Donny's Ramblings


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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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For Me, It Takes a Toothbrush

Along the Sacramento River Trail

A view from the Sacramento River Trail: my favorite place to converse with my Creator.

Last night I wept, snot running down my face and dripping off my chin, for a period of about 4 hours. It wasn’t fun and I really didn’t like it. At least not then – not while it was happening. This morning I see it in a different light, because it’s times like that, when my soul cries out to God and to others, when I feel a toothbrush at work inside.

Some of those close to me sometimes question whether I’m fully letting Jesus inside to clean things out.  I know that I am. It’s just that I don’t think He wants to magically make everything perfect. I think He purposely works on issues slowly so that I understand them better. He isn’t just taking a fire hose and spraying the place out… He’s taking a toothbrush and slowly deep cleaning. I sometimes feel like others need to see fire hose evidence in order to believe a work is in progress, but I am more than overjoyed with the toothbrush. Perhaps you, dear Constant Reader, aren’t the type that needs to understand things about yourself like I do, but I want to know… I want to understand… I want to get it. I feel that is going to be a big part of any future ministry God may have for me: identifying with others who have gone through the same things I’ve gone through and maybe being able to be used to help others “get it”.  For that to happen I need to reach that place myself.  Slowly.

My cockiness is melting away.  I am realizing I really don’t know much.  I’m not nearly as smart as I thought.  I’m enrolled in Seminary and want to be used by God, but I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever have anything to say to anybody.  Perhaps that’s all for the best? Perhaps that’s the only way to be if God’s words are to be spoken and not my own?  I feel inadequate.

In the two weeks of 2006 between September 11th, when I knew I would no longer be in “the business”, and September 25th when I finally asked Jesus to take over, I wanted instant answers and solutions to all the anger and bitterness and questions I had about Him, Christianity, and people. I tried to strike a deal with God that if he brought those answers I’d give him my life. He didn’t respond at all. He was silent. On September 25th I finally understood that it wasn’t that He wasn’t willing to answer my questions, He just wasn’t going to do so all at once. He has been very faithful with slow answers. Some of them even in dreams. Most of them through something I read and then ponder, or something someone says to me that I ponder while prayerful, or through ideas that form when speaking with Him along the Sacramento River Trail, my favorite place to converse with Him.

This slow rate is purposeful, and I am loving the journey.  I am content in the knowledge that change will continue.  I am not asking for speedy results, because I am realizing the value of “one step at a time” results that really have a chance to sink in.  Does this make any sense?  It is lovely what’s happening.   But I do wish those closest to me would reach the place where they, too, realized that all these things they think I need to let God heal – the bitterness… the anger… the constant questioning – I AM letting Him in to heal.  Again, it is purposely slow.  And maybe some of you might even be who He uses to point out what’s next, but I need those who are close to please be patient, because this is a one-thing-at-a-time situation.  Lots of time went into the damage, and lots of time is going to be required to toothbrush it away.


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Being Judgmental – Random Thoughts

Before Christ, I often railed on judgmental Christians. After Christ, I’ve continued to do so from time to time. But Wendy’s mother emailed me awhile back and pointed out:

Being judgmental of the Judgmental is still… judgmental.

I contemplated what she said for a long time, and still contemplate it today, and her words have helped me get rid of a lot of bitterness. It’s not all gone, but it’s going.

_________

One of my favorite Gandhi quotes:

“I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

I would like to see that perception of Christians changed, wouldn’t you? The answer to making that perception change can also be found in another Gandhi quote:

Be the change you want to see in the world.”

It starts with me.  I am the only person I can really change, a task made easier with God’s assistance.

“God, please help me.”


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Interview: Former Model Roschel Wynn

Roschel Wynn modeled for me when she was 19 years old. Yesterday I interviewed her for this podcast (which is also going to be released on the XXXChurch podcast as well as Jason Harper‘s Triad Podcast). She wanted to share her story, her experiences.

Beginning with a shoot that incorporated both photos and video content, her first job for us was for a Playboy owned website. She also modeled for a handful of amateur sites that purchased content from us. Even though she did all “solo” work and never touched another person, the work she did for us still affects her to this day.

Roschel reads this blog, so if you’d like to say something to her feel free to leave a message.

This audio interview lasts 33 minutes, 16 seconds. You can listen here:

Or download the file here:
Right click and save to your hard drive…


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A Message From a Former Model

For some reason, I’ve been really feeling compelled to contact one of the girls who modeled for me. I finally tracked her down and had a conversation with her via Yahoo Instant Messenger a few days ago. Amongst other things, I asked if she’d mind allowing me to interview her for the column I write for XXXChurch.com. I promised to keep her anonymous.

Today I received this message from her:

Donny-
Hey, well I’ve been thinking about our convo the last couple days and i finally went on your myspace to read some of your comments to see if you were truly being honest. I saw the last comment from the guy talking about seeing your pod cast on xxx church and so I decided to watch it. I’m so happy for you and I want to ask for your forgiveness. I was a horrible Christian when I was doing what I was doing. I was not only putting myself in a horrible position but I was putting you in that position too by allowing that to go on. I also wanted to tell you that I’ve hated you till now. I know it sounds extreme but I blamed you for where I was at. If it hadn’t been for you taking those pictures I would still be able to hold my head high. Now I’ve realized that that was Satan. He was telling me to blame you when all along I should’ve been blaming myself for everything that was going wrong in my life. I needed someone to blame other than myself. You were it. I’m sorry. Also I forgive you. I forgive you for taking the pictures. It sounds stupid because that was your job and I’m forgiving you for your job but for some reason I feel like I needed to say that. For what it’s worth. I would love to do the interview and if you want a testimony on screen I would love to tell my story. You don’t have to keep me anonymous. I feel like it makes more of an impact if you can see that person, it’s real. But it’s up to you, I’m just God’s tool. He makes everything good. Thank you Donny. You’ve helped me more than you know. Please give me a call when you have a chance. Talk to you soon. God Bless
-R

I removed the rest of her name because I want her to be very sure she’s okay going on record or on camera. If she’s sure about it, I look forward to allowing readers to place a face with yet another story of how porn affects the lives of those involved.

I am also very thankful for her forgiveness.

There will likely be more on this story in the near future…


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Ali. Part II.

This is a follow up on an encounter I had with a man who had just recently lost his wife to cancer.

Two days shy of a month ago I wrote about Ali the Muslim (you may remember that article, because a sentence I used in it began a bit of debate, prompting me to follow up with a post about God and Allah as well as another post a few days later). Today I spoke with Ali again.

I’m the type who likes to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before my flight departs. I prefer 3 hours but that’s not always feasible. After a great week at the Londen Institute’s Residency in Louisville, Kentucky, today I spoke with Craig Gross at First Christian Church in Huntington Beach, California, where we had a really fantastic Porn and Pancakes event. Craig dropped me off at Orange county’s John Wayne Airport 3 hours ahead of scheduled departure time. With that much time to spare I decided to check up on Ali. I hoped he was still working at the Oasis Grill & Sky Lounge near terminal 8, because I wanted to see how he was doing. He crosses my mind quite a bit. The day he told me the story of his wife dying of cancer really moved me.

As I walked up the ramp leading to the dining area I saw him. I called out his name from 20 feet away.

“Hey, Ali!” I said with a smile.

“Well hello sir! How are you doing?” he responded. Half a second later his face lit up as he recalled who I was. He repeated his “how are you” question again, this time meaning it.

As I sat down in his section, I was able to ask him how HE was doing.

“Not so good” was his reply. I asked if things were getting any easier for him and he let me know that they are not. In fact, life seems to be getting harder.

We spoke for bits and pieces of time, in between his waiter duties with other customers. Once in awhile he was able to speak with me for 3 to 4 minutes.

He gave me an “in memory” card of his wife, Shahin Madjd-Sadjadi.

He let me know that his daughter Runak is really having a difficult time.

I told Ali that I wanted to share something with him. I told him that I’d asked several people to pray for him, and he thanked me, letting me know that he definitely believes in prayer. I am asking all of you now to pray with me yet again for peace for Ali and his daughter. I know God can bring comfort to their minds.

As I sat awaiting my check, I pulled one of XXXChurch’s “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” Bibles from my back pocket. No, not to share any passages with Ali, but because I wanted God to talk to ME.

I breathed a short prayer. “God, I don’t know where to look. I just want to open this up and find a message for you awaiting inside. I need to hear from you right now.”

I kid you not!  James 5:13 is where my eyes landed. The JLPS Bible happens to be “The Message” version.

Here’s what I read:

Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven-healed inside and out.

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t-not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again.

My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.

Do you see what I see? Can God get any more explicit in his answer?

Are you hurting? Pray.

That, my friends, is exactly what I promised Ali I’d have all of you do for him. So please, help me keep that promise. I’m confident God can bring comfort to my friend, and I need you to help me invite God to make that happen.

I’m asking that as you finish reading this blog article you simply take a moment to ask God to bring peace to Ali and Runak, his daughter.


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Motivated By Love

I posted this as a comment to an article I read on another blog, where the author has given up all belief in God and is instead professing “atheism”… that article, should you wish to read it, can be found here. This is definitely NOT good writing… I read an article and started typing my reply and have posted here what can out of my head, unedited.  I’m so tempted to change it around a bit, but then it wouldn’t be the way I posted it. Ah well, the basic points are evident…

Here is my comment, much of which I’ve said here in various articles before this one (please note these are MY opinions, and aren’t to be taken as gospel truth):

It’s interesting to read this article, because my journey is similar, yet opposite. Raised in the church as the son of a Pastor, I turned my back on absolutely everything I learned. I hated the hypocrites. I couldn’t stand the politics. I was infuriated by lack of answers to my questions.

For 9 years I produced pornography, and in a very weird way, that pursuit led me back to faith in God. I finally was able to “get it”… “get” the fact that God and those who claim to follow him are two different things.

And from there I asked Him what I’m supposed to do with the Bible, because it is so full of things that make no sense to me whatsoever. I told God I’d surrender my life to Him if he’d just answer those questions for me. He didn’t do so. I surrendered my life to Him anyway, trusting that my answers would someday come.

It’s been a little over a year now. I’ve lost everything I owned. Banks have repossessed cars and sparkly things. My fiancé, the girl I loved for 6 years, left. My heart was torn apart because of the grief and terror of a change of lifestyle.

But during that time I really got to know God. I leaned on him so hard. I learned not to fear the pain… and not to just NOT fear it, but to appreciate it, because it is such a beautiful part of the human healing process. I learned the nature of God.

From there I started reading. I started digging deeper. I started learning the context of scriptures, rather than just accepting what I’d been taught the scriptures meant. The more I learned, the more the Bible made sense. It came alive for me. That sounds so cliché, but I’m just reporting what happened.

Rightly interpreted, the Bible sets you free. Wrongly interpreted, it enslaves.

I learned the love of God. I learned the concept of free will. I learned the idea of consequences, rather than punishments.

What do I mean by that? I’ll give you an example of “consequences” vs “punishment”, and mix it with an example of free will….

Growing up, I was always afraid sins would result in damnation. It seemed God was some scary being awaiting any chance to doom me to eternal fire. It seemed I had to walk on eggshells and watch my every move or he’d punish me. But then I read an illustration on consequences.

The illustration asked the question, “If you stick your finger in a light socket, is the light socket punishing you when it flows through your body?”

Of course not. That painful jolt was merely the consequences of my stupid, free will action. It wasn’t a punishment. And if an innocent person walks by me as my finger is in that light socket, are they punished by the electric jolt they experience when I reach out and grab them? Of course not. They, too, are victims of my free will to put my finger in a light socket.

God doesn’t punish us either, even though we’re told that He does. It’s just that we are unable to escape the consequences of our free will.

And free will is a beautiful thing… It’s so deep. It’s so powerful. It’s so… amazing.

I recently asked someone if they’d ever want to marry a person they had to scare into loving them. The answer, of course, is a resounding NO. Who wants to force someone to love them? Isn’t it better to be loved by choice?

See, it seems to me that some choose to believe we must scare people into heaven. That is not the case. God wants us to CHOOSE to love Him… to have a relationship with Him because it’s what WE want, not because He forces us to do so or because He hangs hellfire over our heads.

The only way to guarantee that choice comes from US is to step back and let us live our lives… to let us make our own mistakes… And even if it’s painful to watch those mistakes, to intervene in life only when asked, and then in accordance with a “big picture” in mind that we may not even see.

And to illustrate what I mean by “big picture” let me give you yet another example: I have a 7 year old son. He loves candy. As a good father, I obviously can’t let him eat all the candy he wants. That would rot his teeth and he wouldn’t receive the nutrition he needs to grow and maintain a healthy life. With his 7 year old mentality, he may not understand why I say “no”. He may think I’m being mean. But someday he’ll comprehend the “big picture” and understand.

Likewise, some of those principles found in the Bible are really motivated by the same type of love that keeps me from allowing my son to eat himself into rotten teeth. Once I started seeing things that way, they made more sense… like, for example, the concept of no premarital sex: God isn’t trying to find another excuse to send us to hell, and he’s not trying to take away our fun. He’s simply telling us that he’d rather see us wait for the person He has for us down the road. If we do so, we won’t have to bring all the baggage of past relationships with us. We won’t have to worry if others before us were better in bed. We won’t have to worry if the melancholy look on our partner’s face is because they’re missing someone from their past. We won’t have to be “married” to every other physical relationship from our past or our spouse’s past. THAT, is God’s plan… and it’s motivated by not wanting our teeth to fall out. It’s motivated by love more pure than any human parent can possibly offer.

That concept, of “laws” motivated by love from a being who has a bigger picture than me… that concept set me free.

I stopped focusing on whether or not God exists and started trying to figure out who God IS… And I was happy to find those before me were oftentimes just as ignorant as I was, and therefore had no business telling me the answers to those questions. Upon seeking the answers I’ve begun finding them.

And I’ve finally discovered what a real relationship with God is all about.