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“That Summer” – Pure Hypocrisy

Having been raised all my life in a world of legalism, when I reached my teenage years and began critically thinking about things I’d been taught, I began to feel resentment.  I eventually followed that resentment down a path of rebellion.

I feel that same resentment now, from time to time. I won’t allow it to lead me to a loss of faith in God, however.  But I will admit I sometimes feel a loss of faith in his people. Before going on, I must say that my sins are forever in front of my face. I acknowledge them. I just feel enormously disappointed at the abandonment that has come along as one of the consequences of my actions. I want to believe in grace and redemption.  I know God offers it, but I really wish his people were also capable of the same. It sucks to be on this side of the fence.

I wish I could go back and change things.  I can’t. I want to let go of all that bad-gunky and move forward. Often times, I think I’m on the right path to do so. But then something random triggers a very negative reaction inside and I realize I still have much to work on.

The very latest trigger was a song by one of my favorite country music artists. Now I am going to ramble a bit and express how I feel inside at the moment (feelings which will undoubtedly change in a short amount of time).

Tonight on A&E a Garth Brook’s concert was aired.  As I type this, the concert continues.  As he sang the following song, the words of which I am about to share, the crowd screamed.  In the song, a teenaged boy is “taught” the ways of love by an adult female widow.  Here’s what I think about that song, which many of us have sung along with since it was first released in 1992.

I think it reveals a lot of hypocrisy.

Listeners celebrate a song in which a teenage boy is taught “the ways of love,” but those same listeners sent me to prison for a year and 11 months because a 16 year old female (whose own father said to me “I’d be proud to call you my son-in-law”) told investigators that the two of us were in a relationship.

If we resided in Nevada at the time, or in one of more than 30 other states in this country in which 16 years old is still the “age of consent,” I would not have to wear a despicable label or appear on a website that tells everyone where I live so that they can choose to seek me out in order to break my face or attempt to rape me (both of those things have happened to me). I would not have lost my entire business and livelihood.  My son would not have to be ashamed that his father is branded as a “sex offender.”

Crossing imaginary lines referred to as state boundaries somehow magically changes a person from being unable to choose who she’s in a relationship with into one who CAN make such choices. Beth was 16.  My grandmother married younger than that.  Most people personally know someone who married younger than that. So many people have said things to me such as, “Just a few decades ago nobody would have batted an eye at your situation.”

But these days we live in a world that loves to denounce people and find reasons to make others out to be horrible monsters, and once that type of judgement starts, it’s unrelenting.

“The People of the State of California” (along with many others, of course) demonized me, took my life as I knew it, nearly all of my friends abandoned me, my freedom was taken and to this day I remain painted as some monster because I loved a person with whom I spent most of my time and whom I cherished very, very much.

She exaggerated, which is common in such a situation. But let’s say you believe what was claimed.  If you are one of those who choose to believe the claim that we had a sexual relationship, please ponder this for a moment: in your own romantic relationships, what percentage of what goes on between you and the person you love is sexual in nature? In real life, doesn’t most of your relationship-reality involve non-sexual matters? Don’t you simply live life together, talk, laugh, argue, experience things, make plans and just… LIVE?

Do you think what happened between Beth and me was different than that?

It was not. We spent nearly 24 hours a day together, 7 days a week.  We talked.  We did homework.  We went places.  We ate things.  We cooked.  We drove.  We laughed.  We cried.  We acted goofy. We gave money to homeless people. We volunteered time feeding the homeless. We fostered animals.  We lived life.  We made plans.

Those of you who knew us back then knew a Beth who was happy and bubbly and full of life. She was loved.

Then one day around this same time of year I opened the browser on one of our computers and found out she was smoking marijuana with a 38 year old man, who was not me.  I found out she was going to the movies with him.  In jealous anger I said things to her that were very mean, I demeaned her, and I told her that she needed to move along.  She retaliated.  I ended up imprisoned.

I knew the laws of the State of California and am definitely not saying it was “alright” to have let down my guard as I did.  I am not saying concerns are invalid. I am not saying there should never have been a reckoning.

But I AM saying it’s hypocritical to sing along to a Garth Brooks song called “That Summer” and in the next breath say I am scum for loving an amazing, beautiful girl more than any other in my life. I am saying that the price has been paid and it’s time to let me live a normal life again. I am saying it is unnecessary to condescend to me and see me as less than human.

I’m not a danger to your daughters. Loving Beth was not a matter of an “age group” to me.  I wasn’t attracted to an age: I loved a PERSON with whom I spent a lot of time. When I wasn’t traveling or speaking, I was with her. I put a lot of time and effort and money and literal blood and sweat and tears into her life.  She was not related to me by blood but she mattered to me very, very much. I wanted to see her succeed in life beyond her wildest dreams.

I believed the lie that I was the only one who could make her life great and that I was the one who could best protect her from a dangerous world. I was wrong. I made a huge mistake.

“Friends” have abandoned me. My former-friend Bill, for example, preaches “max grace” from a pulpit but cannot find it within himself to extend grace to a “friend” who is “made an example of” by a world of changing whims, where what was okay yesterday is horrible today. I get it, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. It seems pretty darned hypocritical, from this perspective.

I find it interesting that Christians claim their life is founded on the Bible within whose pages one reads about Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was impregnated by the Holy Spirit at an age younger than Bethany.  Bethany was older than the virgin God himself chose to impregnate. The Bible is full of stories of men we think of as heroes, who married women younger than Bethany when they were older than I was.

But I’m a pariah?  I am a threat? Because “times are different now”?

I loved Beth.  I really did.  She exaggerated what happened between us and I chose not to fight what she decided to say, because she had her entire life ahead of her, and I had much less of mine remaining.  But those who choose to pretend I don’t exist because I loved her are, from my perspective, heartless and hypocritical.

A person does not have to agree with anything that happened in order to think critically and comprehend how I reached such a place. I have re-lived that time period over and over in my head, literally thousands of times. I see how the paths I took led to the place where things ended. It was not okay, but it makes sense how such a thing happened.  I had no business living as a single man raising two beautiful teenagers that had no blood relationship to me. It was an enormous mistake to spend every moment of my free time with one of them who kept telling me she was going to marry me one day.  I should have removed myself from that scenario.  But I didn’t.  At first I thought I was strong enough to resist any temptations that might arise, and then a point came where I no longer wanted to resist, but instead wished to find reasons to justify why it was okay to love a sixteen year old.

I could have made better choices in whom I chose to let my guard down and love.  I do not dispute that fact.

I could have guarded what I was given with more diligence.  Absolutely ZERO dispute.

I could have sought out help long before things went bad, to make sure my own insecurities, fed by the need to be needed, didn’t lead me to a place where I chose to fall in love with someone 24 years younger than me. No dispute.

I was wrong.  There is no disputing it.

None of that changes the hypocrisy of preaching grace, claiming to believe in grace, yet extending NO grace, largely influenced by the worry about what others would think if you did.

Here are the lyrics to Garth’s song.  Don’t tell me you’ve never sang along to it, repeatedly, as the crowds did tonight with smiles on their faces. That would likely be a lie. But when you next listen to it and sing along, realize Garth is describing a situation with many similarities to mine, and because he is a male, his listeners don’t think much was wrong with it (no matter what they might claim if directly asked). Change the genders, and the widower would be seen as a criminal and a threat to society. That is hypocrisy, my friends.

That Summer

I went to work for her that summer
A teenage kid so far from home
She was a lonely widow woman
Hell-bent to make it on her own
We were a thousand miles from nowhere
Wheat fields as far as I could see
Both needing somethin’ from each other
Not knowin’ yet what that might be

‘Til she came to me one evenin’
Hot cup of coffee and a smile
In a dress that I was certain
She hadn’t worn in quite a while
There was a difference in her laughter
There was a softness in her eyes
And on the air there was a hunger
Even a boy could recognize

She had a need to feel the thunder
To chase the lightnin’ from the sky
To watch a storm with all its wonder
Ragin’ in her lover’s eyes
She had to ride the heat of passion
Like a comet burnin’ bright
Rushin’ headlong in the wind, out where only dreams have been
Burnin’ both ends of the night

That summer wind was all around me
Nothin’ between us but the night
And when I told her that I’d never
She softly whispered, “That’s alright”
And then I watched her hands of leather
Turn to velvet in a touch
There’s never been another summer
When I have ever learned so much

We had a need to feel the thunder
To chase the lightnin’ from the sky
To watch a storm with all its wonder
Ragin’ in each others eyes
We had to ride the heat of passion
Like a comet burnin’ bright
Rushin’ headlong in the wind, out where only dreams have been
Burnin’ both ends of the night

I often think about that summer
The sweat, the moonlight and the lace
And I have rarely held another
When I haven’t seen her face
And every time I pass a wheat field
And watch it dancin’ with the wind
Although I know it isn’t real, I just can’t help but feel
Her hungry arms again

She had a need to feel the thunder
To chase the lightnin’ from the sky
To watch a storm with all its wonder
Ragin’ in her lover’s eyes
She had to ride the heat of passion
Like a comet burnin’ bright
Rushin’ headlong in the wind, out where only dreams have been
Burnin’ both ends of the night

Rushin’ headlong in the wind, out where only dreams have been
Burnin’ both ends of the night.


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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!


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Not “Practicing What I Preach”

On July 13th I purchased my iPhone. Because I’d recently had a house foreclosed upon and autos and other “sparkley things” repossessed, activating it was a frustrating experience. AT&T wanted a $1,000 deposit, which I felt was a bit excessive, especially after spending $600 bucks on the phone itself. One thing I’ve learned is that there are few things in life which are completely set in stone, so after speaking to several different employees and a manager or two on the telephone, the deposit was reduced to $500. That deposit is returned 6 months later if all payments have been made on time. “Six months later”, dear constant reader, is January 13th, 2008… just a handful of days from today.

Earlier this afternoon I was in Red Bluff, California at Walmart looking for a large candy cane for Caden’s stocking… you know, those really big ones that are two or three inches thick and a foot long? My search for the candy cane was unsuccessful, but I did find a few presents he’d asked Santa to bring his cat.

Next on my agenda was a present for my brother: getting his AT&T prepaid cell number transferred to my account as a second line so that he no longer has to worry about refilling his minutes. I don’t use all my own minutes now that I’m using the same network as the people I call the most. I’m building up quite the collection of “rollover minutes” and I have no doubts that Daniel can help me take care of those. I figured a quick call to customer service would take care of it, but I quickly learned that I’d have to go to an AT&T store. Despite the fact that his prepaid phone is through AT&T, a new simm card is needed. My favorite AT&T store was 45 minutes away, so off I headed.

My preconceived notion was that this whole process was going to be a hassle, and I allowed my attitude to sour as I headed to the door. Cort, the lucky employee who greeted me as I walked in, was friendly enough. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all. Cort handed me a list of family plans, I selected one, and he started typing away into the computer. Just a few minutes later and something on the screen made him pick up the phone to call customer service.

AT&T wanted another $500 deposit for that second line. I was (ahem) a very happy man at this point.

Those who know me best can verify I have a sharp tongue from time to time. As a teenager, I remember telling my parents in cutting language just how much smarter I was than them. When I really want to make myself feel good, words are chosen to demonstrate my intellectual superiority to the person on the receiving end of my verbal barrage. I am working on this part of me. Today I lost that battle.

As Cort hung up the phone I put on my best condescending attitude and let him know that it would be nice if SOMEONE around here was able to do a little critical thinking, notice that I already had a $500 deposit on file that would soon be returned, and ask the customer service rep (or supervisor) on the other end of the phone if they’d simply apply that deposit toward the new line instead of crediting it to my account as scheduled on January 13th. A few more sharp words with a dose of “extra attitude” escaped my lips, and Cort was back on the phone, this time handing it to me so that I could speak with the representative myself.

As I left the store I felt less than proud of the hypocrite I’d been, completely forgetting to show the love for others I’d like to believe I possess. There was no way to take back my words, and a simple “I’m sorry” didn’t seem to be enough. Instead I walked to the nearby Target and picked up a $15 gift card. On the back I wrote, “Nobody deserves to be treated like that. I apologize.”

God’s definitely got a lot of work left to do on this creature, dear constant reader.

Oh, guess what? I still didn’t get my way! I must either pony up another $500 or wait until the 13th to apply that existing deposit toward the second line.

(Sorry, Cort)


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Not "Practicing What I Preach"

On July 13th I purchased my iPhone. Because I’d recently had a house foreclosed upon and autos and other “sparkley things” repossessed, activating it was a frustrating experience. AT&T wanted a $1,000 deposit, which I felt was a bit excessive, especially after spending $600 bucks on the phone itself. One thing I’ve learned is that there are few things in life which are completely set in stone, so after speaking to several different employees and a manager or two on the telephone, the deposit was reduced to $500. That deposit is returned 6 months later if all payments have been made on time. “Six months later”, dear constant reader, is January 13th, 2008… just a handful of days from today.

Earlier this afternoon I was in Red Bluff, California at Walmart looking for a large candy cane for Caden’s stocking… you know, those really big ones that are two or three inches thick and a foot long? My search for the candy cane was unsuccessful, but I did find a few presents he’d asked Santa to bring his cat.

Next on my agenda was a present for my brother: getting his AT&T prepaid cell number transferred to my account as a second line so that he no longer has to worry about refilling his minutes. I don’t use all my own minutes now that I’m using the same network as the people I call the most. I’m building up quite the collection of “rollover minutes” and I have no doubts that Daniel can help me take care of those. I figured a quick call to customer service would take care of it, but I quickly learned that I’d have to go to an AT&T store. Despite the fact that his prepaid phone is through AT&T, a new simm card is needed. My favorite AT&T store was 45 minutes away, so off I headed.

My preconceived notion was that this whole process was going to be a hassle, and I allowed my attitude to sour as I headed to the door. Cort, the lucky employee who greeted me as I walked in, was friendly enough. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all. Cort handed me a list of family plans, I selected one, and he started typing away into the computer. Just a few minutes later and something on the screen made him pick up the phone to call customer service.

AT&T wanted another $500 deposit for that second line. I was (ahem) a very happy man at this point.

Those who know me best can verify I have a sharp tongue from time to time. As a teenager, I remember telling my parents in cutting language just how much smarter I was than them. When I really want to make myself feel good, words are chosen to demonstrate my intellectual superiority to the person on the receiving end of my verbal barrage. I am working on this part of me. Today I lost that battle.

As Cort hung up the phone I put on my best condescending attitude and let him know that it would be nice if SOMEONE around here was able to do a little critical thinking, notice that I already had a $500 deposit on file that would soon be returned, and ask the customer service rep (or supervisor) on the other end of the phone if they’d simply apply that deposit toward the new line instead of crediting it to my account as scheduled on January 13th. A few more sharp words with a dose of “extra attitude” escaped my lips, and Cort was back on the phone, this time handing it to me so that I could speak with the representative myself.

As I left the store I felt less than proud of the hypocrite I’d been, completely forgetting to show the love for others I’d like to believe I possess. There was no way to take back my words, and a simple “I’m sorry” didn’t seem to be enough. Instead I walked to the nearby Target and picked up a $15 gift card. On the back I wrote, “Nobody deserves to be treated like that. I apologize.”

God’s definitely got a lot of work left to do on this creature, dear constant reader.

Oh, guess what? I still didn’t get my way! I must either pony up another $500 or wait until the 13th to apply that existing deposit toward the second line.

(Sorry, Cort)


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Personal Costs

I’m cross posting this to both this column on Donny’s Ramblings as well as the column I write on the XXXChurch website. I’m thinking this is gonna be a long one.

Wendy, my ex-wife, and I are pretty good friends. We were high school sweethearts. We dated 4 years and were married 6 years. During 3 of those married years I produced porn behind her back: first on a part time basis, later full time.

After our divorce, Wendy and I maintained a unique relationship. Our son deserved parents who got along. Who cooperated with each other. Who loved him despite their differences, and who demonstrated that love, in part, by keeping their personal disagreements out of his life as much as possible. That’s what he received.

Now, as a Christian, everyone talks about the two of us reuniting. “Wouldn’t that be the ultimate display of God’s healing power?” they ask. Or some similar question that means pretty much the same thing.

I can’t say the two of us haven’t discussed it, but I can say that at this point such a reunion doesn’t look very promising. We’re friends. Best friends. But there’s a lot of… baggage between us, you might say. Some very painful experiences. Some very bad memories.

Wendy has accepted my apologies. She’s forgiven me. She’s an amazing woman. Forgiveness and re-committing one’s entire life to the person who caused so much hurt… well, those are two completely different animals.

Sometimes she has an issue with this blog and with my speaking engagements. Oftentimes she has “issues” with me over a variety of other topics. There’s a lot to work through.

When she recently asked me why I don’t focus more on what porn cost us while blogging or speaking I asked her if she’s actually read everything I’ve written or listened to all that has been spoken. Admittedly, she doesn’t read a good portion of what I write. It’s easy to understand why. A lot of the topics written about here are still a raw wound in Wendy’s life. She definitely didn’t deserve what I put her through.

Tonight I’m writing a bit more about the personal costs. I’m going to rip myself open for this one.

Straight, blunt talk.

To start, I’ll have to share more of the details of my past. Only by doing so can I paint the picture of what my lifestyle choices have cost.

Like most males, I had a personal interest in porn. I preferred to look at solo models. Hardcore sex content didn’t really interest me. The visuals that “got me going” didn’t involve other men molesting the fantasy women I viewed.

My first adult magazine was one left in a park where a friend and I played. I was in grade school. The images intrigued me. The corny words beneath them are still in my mind to this day. I can literally tell you what was written beneath my favorite images.

I also remember buying magazines from a liquor store near my home when I was in the 10th grade. The clerk had to have known I wasn’t 18, but he sold them to me anyway.

Still, my interest in porn was an off-again, on-again thing. It hadn’t consumed me.

Yet.

What really got me was when I was showed photos of a woman I knew. The photographer, her husband, had no evil intentions. He was just proud of his wife. What happened in my mind is almost indescribable. Not only was it a turn on to see someone I knew so exposed, I started thinking that I could have one helluva good time picking up the camera and pointing it at willing models of my own. I’d never considered photographing a nude female before that time, but afterwards it is something I wanted to do very much.

I found a private party willing to part with cash for photos. I also did a bit of research and found companies willing to buy.

At first, I photographed a few girls I knew. It wasn’t hard. I can’t describe it, but there’s something intriguing to many woman about being photographed nude. With less money than you might imagine, it was easy to change “Yeah it might be fun to pose naked but I’d never actually do it” into “Yeah, I’ll do that… I’ve always wanted to pose nude.

I’m a smooth talker when I want to be. That definitely helped.

In my own home, I once photographed a girl who had been a High School classmate. Wendy was at work. To show off, I emailed some of the photos to an acquaintance I’d met on an instant messaging program. He sent a few of the photos back to Wendy. That almost ended in divorce. She didn’t believe me when I told her I wasn’t sleeping with the girl. She didn’t believe I’d done it for money (and even if she had believed the money part, her feelings on the matter wouldn’t have been much different).

We got over it as best we could. She assumed I wouldn’t do such a thing again.

I didn’t want to hurt her, but I didn’t want to give up the thrill of making money by photographing naked women. I decided I’d just have to work harder at hiding my “work”. And honestly, at that point the money wasn’t the major motivator. I was addicted to the rush of having models expose themselves to me. I was addicted to producing pornography.

Later the thrill would subside and I’d be motivated to “go big” by the desire for money and the desire to throw my actions into the faces of the religious hypocrites I’d been around each church service, all of my life.

I was caught again when I forgot to erase photos off the card of our digital camera. Earlier that day I’d done a “test shoot” of a model so that I could email her photos to a client for approval. When Wendy saw them I convinced her they were pics my friend John had found online, and that I’d had him transfer them to my compact flash card so I could look at them later. A few rocky days later and we’d moved on.

I kept shooting models behind her back.

A day came when I slept with one of them after a shoot. I hated myself for it. I decided to hide my actions from Wendy but promised myself that if I ever did such a thing again I was going to come clean.

While Wendy was pregnant I continued shooting models. With a baby on the way, you’d think that if there was any decency left inside of me I’d stop what I was doing. I didn’t. I congratulated myself that I hadn’t slept with other models. I congratulated myself for “keeping it professional”.

When Caden was a newborn I started my first porn sites.

While on a business trip to Los Angeles I was called by a model who’d worked for me a few weeks prior. She was also in Los Angeles and wanted a ride home. We spent the night together in a hotel along the way.

A few weeks later I kept the promise I’d made to myself: I told Wendy the truth about my “work” while on another business trip to Phoenix.

That was it. I never again spent the night in the home we’d made together.

In my case, what did my “porn life” cost?

My self respect? Surely.

A great wife? Absolutely.

What else did it cost? I’ll share some of what I know, but there are many “costs” that I do not even comprehend myself.

It cost my son, the most important person in the world to me, the chance at having his mom and dad at home when he arrives from school. It cost him the chance to witness what relationships are supposed to be like. To witness how a man should love his wife. To witness how two people who love each other should learn to bend and give and compromise. I don’t have the chance to help Caden with his homework as I’d like to do, because I’m not usually there when he comes home from school. My decisions took that opportunity away.

It cost Wendy intense personal anguish. One day she had a husband she loved, the next she was living in the house we shared with only her infant son to keep her company. I can’t imagine how crushing that must have been. I can’t imagine the gut wrenching anguish and tears she must have experienced.

Just a few months later, when I’d started dating Belinda and was “living it up” as a man who was all of a sudden able to freely, openly produce pornography, I can’t imagine how horrible it must have been for an innocent mother to watch me drive away with our baby boy in the car and another woman in the passenger seat.

She once told me she was unable to watch a romance movie for 2 years after our separation.

The only way I can cope with this stuff, by the way, is to realize that the wretched man who did all of these things has been forgiven and given the chance to start with a clean slate. THANK GOD FOR HIS GRACE. And thank Wendy for hers, as well.

Wendy wasn’t the only one affected. Her entire family grieved with her. Her entire family was thrown for a loop, wondering how something like this could happen to someone who definitely didn’t deserve it.

Wendy’s little brother, with whom I’d been very close since he was an infant, all of a sudden lost a loving “Uncle” figure.

Amongst my friends and family, many lives were thrown into turmoil by my actions. The fallout affected others more than you might imagine… more than I might imagine… more than I’ll ever fully comprehend.

If I were to stick my finger in a light socket, the resulting shock would not be a punishment. That shock would be a result of my free will to make a bad decision. Cause and Effect.

If you were passing by me when I had my finger in that socket, and I grabbed you, the shock you’d receive wouldn’t be punishment either. You’d be affected by MY free will… by MY bad decision. You, as an innocent bystander, would experience pain because of the actions of another. Again, Cause and Effect.

And so it goes in lives all over the world. Innocent children are killed because of the free will actions of their parents or some complete stranger. Innocent husbands are torn apart because of the free will of their wives, who have affairs. Innocent wives are hurt because of the free will actions of their husbands, who can’t control the impulse to consume pornography.

I realize there are some who make the claim that pornography can enrich the sex lives of couples who consume it. I am not going to debate that particular issue at this time. But what I will say is that there are many wives who are NOT OKAY with their husbands consuming pornography. It doesn’t matter if the husband thinks there is no harm in it: if his wife has a problem with it, he shouldn’t do it, pure and simple (I’m not going to get into the moral reasons to stay away from porn at the moment, either).

When we were married, Wendy used to be “hurt” by several things. I used to think some of the things that hurt her feelings were ridiculous. I’d get upset that I had to walk on eggshells and watch what I said out of fear that she might be hurt.

As I age and experience life, I have begun realizing that she had a right to be herself. She shouldn’t have been expected to change for me. I either needed to make myself compatible with her, or choose not to be with her, or she could choose not to be with me.

Regardless of a person’s moral beliefs, this same concept applies when we start talking about whether or not pornography hurts marriages. The fact of the matter is that many women are indeed hurt (yes, even outside the spiritual arena) when they find out their husbands consume pornography. You, my constant reader, may personally believe it’s ridiculous to feel that way, but the fact is, it DOES hurt, for whatever the reason may be. In such a case, a husband needs to stop watching porn. He needs to respect his wife’s feelings. He made a commitment to her, after all, for better or worse.

He needs to stop hurting the innocent with his free will decisions.

My personal attraction to porn led down a path that ended up costing everything that should have been valuable to me. I was too daft, too bitter, too selfish to see what really mattered in life. The same can be said for those who allow pornography to control them, or who have chosen to produce it without regard for the lives of those involved, or those who have chosen to act in it, or…

Thank God that Jesus Christ can and will set those free who want to be set free. I am glad I accepted that freedom. I may never recover all that was lost, but I have already recovered so much.

If you’re struggling, reach out for help. It’s there for the taking.


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When Does It Start Sounding Like Whining?

I have a secret to tell you. But I don’t want you to tell anyone else, okay? Let’s just keep this between me and you.

I feel like a “typical Christian” in many ways lately. Wanna know why? I’ve been playing the hiding game. I promised myself I’d never do that, yet I’ve been doing it anyway.

What am I talking about? The feeling that I need to hide my “sins” so that others don’t think poorly of me. The thought that being open about them will result in negative effects on my life. Like less churches asking me to speak for them, for example. Or not being allowed to complete seminary. Or losing a book deal. Or… whatever.

The thing is, some of my “sins” are repetitive. Because of that, I feel that I should be past them by now. I should have “grown up” spiritually. After all, it’s been almost a year, right? That must be 20 in Christian years. I should be an “adult”.

I remember as a child growing up in church I’d hear the beloved Saints ripping other Saints to shreds for their sins. It made me angry inside. Usually angry at those who were being ripped to shreds, to be honest. “How could they be such sinners?” I’d think. I was young and impressionable and it seemed to me that if the people who were doing the talking felt that those being talked about needed to change then, by God, they needed to change!

As I became a teenager I looked at the situation in a different light, and the feelings of anger I harbored were now directed towards the “talkers”. Two words described my opinion of those who were ripping down their fellow Christians: hypocritical gossips.

But their words were painful.

And it’s because of experiences like that, which I know all of you can relate to, that I’m often afraid to reach out for help when I fail now. I look back through this blog and am proud that I used to rip myself open and talk about whatever my issues happened to be. But I’ve noticed a trend toward secrecy. I have more to lose now.

I didn’t tell any of my accountability partners that I was drinking a lot.

I didn’t tell any of my accountability partners that I was still raising hell on the same adult internet message boards I used to frequently post on when I was a porn producer.

I should have gone to them, but I didn’t. I was afraid. At what point does it sound like whining to admit that you’re still stuck in the same cycle? At what point do they simply kick your ass and tell you to just “get over it already”?!?

When my issues were finally revealed, they were gracious. And I was amazed at how much the exposure of said issues (“issues” being more PC than the word “sins”) brought relief. And help. With accountability partners on my side, it’s been easy to keep away from the alcohol. It’s been easy to stay off the discussion forums.

Perhaps there’s something to that Biblical idea of “confessing our sins to each other” after all.


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The Journey: Ranting and Admission of Failures

I fancy myself as being able to let go on this blog. To make myself totally vulnerable. To hold nothing back.

In reality, that’s not the case at all. Sometimes I feel like ranting, as I did near the beginning of this journey, but I’ll stop myself from doing so.

Why do I do so? Why do I keep negatives bottled inside?

Fear. Fear of losing everything positive that’s been happening in my life. Fear that others won’t want to read what I write or listen to me speak if I let out every aspect of Donny…

If I loose myself on the world, so to speak.

What do I mean?

I want to write about everything going on inside of me. It’s a huge release to let it out on “paper”, and I want to remember all of this journey. Every step. I want to talk about feelings where I question my own sanity. I want to talk about the times I’m sexually tempted, but how I combat those temptations by reminding myself of all that has changed about me, all that I’ve given up, and how disappointing it would be to make those changes mean absolutely nothing at all by giving in to temptation.

I want to admit to being set off every time I receive another check in the mail with Belinda’s name on it. Or another letter from the bank financing her car.

How hard can it be to call these people and change your address? How hard can it be to tell the bank financing your car that you no longer work for me, so they’ll stop calling if you’re a few days late with your payment? How hard can it be to give them your new number so they’ll stop calling mine? And what in the world makes you think it’s okay to have my replacement relay messages to me? If you want to let me know where to send your mail have the respect to tell me yourself.

I want to admit that it hurts when I find out Belinda’s new boyfriend has changed his MySpace title into a very personal message to me (click here to see a screenshot of it), and the pain is multiplied once I see Belinda posting on a public message board that the message comes from both of them.

But I hold that back and don’t write about it.

I want to admit that such things make me wish to steal from her every good memory we’ve ever had together. I wish I could remove all of those from her mind. She doesn’t deserve to remember the NUMEROUS great, amazing times we had together. She doesn’t deserve to remember my son, who loved her so much.

Sometimes I’m spiteful and will send a text message or email that reflects my mood. The purpose? To steal memories. To replace any positive thoughts she has in her mind about me with negative thoughts. To purposefully poison the past so that it no longer brings a smile to her face. To be in control of how she thinks of me. It’s SO WRONG to be that way, yet I still do it once in awhile.

But I hold that back and don’t write about it.

And then I stand up on a stage in front of hundreds of people and talk about how God has saved me and changed my life. Hypocrisy, no? And I do hate hypocrisy.

This inner struggle, this turmoil, this cycle… I don’t beat myself up about it. I find it beautiful for some reason. I love it, yet hate it, all at the same time.

I haven’t given in to physical temptations, and for that I often congratulate myself. But isn’t it just as bad, or worse, to give in to spite by sending negative messages to Belinda from time to time?

Besides, those physical temptations really aren’t that big a challenge for me. My past has given me plenty of tools to combat them. They’re a relatively easy battle to win. My biggest problems are my ego and my stubbornness. I lose those battles almost every time.

I’m not the smartest man, but I’m beginning to think there’s no perfect solution to these problems. They’re a constant battle over which victory is going to take much time. Much effort. Much pain.

Is it crazy that I look forward to the fight?