Donny's Ramblings


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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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Spilling My Guts On the Topic of Love (and Sex)

I wrote this a few days ago, unsure whether or not I’d actually publish it.  But why not?  Let’s do it.

On this blog I’ve voided my guts, speaking about many of my sins.  You’ve read my writings about the horrors I perpetrated on models.  You’ve read about that really stupid sex game I played with the girl to whom I was engaged when I was in “the business”.  You’ve heard me make admissions most never would.  You haven’t, however, read much about Wendy, my ex-wife.  I have this awe… this reverence… for Wendy.  Sure, I’ve blogged a time or two about some of the things I’ve done to her, but I don’t talk too much about my feelings for her or the details of the way our lives interact now.  You haven’t read much detail on the guilt I feel for ruining her life and taking away the possibilities for my son to grow up in a home where his mother and father both welcome him home from school.  Sure, I’ve alluded to it, but not to the extent I’ve discussed other things.  And definitely not to the extent that it’s screwed with my head.

Thing is, this part of my life results in inner conflict because writing is the best outlet for me to deal with my emotions, but I remain mute on this for the most part.  And, sure, I could write in private, but that just doesn’t seem to have the same effect on me as when I hit the “publish” button that allows you, my constant readers, to devour the words I’ve put on digital paper.  It’s as if, by making things public, I’m enabling God’s light to shine into dark rooms within me.  That might not make sense to you, or it might sound silly, but it’s the best way I can describe things.

In many ways, dear reader, I’m royally screwed up in the head.  I’ve seen so much, heard so much, and DONE so much that I wonder if I’ll ever be “normal”. Sure, God heals.  But maybe He doesn’t want to.  Maybe He wants me to remain raw so that I can identify with the broken.  That’s totally fine with me.  I like me.  I really, really like me.  But I do wonder if the real Donny will, for example, ever have a normal relationship.  What decent woman wants a man who has produced porn for 9 years?  A man who has had meaningless sex with dozens of “models”?   A man who trashed the two serious relationships he’s had.  And since most single women my age have children, just how much trust does it take to allow a man around one’s children who has done the things I’ve done?   And even if SHE, whoever she may be, can trust me, what the hell is her child’s father going to think… going to say… going to DO… when he finds out who his ex is dating?

Know what I mean, Vern?

And on a side note… did you know that some of the things I’ve written on this very blog about my past, are self delusions?  Sometimes I still don’t want to own up to what a total and complete ASS I was… so I sugar coat the details. Oh man, have I!  Since surrendering my life to God I’ve discovered that I even delude myself, and am slowly uncovering for (admitting to?) myself just how big a “sinner” I really was.  What a wretch!  What a horrible wretch!  (“wretch” seems to be the perfect, fitting word)

And then there’s sex… I’ve had a lot of it, with a lot of different women. And now that I’m a slave to God, and trying to honor His daughters, I’m somewhat afraid that my next wife will find me boring.  “Boring?” you ask?  Yes… boring.  “Why would you think that, Donny?”   Because I have a feeling that I’ll be so afraid of disrespecting my wife that I will be unwilling to be adventurous in any way whatsoever.  Will anything beyond the basics result in flashbacks of my porn-producing past?  At this point, if I were to guess, I’d say “yes”.

Wouldn’t it be a great story if God restored my marriage to Wendy?  Sure, and I’ve heard from people all across the country about it:  “I’m praying for you, Donny, that you and Wendy will be restored!”  Great.  So am I.  So HAVE I.  But, ya know, that’s probably not gonna happen.  After all, I cheated on her multiple times, and hid from her the fact that I produced porn for 3 years BEHIND HER BACK before finally coming clean.  What would that do to YOUR head, knowing your spouse was a lying, deceitful bastard for 3 years?  All of the memories created during those years, for instance, wouldn’t mean a damned thing, now would they?  Because every one of them would be built on a lie, wouldn’t they?  Could YOU make yourself vulnerable to such a person again?  Who would ask that of you, anyway?  Forgiveness can be given, MUST be given.  Making oneself vulnerable again, however, is not really a fair request to make.

In a very rare case of sharing detailed information from an interaction I’ve had with Wendy, let me post my own words, written to the mother of my son, in the not too distant past:

I don’t crave a relationship, but I do really want to have more kids, and I don’t want to be too old to enjoy them.  I’ve had this romantic picture in my head of getting back together with you and working really hard to communicate and build a good life together.  I love the thought of having more babies together… growing old with you… doing some traveling when kids are out of the house.   And I KNOW our relationship could be totally healed and become what it should have been all along if you wanted that like I do.  But you don’t, so I don’t know whether to keep waiting to see if you change your mind, or to believe you when you say you don’t want it.  If I thought you were just saying that and being stubborn or protecting yourself from hurt I’d wait around as long as it took.  But I don’t want to be the sad old man who is still waiting for a woman who really DOESN’T want to ever be with him.  I was an idiot and a fool and a selfish ass… but I’ve learned.  And I love you so very much and want to hold you in my arms all the time, and if I let myself think about that too much it would consume my thoughts.

So… if you do have any desire to ever talk about being a family again, I wish you’d just tell me.  Yeah, that would make you vulnerable, but I’d sure appreciate it.

And since you’re all intelligent people, I’m sure you can surmise the current state of my relationship to Wendy.  Yes, she’s my friend.  She even works for me.  Yes, we love each other… as friends, and as much as two people who have had a child together and then been split apart by divorce can love each other.  But it is highly unlikely that we’ll ever be reconciled in marriage.  Highly. Freakin’. Unlikely!

So what do I do?  In the Bible, Paul tells us that he’d rather we remain single for life, as he was… and I could probably do that.  But if you re-read that paragraph I just posted for you… that excerpt from an email to Wendy… well, I’m sure you can clearly see my preference.  My son, Caden, is such an enormous joy in my life that  I’d love to have more children.  And the thought of Caden living in this world without siblings… just saddens me a little.  Still, if remaining single is what God wants me to do I’ll be content with that, and serve Him as best I can.  And that just might be the way things go, as these past two years have made it pretty clear that a restoration of our marriage really isn’t something Wendy wants, and while I am genuine in my desire to wait around to see if that changes,  I sometimes wonder if my proclamation also serves to protect me from vulnerability.  Opening oneself up to a new relationship with another person takes a lot of courage.  Perhaps I lack that courage.

Don’t get the wrong idea, dear Constant Reader… I’m not spending my days and nights in angst, wondering if I’ll ever have another relationship again.  It’s actually not something that consumes much of my time at all.  Life is beautifully comfortable as it is. I am very spoiled.

But once in awhile…

And so I write.  ‘Cause that’s just what I do when I need to clear my mind.  And I invite you to put in your own two cents… of advice, sharing of personal experiences, or whatever you feel like posting.

Or just read and don’t post anything at all.  I’m okay with that, too.


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Thoughts From the River Trail: Love Instead of Judgement

After speaking to Willy in downtown Redding yesterday, I decided to continue my walk along the Sacramento River Trail, which is a walking trail I really love. I had my pocket camera with me, which has the ability to record audio files. So as I walked the trail I began speaking into the camera’s built in microphone, recording some of the thoughts going through my head. I eventually sat down so that my breathing would quiet a little, but resumed walking after finishing up this recording.Personally, I’m not entirely sure this audio clip will interest many people. It’s just me, rambling my thoughts on the concept of loving people to God instead of judgmentally trying to bash them to Him. The “love type” of Christianity is what really got my attention when demonstrated by XXXChurch throughout the years I conversed with them.The best part of the audio, in my opinion, is the intro and outro music. 🙂

I let my friend John listen to this clip before posting it. Here’s what he had to say: “Bad audio (too much breathing), and a little on the boring side. Too obvious that you are trying to think of things to say as you go…you can quote me on that!”

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You can right click here to download this file, or simply listen to it by clicking the arrow:

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PHOTOS FROM THE TRAIL:(click to enlarge)

Sacramento River Trail - Trailhead
On the River Trail
Sacramento River Trail - Looking Back Toward Redding
Sacramento River Trail - Looking West

 


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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.


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Ali, The Muslim

Awaiting my return flight to Sacramento at Orange County Airport in Southern California, I decided to eat at the Oasis Grill and Sky Lounge. My waiter was a man named Ali. I sat longer than normal, and as I prepared to leave Ali and I began to communicate.

“I have 3 hours until my flight departs,” I told him.

“I’m sure that passes the time,” he replied. As he made a hand gesture toward my laptop.

He asked where I was headed and where I was from, then let me know he is also a Northern California native. At one time he owned an Italian Restaurant, which he’d sold at his wife’s urging in order to move closer to their daughter who is a college student.

Then his eyes began to tear up as he told me that he’d lost his wife to cancer barely a week ago. I was surprised he was working, serving food to me as I awaited my flight.

“I have to keep my mind occupied. I want to stay away from home as much as I can. The house now has no soul,” he explained in his thick accent.

A few moments later and we were discussing God. Ali and his late wife are of Muslim faith. Muslim’s serve the God of Abraham , which happens to be the same God those of Christian faith serve as well, even though Muslim’s call him “Allah” (edit to add: read the comments to this article, as this sentence has prompted a bit of discussion). During a conversation about the departure of Ali’s wife of many many years, it was not the time to discuss theological differences.

“Can I share something with you?” I asked.

When he agreed I passed along some very simple, yet profound information I’d received from Wendy when I was in extreme emotional pain.

“Don’t be afraid of the grief, Ali. It is a beautiful part of human healing. Don’t let anyone tell you how you should or shouldn’t feel about the loss of someone you loved so deeply. Let the pain last as long as it needs to last, but don’t be afraid of it. Simply thinking of the fact that emotional pain is nothing to fear… well that really changed my perspective when I was hurting. I hope it does the same for you. Pain like this is beautifully human. You loved her.”

A visible change occurred in Ali’s face. He smiled a warm, genuine smile and took my hand in a firm-grip handshake. My eyes were now glistening with moisture just as his were. I have never lost a spouse to cancer, but I felt like I really loved this man who recently had.

And so does the God I serve.

“Thank you for those beautiful words, my friend,” he told me. And his eyes followed me until I disappeared around the corner, leaving the restaurant. I know, because I looked back at him as well.

There was no need to tell Ali that I’d be praying for him. I’m just going to do so. I spoke with him for a brief instant, but the human emotions he is experiencing are something each of us feel at times, and I felt a very strong empathy and love for that hurting soul.

My God, please comfort my new friend.