I’m drawn to the Catholic Church. Many have asked.

First of all, I’ve been invited to fewer Protestant churches since I became “Catholic-friendly.” My encounters with the Catholic Church began in 2008. It hasn’t been easy.  I’ve had many questions.  In my life, I’ve also felt many of the same opinions of most of the Protestants I know in regards to Catholicism.  When I told her of my draw towards the Catholic Church, a family member told me that she didn’t want to hear my garbage anymore because I’ve obviously been turned over to a reprobate mind.  I expected such responses.

On Being a Bit Annoyed

Here’s what I mean by being annoyed: I’ve lost a handful of speaking opportunities to Protestant audiences since I began embracing Catholicism.  I’m not sure why anyone would feel threatened by such things as the church I choose to attend.  I’ve never been invited to your congregations to lecture on theology, but rather to share a unique perspective on pornography and how God brought me out of that business.  I’ve been chosen to share a story of His grace, forgiveness and love.  It’s a very impactful message of hope, and one that challenges the audience.  Numerous people have left porn behind after hearing it.  But some pastors have directly told me that I can’t be brought in to speak because of my thoughts on Catholicism – at least they have the guts to say so directly to me.  Others do not, but I know anyway.  If you’re a Protestant pastor, your church needs to hear what God’s given me to share.  Shame on you if you let your prejudices towards the location in which I choose to attend services  keep such an important message from your people.  Seriously.  I’m skinning my index finger, which is pointed at your face.

On Being Drawn to Catholicism

There are many reasons why I’m drawn to Catholicism.  I was first invited to work with a Catholic group in 2008.  A documentary was being made that included the topic of pornography, and they wanted me to share my views.  The producer’s son is a priest. I began asking questions.  Shortly thereafter, other Catholic groups began asking me to speak for them.  Many priests – particularly Father Carlos Martins – and laypeople told me I should convert to Catholicism. I told them that would never happen, because there is far too much with which I disagree.  That didn’t scare any of them away from having me speak to their people.

In my free time, I started visiting Cathedrals.  They’re beautiful, and open to the public rather than just Catholics.  I’d take my time, admiring the amazing artwork within.  Much of it is incredibly detailed, and a lot of work.  All of it was made out of love for God.  That being the case, it’s impossible to be inside a Cathedral without feeling His presence.  When invited to speak for a Protestant church in New York City, I used my frequent flier miles to bring along my best friend, John Hunt .  We went to Manhattan a few days before I was to speak so that we could visit the city.  While there, we visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral. John, who is an agnostic/atheist, insisted that he definitely felt something inside during our visit.  I know what he means; there has never been a time when I’ve been inside a Cathedral without feeling God’s presence very heavily impressed upon my spirit.

Because of that, I began seeking out local Catholic churches in which to pray.  Unlike many Protestant churches, the doors are almost always open for those who want to seek His face within the walls of the church.  I’d sit inside, look at the artwork, pray and study my Bible.  I’ve got over 3,400 books in my Logos Library, in which I’ve invested several thousand dollars, that I use to study nearly every day.  I love God.  I consume the Bible and related books like a Donny Pauling eats a hotdog (yes, I just involved myself in my own made-up metaphor).  Theology fascinates me.  It’s Bill Giovannetti‘s fault that I love the Bible so much.  I used to think the Bible was boring and stupid, even after asking God to take control of my life in 2006.  But I noticed that Bill loved the Bible.  He’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and I couldn’t understand why he’d like such a stupid book.  I asked.  He didn’t answer.  He just asked questions in reply, which must be the Professor in him, and those questions made me discover my own love for scripture (no, Bill’s not really all that happy that I want to be Catholic, but I am his friend and that won’t change).

Rather than feeling the normal Protestant prejudices towards statues and artwork, I began studying the history of why Catholics utilize them in worship.  I began imaging what it would be like to be an educated priest, trying to teach illiterate people about God.  Maybe I’d start painting things.  Maybe I’d create statues.  Maybe I’d enlist all sorts of other visual aids.  God gave us five senses; maybe I’d try to engage as many as possible of those five senses into the way I led people in worship of Him.  Such things have a long history, and as I’d sit in beautiful Catholic Churches, I could imagine myself connecting to all those who had lost their lives defending the faith throughout the past 2000 years.  I could imagine myself as a man who had dedicated my entire life to bringing people to Jesus.  I could imagine myself being a layperson who couldn’t read, reliant upon a church to teach me.

Now, I’m not saying everyone should feel this way, because I don’t believe you should.  But I started getting really annoyed that our Protestant churches ignore so much of church history.  It’s quite common for Protestants to accuse Catholics of not spending enough time reading their Bibles.  I’d like to propose to you that Protestants don’t spend even a fraction of the amount of time they should in the study of church history.  Really, outside of the textbooks we probably didn’t read in High school, the vast majority of Protestants are incredibly ignorant of what’s happened the last two thousand years, and even more ignorant of church history.  But it’s so fascinating to do so!  I highly recommend it.  But beware! Removing ignorance just might result in a few changes of opinion!

A side note on that whole “Catholics don’t read their Bibles” thing:  every single Mass – which happens DAILY, I might add – has readings from the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Psalms, and the Gospels.  Every. single. one.  Without those readings, there is no Mass.  A person who attends daily Mass, as I do (I’ll get to my reasons in a bit) goes through the entire Bible every three years.   Some Protestant churches can say the same.  Most cannot.

A few years ago I met Matt Fradd.  I worked together with him on porn-related ministry events.  Later, he went to work for Catholic Answers.  We recorded CDs together.  We debated theology.  He had the likes of Tim Staples and Jimmy Akin – Catholic apologists – call me personally.  Those men asked me questions.  I sought answers.  Many of my thoughts on theology deepened and changed.  Much of my ignorance of Catholic belief changed.  I began to realize that most people, particularly Protestants, don’t hate the Catholic Church for what it actually believes, but rather what they THINK it believes.

I also started to ponder a few things:

  • Why would God entrust the Catholic Church to canonize the Bible, yet deny it the power to interpret it?
  • For more than 1,000 years, until the Great Schism, all Christians were Catholic.  Luther split from the church in the 1500s.  Since then, more than 40 thousand Protestant denominations have arisen, each with their own unique twist on this part of scripture or that part of scripture, each with their own unique interpretations, and each thinking their twists and interpretations make them a little more right than everyone else.  Is God really the author of so much confusion?  I don’t think so.  If Sola Sciptura is as valid as I’ve been taught, why attend any church at all?  Why not just sit home alone, reading my Bible, just me and the Holy Spirit interpreting it together?  Maybe I can figure out a reason why the Donnyism Denomination needs to add to the 40k denominations already in existence
  • I was surprised at the response I received when I’ve mentioned to a few priests that friends have told me things such as, “Many Catholics don’t realize they can have a personal relationship with Jesus.  The Catholic Church is the biggest mission field in the world right now.”   Father James Mallon from Nova Scotia replied, “Both I, and the Pope, would agree with that assessment.  Someone needs to help teach them, right?”
  • I could criticize what I thought to be wrong about the Catholic Church, or I could get in and be one of those who worked to lead people to a deeper relationship with Jesus.  Should I sit back and take pot shots, or roll up my sleeves and get to work?  I am thinking I’d rather do the latter.

This is already a longer article than I intended, so I won’t get into theological issues.  I’ll instead tell you a few personal reasons I love the Catholic Church, a love because of which I’m currently in RCIA, and they’re really not all that deep.

On Being Donny

On my own, I’m a mess.  There is nothing of value in Donny minus God.  I’m not really very nice.  I get grumpy.  I get angry.  I’m impatient.  I want to insult people.  I label others idiots if they don’t agree with me.  I am selfish.  Donny plus God equals a tolerable person.  I want to be tolerable.  I want to help people.  I want to do what I’ve been put here to do.

When I spend time with Him, it is far easier to see others through His eyes.  I feel like I love people.  I feel like I want to listen to them.  I feel like I want to ask God what He’d like me to share with them.  I feel less grumpy.  I love more, period.  And because of Him, I have something to give to the world.

I have a habit of studying at home.  I do so a lot.  But due to my introverted nature and the one track mindedness that comes along with it, when I’m interrupted, I often will become a bit grumpy.  “Leave me the heck alone, Bethany… I’m trying to study.  Figure that geometry problem out on your own!”

Daily Mass changes this.  My morning routine includes dropping Catie off at the charter school she attends, then heading to the local Catholic church for Mass.  Mass, my friends, is a prayer to God.  It’s beautiful.  It’s ceremonial.  It has meaning.  It is saturated in scripture.

For some, Mass might be TOO formal.  For me, it reminds me of why I’m here.  It focuses me on God.  It’s a great way to start my day.  I make better choices for the rest of the day if I start it with this time together with my Creator.  Personal study is great, and I often do so afterwards for 30-45 minutes before I leave the building.  But in my life, I’ve found Mass+personal study to be exponentially more effective than just personal study alone.  And it’s pretty amazing to realize that the exact same order of service, readings, and ceremonies are being observed by millions of others around the globe. It feels pretty awesome to be part of something so  big.  So HUGE.

I’ve met some incredible people who are very, very close to God within the doors of the parishes I’ve attended.  Are there things with which I still struggle, relating to theology?  Of course.  I chew the meat.  I spit out the bones.  I’ve found a place of trust, however, and on many things I choose to simply submit, trusting that my questions and struggles will be answered by the very loving God I serve.   I’ve reached a place where I am not in a hurry for answers, because I love and trust Him so much and, from experience, I know He’ll answer in His own time.

And I’m totally good with that.


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Wrestling: Protestant vs. Catholic – Start Here

On August 28th, I posted the following message on my Facebook page:

Growing up, it was implied (not by my father, but by others in our denomination) that being Catholic meant a person was going to hell because they couldn’t possibly be saved. Because of this, a Protestant Church would NEVER invite a Catholic speaker to share. Imagine my surprise when in 2008 a Catholic group called OFWC Media (with TheologyoftheBody.net – thanks Anastasia Northrop) asked me to be part of the documentary they were making regarding the threat of pornography! I couldn’t believe they’d invite a Protestant to participate in a documentary intended for a Catholic audience. Spending a lot of time with them, I asked many questions. I found this to be a fascinating experience.

Since that date, I’ve been invited by several Catholic groups and spoken to several Catholic parishes, Catholic sponsored University events, been on Catholic radio, made a CD at the request of Catholicism’s biggest group of apologists… the list goes on.

I always ask questions. That’s just my nature. When in Toronto to speak at York University, I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, sipping scotch and speaking with a Priest named Fr-Carlos Martins, pelting him with questions, raising objections and generally being my argumentative self, albeit in a respectful manner. I continued that trend when asked to other Catholic venues, with both laypeople and the clergy. I’m sure I drove some of them mad.

A few years ago I began noticing something: although the Protestants and Catholics I’ve been around most all speak English, we’re not speaking the same language most of the time. We’re not using words in the same way. As a Protestant, I might read something written by Catholics that raises alarm, and end up criticizing certain beliefs to my Catholic friends, but what I’ve come to realize is that we – Protestants and Catholics – often understand the exact same words in FAR different ways. It turns out, in the end, that we’re in agreement on at least 95% of theological issues, a realization I could not understand until I’d sat and read more books than I care to count right now, and spoke to Catholics who were once Protestants. As funny as it sounds, a translator was needed to put things into words I use and in ways I understand.

I now reject the idea that I was taught growing up: being Catholic doesn’t damn a person to hell. In fact, I’ve never attended services that are so consistently focused on Jesus and what He did on the cross. That happens to be what EVERY-SINGLE-MASS is about. I find so much about the church to be SO-INCREDIBLY-BEAUTIFUL.

I feel a burning desire to work within the Catholic Church. It’s something that I keep trying to push away, mostly because if I were to “convert” there would be so many Protestant doors that close to me, and certain family and friends will be incredibly disappointed. In fact, one of my aunts who knows about the work I’ve been doing with Catholic groups has already stated that I’m heading to hell. Knowing this response won’t be unique, I’ve looked for every reason to reject the pull I’ve felt. But I must admit that unless something really major happens to change my mind, I’ll likely “convert” during Easter Vigil 2014. The new Pope and many of the priests I’ve spoken with all agree that the Church is in desperate need of revival (Protestant term, I do believe). For revival to happen, workers are needed. I really want to be one of those.

This is the first post in what may become a series of posts in which I address topics with which I’ve wrestled.  I invite public feedback, either here or on Facebook.  Each of these posts will be linked to on my Facebook page, either as a link within the blog post itself or as a link in the first comment, as that seems to be where most people decide to get involved in discussion these days.

To start off with, here are some of the things I was taught as a Protestant:

  • Catholics are going to hell (this has been said from numerous pulpits, and often left at that assertion with no particular reasons to back it up)
  • Catholics worship Mary
  • Catholics Worship Idols
  • Catholics see Mary as a co-redeemer with Jesus, Queen of Heaven, and Mother of God
  • Catholics pray to Mary and the Saints
  • Catholics think they can buy their way out of hell
  • Catholics think they can pay to get relatives out of hell
  • Catholics don’t think Jesus’ payment on the cross was sufficient, and instead think we must do good works to be saved
  • Catholics think Baptism isn’t just an important symbol of our relationship with Jesus, like a wedding ring is to a bride and groom, but rather a requirement to be saved
  • Catholics believe the Pope is Infallible
  • Catholics believe priests can forgive sins when only God can do so
  • Catholics believe tradition is as important as the Bible
  • the list goes on and on… feel free to add to it on Facebook or in the comments area and I’ll come back and add some to this list

So… these are the things I plan to blog about.  I’ve honestly been scared to voice this struggle in public, because many of my Protestant friends simply refuse to associate with Catholics, and I was afraid that if I made it clear how drawn I am to the Catholic Church many would choose not to associate with me.  Unfortunately, that has indeed proven true in some cases.

Seems to me that if a person has an issue or area of concern they shouldn’t abandon but rather get in there and try to do something about it, but maybe that’s just me.

Let me list a couple of rational reasons that I’ve pondered while wrestling with my draw to the Catholic Church:

  • The Catholics Church gave us our Bible as we know it today (except for the few books Luther removed).  They canonized it in the 4th century.  If Catholics are wrong, how can a Protestant believe they gave us an infallible Bible?  Seriously, this is something I have a hard time wrapping my head around.  If Catholics are satan incarnate, heading to hell, how can we possibly trust the Bible they put together for us?
  • Almost all Christians were Catholic, right up until Luther broke away in the 1500s.  Do you really think Christians were sent to hell for 1500 years after Jesus physically left the earth?
  • If Catholics don’t put an emphasis on Jesus, why in the world does every single Mass focus on what He did on the cross?  By “every single Mass” I mean just that:  every single Mass (service, to my Protestant friends) ends with a focus on Jesus dying for our sins, which provided a way for us to be forgiven and reconciled with God.
  • The priests with whom I’ve conversed, and many of the laypeople I’ve met, are just as close or closer to God as any Protestant I’ve ever met.
  • Catholics don’t pray to Saints… they ask Saints to pray for them, just as Protestants ask each other to pray.
  • Catholics don’t worship statues, they instead use them as a reminder of important things, similar to how a person keeps photos in their house as a reminder of important loved ones.
  • Every time I ask a Catholic priest, informed layperson or apologist a scripture
  • If it wasn’t for the Catholic Church, scriptures wouldn’t have been preserved (yeah, this kind of repeats point one) and abortion wouldn’t be fight against as hard as it is now.  I list these together because these two things are very important to me.

That list, too, goes on.  But I’ll close for now, because the whole purpose of this series is to discuss these topics.  Where do you think I should start?

 

Comments can be left on this article, or posted on Facebook here or here.


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Did Jesus Exist?

Have you ever had someone challenge you as to whether or not the man we call Jesus Christ actually existed?  Have you had doubts of your own about His existence?  Today I listened to a radio broadcast on the matter with Trent Horn from from Catholic Answers Live (click here for the article about it).  In it, Trent shares information and has conversations with callers on the topic of Jesus’ existence.  If you’re a Protestant listener who has issues with certain Catholic Doctrines – as I do – don’t worry!  The information shared is not from a “Catholic” perspective, and shouldn’t conflict with your beliefs in any way.  This audio file simply shares information that you will undoubtedly find interesting and useful on the topic of Jesus’ existence.

Click here to listen:

After listening:

  • For more information on the writings of Jewish historian Flavius Josephus on Jesus, you might find this wikipedia article interesting.
  • For more information on the writings of Roman Historian and senator Tacitus on Jesus, you might find this wikipedia article interesting.


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An Active Porn Producer Sponsored Me – READ THIS PLEASE!

Later I want to tell you a little more about how Fireproof Ministries at one time supported my son and his mother when I couldn’t do so myself… KEEP READING! But first…

LET ME SHOW YOU SOME OF THE THINGS FIREPROOF MINISTRIES DOES

Jesus Loves Porn Stars:  Setting Up Booths at Porn Conventions

I first met the founders of Fireproof Ministries at a porn show. Their booth was much simpler than it is in this photo: back then it just said “XXXChurch.com – the number one Christian Porn Site”. I thought they were there to make fun of Christians, and I was all over it. I despised Christians, and anything that would poke at them was great in my opinion. I quickly discovered, however, that these people were manning a booth that was doing crazy things: showing love to a group of people at whom most Christians shouted hatred.  Some of those crazy things include doing make up for the girls who are hired by porn companies to run around being groped by porn convention visitors.  When those girls, someone’s daughter – someone’s sister, were sitting in the XXXChurch makeup chair, however, they’d hear words like this: “You’re beautiful.  God loves you.  There is nothing you can do to change that.  We think He has more for you than this, and if you’d like to talk, we’re here to listen.”

As even my own personal story demonstrates: non-judgmental love, which is Jesus’ love personified, changes people.

“Jesus Loves Porn Stars” Bibles

One year Fireproof started handing out Bibles that said something crazy on the cover:

“Jesus Loves Porn Stars”

On the back it asks the question, “Does Jesus Really Love Porn Stars?” The answer is given:  “Absolutely.  That might go against what you’ve heard about Jesus, but it’s true.  Jesus loves porn stars as much as He loves pastors, soccer moms, liars, thieves and prostitutes.  We’re all the same to Jesus.  We’re all just people who need God to save us from the mess we’re in and lead  us to a better way.  So what you’re holding in your hands is a straightforward telling of the story of Jesus…And in it you’ll read about the love-revolution that inspired the women and men who first experienced it to change the world forever.”

Thousands of these Bibles are given away free at porn conventions around the world.  Every one of them was made possible by donors.

Writing “Loved” on Brothel Walls

From teams of women who go into strip clubs to give roses and water to the dancers, to groups of people who want prostitutes to realize they are loved by the Creator of the Universe, Fireproof ministries reaches out to groups many others ignore or despise.  They recently did a make over on a real Nevada Brothel – not the part where the girls worked, but the disgusting area in which they lived when off duty.  On the walls they painted the words “Loved”.  The owner of this brothel welcomes the team to come back, and has even asked them to take certain workers away from the business after a heart softened by love-in-action recognized that an employee desperately needed to get out.

Embroidering “Loved” on Brothel Sheets and Pillowcases

In addition to painting the walls, the bedclothes were embroidered with the words “Loved.”   The team wasn’t there to pass judgment on the prostitutes to whom they were reaching out… they were there to show love in action, rather than just in words.  The staff of Fireproof Ministries believes God’s love really can change a person’s heart, and life.

Witnessing a group of people do things like this really got to me.  For the last four years of my porn-producing career, I watched this group work.  I’d go back and forth between being civil to them, and verbally attacking them, yet their message of love was consistent with the actions they showed towards me.  As that love broke down my walls of hatred and I could no longer justify to myself the things I was doing, I began to talk to God.  When I finally surrendered my life to Him, Craig Gross was the first person I called, and he sent one of the Fireproof Ministries pastoral staff to my house to spend time with me, a flight from Michigan to Northern California – the cost of which I was never asked to reimburse: donors made it possible.

Can you understand why I want to support this group of people?  Does it make a little more sense now? Will you help me do so by sponsoring me for this bowl-a-thon?

AND THAT IS WHY AM I PARTICIPATING IN A BOWL-A-THON

Fireproof Ministries (which includes XXXChurch.com, StripChurch.com and HeartSupport.com) does these types of things and many others that are “out of the box”…. which makes some people raise their eyebrows, while others think they’re the most relevant ministry ever.  When I was a Christian-hating porn producer, their approach to ministry really reached me.  They changed my opinions on what it means to be a Christian, which in turn took away my anger at the church, which eventually led to a place where I surrendered my life to God.  I know the leadership very well, and there is not a single person that doesn’t love God and have a heart for those who are in the gutter looking for a way out of it.

On my Bowlfest 2010 personalized donor page I listed a few personal reasons for doing this – here’s what I wrote:

I have a hard time asking people for money, even for such a great cause as this. But I want to share with you why I’m doing this:

This ministry has changed my life.

Let me explain… I produced porn for 9 years. I hated Christians. I despised the church. I was fueled by this rage. Fireproof ministries broke that hatred down over the course of four years. As they showed what it looked like to be Jesus in Skin, loving where others had hated, my heart softened and I couldn’t justify what I was doing with my life anymore. I reached out to God.

When I left porn I needed help. Fireproof was there being Jesus in Skin again. When they flew a Pastor to my house in California from their offices in Michigan (at the time) I wasn’t charged a dime. When they helped support my son after I’d lost all my income, they didn’t ask for a dime in return. When I mentioned wanting to go to Seminary they stepped up again, paying for my schooling.

Things like that take money. Helping raise that money is one way I can give back. Will you help me reach my goal? I’d appreciate it. Here’s what we’re doing:

On April 24th, I am going to risk total exhaustion, a coronary and possible carpel tunnel to help make a difference. You too can help by sponsoring me in the Bowlfest 2010 bowl-a-thon! I am going to bowl 100 frames to benefit Fireproof Ministries. Fireproof Ministries has several different ministries which are: XXXchurch.com (xxxchurch.com), The Strip Church (stripchurch.com), and Heart Support (heartsupport.com). I would love to make it to my goal of $25/frame ($2,500). I thank you for any donation you can give and remember all donations are tax-deductible!

If you’d like to read more about what this ministry means to me, check out this page on my website: http://www.donnypauling.com/blog/about/

FIREPROOF SUPPORTED MY SON

When I left the porn world I hadn’t saved any money.  I’d made a lot of it, and blew enormous amounts on trivial things because porn “would always be around so why save now?”  Thing is, my child support payments were incredibly important to my son and his mother.  Not being able to provide for them was not only a blow to the ego, but an enormous weight on my mind.  I couldn’t help talk about it, and Fireproof listened.  Checks began to arrive in the mailbox of my ex-wife, helping to pay my child support for the few months it took before I figured out how to support myself and my most important obligations.

FIREPROOF PAID MY TUITION

When I made it known that I wanted to enroll in a Seminary Program, not only did Craig Gross, co-founder of Fireproof Ministries, help me find a good school, he also paid my tuition through the ministry’s Esther Fund.  They do this because they are being Jesus in Skin.  This is a ministry that does a lot more than talk the talk.  They didn’t drag me out of the gutter and then send me on my way, alone.  Instead, they helped where most others never would have:  emotionally, spiritually, big time financially – we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars for ME ALONE.

This amazing ministry is only possible because of donations.  Christians who donated to this ministry in the past allowed Fireproof to be Jesus in skin, and that changed my life.  Let me restate that:  the very Christians I used to hate changed…my…life… even as I hated them. Talk about living up to the term “Christian”…

I realize there are a lot of non-profit companies to whom you can donate your hard earned money.  But I’m sure you understand why this one is personal, and why I’m asking you to sponsor me for Bowlfest 2010 today.  This fund raiser only comes once a year, and this is the first year I’ve participated.  I want to reach my $2,500 goal (or exceed it), and I’m asking you to help me do so.  No matter if it’s $5, $10, $100 or whatever… every single penny helps me get closer, and I thank you for it.

The whole reason for this post is this:  I REALLY need more sponsors.  In addition to the amount that has been donated on this online donor page, I’ve also raised an additional $600 in offline pledges, which at this precise moment (2:45pm PST on April 14th, 2010) brings me to an embarrassing grand total of $1055 (before I’ve counted any contributions of my own).  I won’t settle for anything less than $1,500 AT MINIMUS so if nothing else comes in between now and Bowlfest, I’ll make up the difference personally.   Still, I’d REALLY like to exceed the $2,500 goal I mentioned on my donor page, and every single bit counts.  Counting online and offline pledges, so far I’ve received a handful of $25 donations, a few $50 and $100 donations, one $200 donation and one $300 donation.  Every single bit adds up to bringing me closer to my goal, and I appreciate each one immensely.

As the thread title mentions, even a currently active porn producer made a pledge.  Why?  It was given because that producer knows this ministry is the real deal.  In fact, even porn star Ron Jeremy has donated this year, though not to me.  He is one of Craig‘s Bowlfest sponsors.  Even though he doesn’t agree with Craig’s views on porn, he respects this ministry.  That’s saying something.

Can you help too?  Either

make an online donation here using paypal, a credit card, or a bank account

… or

email me and let me know if you’d rather make an offline pledge.

And thank you for reading this!


8 Comments

Why I’m Loving the Bible

Growing up, and throughout my adult years up until just a few years ago, I often saw the Bible as a boring book.  When God changed my life in September of 2006 I still held that feeling, especially when it came to The Old Testament.

But I started attending Neighborhood Church in Redding, California, and that has made all the difference…

Bill Giovannetti is the Lead Pastor at NCRedding, and he often uses passages from the Old Testament in his sermons.  And the sermons hold my attention.  Seriously, if I hadn’t said that myself I’d be inclined not to believe it.  The Old Testament not boring?  “Whatchu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”

Bill has become one of my best friends.  We meet regularly and chat about life, liberty, and the pursuit of… whatever we’re pursuing at the time.  When I told Bill, a few years ago, that I thought the Bible was poorly written and somewhat childish, Bill told me he thought I was wrong, loved the Bible, and thought it was beautifully written.  Thing is, I have a bullshit detector built in, and it wasn’t going off when he told me that.  He meant it.

Author Donald Miller wrote, “Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.”  Don’s on to something there… because Bill’s obvious love for the Bible ignited a curiosity within me.  Bill has a doctorate degree.  In addition to being a Pastor, he’s a Professor at the local University.  Early in our friendship, when the aforementioned conversation took place, I needed to know why this intelligent man said such things about the Bible.  I needed to know why I could look him in the eye and tell he wasn’t just spewing out Christianese when he claimed to love it.

In Bill’s sermons, he takes us to the time and place being discussed.  We who listen to him speak hear context.  We learn about the culture of the people.  We are given an insight as to what the text meant to them… how they understood it.  I wanted to know how Bill knew these things, so I asked (that desire for knowledge is actually what led me to the place where I told Craig Gross from XXXChurch that I wanted to enroll in Seminary – which Craig responded to by telling me X3’s Esther Fund would pay for it).  I’ve been learning how to study the Bible, and I have to tell you… I get so much more out of it when digging into context and culture than by just reading the words.   I’ve read through the New Testament four times so far and I get something new out of it each time.

On a side note here, I’d like to recommend the following book to anyone who has the same desire “to know” burning inside of them: How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth – notice the word Its doesn’t contain an apostrophe… that’s because it doesn’t mean “for all IT IS worth”, it means “for all the worth it contains within”.

In the second half of 2009 I picked up the Scholar’s Library: Gold software package from Logos.com.  There are literally thousands of resources available within that package.  It makes a computer nerd like me very happy to be able to study from the comforts of my easy chair with my laptop warming the tops of my legs.  I read three chapters a day and try to do so in the morning before doing anything else.  Currently, I’m working through an Old Testament reading plan from YouVersion.com.  I start by reading an entire chapter.  Once finished with reading the text through, I open up a few different commentaries and read what they have to say.  Then I browse other miscellaneous resources that come with the software.  I’m always learning something interesting.  One recent example: it’s thought that Joshua was a skilled military leader long before taking over for Moses, and likely led the Egyptian army in battles.  Maybe it’s my inner nerd, but I find things like that fascinating.  It paints a more colorful picture when I read about his conquests leading Israel.

“Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.” Indeed, Mr. Miller, indeed.  And so by watching a man love the Bible, and trying to figure out WHY he loves it,  I too have discovered a love for the Bible.  Sometimes I’m frustrated that I can’t find the words to express this properly.  All I can say is, dig into it, and see for yourself.

Question for the Day:  What do you think about the Bible? Be honest.

This morning I was reading through Joshua 5 and 6.  Earlier today on Google Buzz I wrote the following:

Donny Pauling – Buzz – Public
When Joshua was trying to figure out how to take the walled city of Jericho without possessing the weapons necessary to do so he was very troubled. He couldn’t figure it out. As the leader, it was his job to do so. But as he was pacing around fretting what he was gonna do he ran into God and was basically told, “Hey, this is my battle. Don’t worry about it. I’m leading this charge. You’re just a soldier following orders here. Let your mind rest ’cause I’ve got this covered.” What a relief, huh? Joshua didn’t need to bear the heavy burden and responsibility of leadership alone.

Sometimes I forget that life’s problems are taken care of. I can just be a dependent, rather than needing to worry about things I can’t change…


Donny Pauling – What a thought:

An army is being led into battle. Joshua, as leader, would normally shoulder the responsibilities. But not this time. God made it clear the He was leading the charge. Joshua was standing behind Him this time, not having to carry the weight of the world.

Lead, God. Lead. You’re the General in Charge. Take charge of my life…I’ll just listen for your commands.

I got a whole lot out of today’s readings, which also included chapters from Psalms and Genesis… those thoughts are just a few I pondered.  Studying the Bible each day just sets a tone for the day, know what I mean?


22 Comments

Conversations with Ted Haggard – A Prelude

Last week I had the privilege to sit down with Ted Haggard, who was in town to attend a Pastor’s conference at a local church. In the coming days I’d like to share with you several things I discussed with him.

Ted Haggard Tweet Last Wednesday

One of Ted Haggard's "Tweets" from Last Wednesday (screencap from my iPhone's 'Tweetie' app)

Going into our conversations, I had my B.S. detector turned way up. If Ted tried to sugarcoat any of his actions, if he tried to downplay anything, if he was disingenuous at all, I’d be the first to scream it from the rooftops. But I can tell you this, dear Constant Reader, the Ted Haggard I met with was a very warm man, humbled by his own sin nature and holding nothing back. I saw a man who loves Jesus, a man who was at times sad, at other times upset, and above all, didn’t make excuses for his actions. To be honest, I saw a man who I identify with.

So often we put religious leaders on a pedestal, and if they fall we are hurt on a deeper level than we’d be if most others in our lives were to fall. Some of us are angry and resist extending forgiveness. Some of us scream of hypocrisy. Still others celebrate the comeback of fallen leaders like we would that of our favorite NFL team, down in the 4th quarter, but who miraculously pulls off a last second victory to win a conference championship for a place in the Superbowl.

And why is it that the comeback of a religious leader is so celebrated by some, you might ask? Perhaps it’s because we see someone who isn’t the closest thing to God in the flesh, as we’d formerly esteemed him or her, and who is, after all, one of us. Perhaps it’s something else entirely. Whatever it is, I’ll admit that I am one of those who has been heartened by watching Ted Haggard’s recovery with the support of his amazing wife and biological family, especially so after speaking with him in person, asking some tough questions and receiving real, honest answers.

Our first meeting took place last Monday morning.  I turned on my Sony digital audio recorder and we spoke for nearly three hours. Early Tuesday I received a Facebook message from Ted asking if I would call him on his cell and discuss meeting yet again for a follow up interview, as there were some things on his heart that he really wanted to make sure I shared with those who read the article I write about him. This second meeting lasted nearly two hours, and like the first, I took my pastor along to contribute to the conversation. In fact, I’m sure you’ll be able to read some of Dr. G’s thoughts on his blog at some point.

I’m requesting that you come back and read about these conversations, and invite a friend to do the same. Invite your entire email address book, all of your twitter followers, your Facebook friends, every person still on your MySpace friends list, and your entire church congregation.  I’ll have the first article up no later than this coming Monday afternoon – hopefully sooner – and intend to follow it with others. Regardless of your thoughts on Ted Haggard’s crisis, I know you’ll find something of interest.  I look forward to sharing this experience with you.

See you then!