Donny's Ramblings


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Thoughts From Yaks Koffee

The Magic Chair

Earlier this afternoon I was sitting in my easy chair reading one of the textbooks for my Church History class. In case you’re a new reader, I’m currently a student of the Londen Institute for Evangelism, on my way to a degree in Ministry. From Porn Producer to Pastor? Perhaps.

Hmm… maybe I should contemplate that italicized sentence as a possible book title?

Anyway… where was I? Oh yeah, the easy chair. The chair is a magic chair. No, really, it is. Wendy and I bought it before Caden was born. I used to rock him to sleep in it late at night. Wendy was not a late-night type of person, so when Caden was an infant and woke up in the middle of the night, as infants do, Wendy would nurse him and then I’d take him downstairs to rock him to sleep. I’d pop in a movie and the two of us would have Daddy and Caden time. It was magical.

The magic chair… it wasn’t cheap, which is one of the two reasons why I still own it today, even though it doesn’t match the rest of the furniture in my apartment. One thing about that ex-wife of mine is that she will not settle for cheap furniture. I could tell you stories about the dressers that have been purchased for my son and the bunk bed set she’s currently talking me into buying. I didn’t realize such price tags could attach themselves to bunk beds! But I digress…

As I was sitting in Magic Chair reading A HISTORY OF THE CHURCH FROM PENTECOST TO PRESENT, by James B. North, I started thinking “I could be reading this at Yaks.”

And so… here I sit at Yaks Koffee. But I’m not reading. I’ve got the laptop fired up and am LOOKING at my text books while I type. Does looking count for anything?

Instead of being a good student, reading my textbooks and preparing to write the papers assigned to me, I am instead writing to you, my constant readers, about a few thoughts I’ve been pondering in the last few days. I want to share them with you and ask for your opinions and input.

Random Thought #1: Sin and God’s Jealousy

While driving, I was thinking to myself, “God is a jealous God, right? That’s what I’ve read and heard. But why is that?” The following thoughts came to mind (pardon the example used to illustrate these thoughts – it just seems that I often come to spiritual “realizations” by thinking of events from my life – is that normal?):

When I was playing that horrible game with Belinda I would find myself fighting jealousy from time to time. While it didn’t start that way, it wasn’t long before I was battling for her affections. If an idea was suggested by Mark, I didn’t want Belinda to like it. I wanted her to realize that anything coming from Mark was evil (I guess that didn’t work out quite as I planned because she now lives with him) and anything coming from me was good (of course). If she did happen to think one of his ideas was a good one I’d feel a surge of jealousy. In your own relationship, if you have one, imagine how you’d feel if the person you’re in love with found pleasure or delight in the suggestions of another.

In the case of real-life Good vs. Evil, all good comes from God. His opponent, and ours, creates and perpetuates evil. Most of us can agree on that, I’m sure. So it makes sense to me that when those God loves choose something that was created or suggested by His opponent, He feels jealousy.

I realize this is basic for most of you, but this is a perspective I’d never considered before. Input, anyone?

Random Thought #2: Is There ANYONE God Won’t Forgive and Use for His Good?

Somewhat related to the above line of thought, I began thinking of David, and also of Saul/Paul. As King, David was a man who had it all. He was wealthy. He could do whatever he pleased. He was in a position of leadership, and part of his duties were to protect his people. So when he murdered one of the men who served in his armed forces in order to take the poor man’s wife, in my opinion he deserved to die. How many of us could forgive such a thing if it happened today? But after his sin was called out and he became a broken person, begging God’s forgiveness, God did just that. And he even called David a man after his own heart.

We all know the story of Saul, the Christian killer. He found a lot of joy in hunting Christians down and persecuting them. Yet Jesus met him on the road to Damascus, temporarily blinded him, changed his life and used him to change the world. As the Apostle Paul, 13 books of the New Testament were written by him.

I wonder if God took pleasure in snatching these two men out of Satan’s hands, purposefully using them to do his work, in part, to rub it in Satan’s face? At one point, both of these men must have elicited an enormous amount of jealousy within God. After all, they were choosing to pursue Satan’s “suggestions” over God’s plan.

Gimme your thoughts, will ya?


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Arguing About Theology

I’ve been reminded that one’s time is always better spent concentrating on one’s relationship with God rather than arguing with others over theological differences, and that if love for Jesus is what people see bubbling out from inside of us, Jesus inside of us will change lives.

I’m the type who needs to be brought back to reality over and over and over again. Sometimes it’s just better to say “I have no dog in that fight” (pardon the expression, especially in light of the recent Michael Vick fiasco). Choosing not to spend time on needless discussions… that’s a lesson I need to continually learn.

What a great way to start the day. 🙂


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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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The Departure Of The Bad-Gunky

(well, some of it anyway)

I’m a hah-uge Stephen King fan. Have been all my life. I don’t apologize for that.

I mention this because the term “Bad-Gunky” comes from Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story. A very general definition would be “very bad stuff” inside oneself. If you’ve read the book, you know it’s a lot deeper than that.

All of us have “bad-gunky” inside. Pastor Bill calls it our “inner mess”. That’s a good term too. Pastor Bill, in some of his writings, even reminds me of Stephen King, but that’s another story who’s time has not yet come.

This evening as I sat reading, I realized some of my own “bad-gunky” has left me. I welcome that very much.

“Donny, to what are you referring?” you might ask.

“To Belinda”, I’d reply.

A few weeks ago I mentioned making up with Mark, Belinda’s new boyfriend. What I’ve yet to discuss is the emotional release I’ve had from Belinda as well. And it is SO welcomed. I thought it would never happen. Fortunately, and miraculously, I was wrong.

See, my heart was crushed by the way our relationship ended. I loved her so much. I made so many mistakes, and I felt so much guilt for those. I made Belinda feel emotions I never intended her to feel. I messed with her head, big time.

Slowly over time I’ve been able to forgive myself for what I’ve done. Like you, I know deep inside that God forgives me. Sometimes we humans have a hard time forgiving ourself, don’t we? We feel the need to punish ourselves because our human minds demand retribution for poor behavior. I did this. A lot. Yet when I was miserable I’d take out my “miserableness” on those in my life, including Belinda and her new boyfriend (who was my friend at one point – and who I so desperately wish remained my friend to this day).

I wallowed in self pity.

It’s been many weeks since I’ve last felt sorry for myself for Belinda moving on with someone else. Months, perhaps. I’ve kept from writing about it, until now, because I wanted to be sure all that bad-gunky was gone. I’m pretty sure it is. In my mind, when Belinda crosses it, I wish her nothing but good luck and great times in her new life. I don’t stew on how she supposedly wronged me. I don’t hate Mark for being with her. I see it as good. I see him as the best person in the world to take care of her. I see our “split” as the right thing to do.

I’m not saying our situation wasn’t unfortunate. It was. Very much so. But for many, many years I made a lot of decisions that were quite unfortunate and downright stupid: I cheated on Wendy, my one and only wife, who loved me much more than I realized (I took her for granted because I was SO IGNORANT). I left her when Caden, my beautifully innocent son, was an infant. I found Belinda while looking to fill the hole inside of me that only God can fill, and then I gave her to another man, thinking I was giving her a “gift” (how ignorant can one person be?).

I definitely cluttered my life with baggage, didn’t I?

At one time I thought the days of crying-until-I-puke were never going to end. I thought the sadness would consume me. I felt I was different than everyone else that has experienced heartbreak, and while others may heal, Donny would never again be well. Ever.

I was wrong: I’m okay.

I’m beyond okay, actually.

I’m great!

Making up with Mark was a good step in the right direction, but even before that I’d realized there’s no point feeling sorry for myself. I realized that I was handed a blessing in disguise. Things could have been SO much worse:

Since Belinda and I were no longer on the same spiritual path there was no way we could have stayed together. What if I’d have had to break up with her only to watch her wallow in sorrow and feelings of abandonment? I’m not heartless. Would I have moved away from God to comfort Belinda? I’d like to say, “no”, but the truth is that I don’t really know. I didn’t have to face that situation.

I’m very grateful for that.

I marvel at the way God’s “big picture” always seems to be the best picture. That’s what I’ve experienced in my own life, at least. God has his hands on everything: even the very worst situations, in the long run, have become some of my biggest blessings.

Perhaps I’ll elaborate on that in the future.

Without looking through the history of my blog, I’m pretty confident that I can say I’ve told you, my constant readers, of the endless days I’ve been torn up inside over the loss of my 6 years with Belinda. But I can also tell you that on this day (and many before it) I am SO blessed she’s no longer in my life, and I can rest easy knowing she has someone who loves and cherishes her. I’ll always care for her – any normal human, no matter how they try to deceive themselves, cannot say otherwise about someone with whom they’ve spent so much time – but the sting is gone. For good.

I thank God for that.

On a TOTALLY unrelated issue, please read this from my friend Jimmy. If you’re local, contact him will ya?


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Thoughts from Duffy's Tavern

I’m sitting at Duffy’s Tavern in Chico, California, reminiscing on the events of my life while sipping a margarita and listening to Frank Sinatra on the Jukebox. I’ve fed that jukebox full of music for the next hour. The playlist includes Frankie, Prince, and several selections from the Grease soundtrack.

Beautiful, I tell ya. I love this music.

Some Christians might be tempted to ask why I’m hanging out in a bar and sipping a margarita. There is no answer for those who would ask. I just felt like writing here. I love Chico, and Duffy’s Tavern is a Chico icon.

There are 7 other people here at the moment, each engrossed in conversation with those who came with them.

None have complained about Sinatra.

As for the margaritas:
My constant readers, Jesus did not turn water into kool-aid. Alcohol consumption isn’t up for discussion, so don’t bother.

This afternoon after church (each of us in a separate church), Wendy and I had lunch with our son at the new Chili’s restaurant by the Chico Mall. We accomplished something today. See, we’ve been doing quite a bit of arguing over a pretty serious issue we’ve both had to face, and we’ve been facing it for what seems an eternity. Today I think we made progress. She’s an amazing woman, I’ll tell ya. I really love and appreciate her so much. If only I’d done so when we were married…

But speaking of progress, I’m very happy to have come to a “truce” with Belinda’s new boyfriend. A few days ago, the two of us talked on the phone, man to man, as we should have done quite some time ago. Here’s to hoping we’ll stop ripping into each other with insults on public internet message boards, as well as in conversations with mutual acquaintances. Mark used to be a friend of mine. Speaking with him on the phone made me kinda miss that friendship (just a little). I don’t think we’ll be sitting around a campfire singing Kumbaya together anytime soon, but at least we’ve made some progress and have hopefully put the petty bickering in our past.

…which really makes me happy. Because the hatred I harbored for Mark was eating me alive. It was way out of hand. It was definitely preventing me from moving forward and pursuing a closer relationship with my Creator. I don’t want to go into any details, but the conversation we had was a healing experience for me. At one time I really loved Mark’s friendship. He can be a very funny, charismatic man. I hope I can focus on those positives from here on out. That sure would make life better.

And that’s all I have to say about that…

—–

When I think of God, I can’t help but think of my relationship with Caden. There really isn’t anything my beautiful son could ever do to make me love him any less.

In my mind, I can’t fathom ever loving anyone or anything more than I love my son. He is my life. When he hurts, I hurt. When something negatively affects his life, I’m nearly driven out of my mind with pain. I’m not being dramatic. I’d die for that little boy.

The other day I was at Wendy’s house with Caden. Wendy was out of town. Caden and I had a wonderful time together, bantering about lots of things that are important to 7 year old little boys. At one point he wanted to go outside and ride his bike with his friend Isaiah. I had a few things to do in the house before I could go out and watch him pedal around, laughing his head off with that angelic laugh he has. I let him go ahead of me.

5 minutes later I left the house to go watch him play. His hands were scraped and his knee was bloody. He was in pain.

Can I tell you how that affected me?

Even though he was fine, I had to fight to keep from crying. There was my precious little boy with blood dripping down his leg. He’d been riding around and his front tire had gone off the pavement and onto the gravel. That caused him to lose control of his bike and scrape his leg up pretty good. Although the injury was minor, everything inside of me cried out to run to him, hold him in my arms, and do whatever I could to make the pain go away.

He wasn’t crying. He’s a tough little guy.

I kept my emotions under control and acted like it wasn’t all that big a deal. I told him in a matter-of-fact tone that we should probably clean his wounds. He agreed. We went inside, where HE instructed ME on how MOMMY would clean and bandage his wound. That in itself made my heart attempt to leap through my chest. My little boy loves his mommy so much, and every word that comes out of her mouth, every routine she has for doing things her own way… well, that’s the way things should be in Caden’s mind.

I love that, so much (perhaps the day will come when I’ll tell you about how he wants to grow up to be a soldier, guarding his mommy’s door).

So after using Bactine instead of Neosporin (because mommy does it that way so it has to be better) Caden was back outside riding like a mad man on his “fire bike” with Isaiah.

And I was watching.

And cringing.

And hating yet loving every minute as he rode almost-out-of-control over speed bumps while looking over his shoulder wondering if daddy saw that and had recognized just how cool it was. And can there be anything more AWESOME than a long skid mark left on the pavement, dad?

AND ALL OF THIS JUST MAKES ME THINK:

God feels the same about his children. There’s nothing any of us could ever do to make HIM love US any less.

Nothing.

Nothing!

Does God observe us playing our beautiful little childish games, cringing when we are almost-out-of-control, trying hard not to cry when we hurt ourselves, and nursing us with spiritual “Bactine” when we do so?

Does he bandage our wounds and send us back out to play with Isaiah, watching from the sidewalk and loving us so much it literally hurts?

 

Click any photo to enlarge:
Within Minutes of Birth On the Plane Caden the Ring Bearer Flowers for Mommy