Donny's Ramblings


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Doing Homework At Starbucks

Caden doing homework at Starbucks

Caden doing homework at Starbucks

I don’t get to help him with homework very often. When I do get the chance it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Today we decided to do his homework at Starbucks. Since it takes at least an hour, and since half of that is silent reading, I decided to grab a book. As I was looking through the bookshelf for something to read he handed me his Bible. What a kid!

He really warms my heart, and I cannot imagine a life without him in it.

His Bible

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God’s Word for Boys, handed to me as I was looking for something to read.

And yes, that is Blue Like Jazz in the background.   I’m re-reading it for the 3rd time… ’cause it’s that good!  If you’ve never done so, I highly suggest reading it!


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Donald Miller Is… On Flickr

Donald Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What, now has a Flickr account. He’s been posting photos like a mad man today, and writing very amusing captions to go with them. HILARIOUS!

If you’d like a great way to pass some time and get some laughs, click here to visit his flickr page, click on the first photo that shows (so you can read the captions – duh), and work your way backward. There are photos of his family and friends on there as well, which kinda makes the books come alive even more in my opinion. On this page he posted a photo that included his mother. I made a comment, and he replied to it. Thought I’d brag. Yeah, I know… acting like a starstruck fan. But, come on peeps… this is Donald Miller!  I love his writing! Cut me some slack here!

Check it out. Go. Now.


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So Donald Miller Emailed Me

Let’s imagine you’re a Stephen King fan (I happen to be a HUGE Stephen King fan) and out of the blue you receive an email from Stephen King. I’m not talking about someone pretending to be Stephen King. I’m talking about an email from the man himself.

Since I first picked up his book Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller has been my Stephen King. Instead of reading the latest King book, I’d much rather read Miller. If you’ve known me for any length of time you understand what that statement says about how impressed I must be with Don.

It’s not that I idolize him. It’s not that I think he’s somehow a greater person than the rest of us. It’s just that I appreciate his writing ability and, even more so, I appreciate the way he’s helped rewire my mind. On many occasions I’ve made it clear that if I had grown up around the type of Christianity Donald Miller portrays in his books I never would have become a porn producer. I never would have caused so much pain in the lives of so many people. My son never would have experienced growing up in a home where daddy came around only to visit.

Every single Christian on the face of the planet needs to read Donald Miller’s books. In the left column of this blog you’ll find a section that says “Three Books That Changed Me.” Click on any one of those books and buy it. I recommend reading them in the order I have them listed. They’ll change your life for the better.

With this in mind, imagine what it must have been like to receive an email from the man himself. On March 25th, 2007, at 11:33pm I was able to have that experience. What he said was simple. I’ll copy and paste it for you:

donny,

don miller here, just writing to say hello. craig gross told me a bit of your story and it sounds amazing. thought i would make contact. i hope you are doing well there. and i am glad you have encountered God, and i know he is glad to have encountered you. do fire me an e-mail and give me an update on how things are going for you. all the best…

don

I had a feeling such an email might be coming. Craig Gross from XXXChurch.com has heard me speak of Donald Miller’s books on numerous occasions. Just this past weekend in Morton, IL we had lunch with the leaders of the church that hosted the last Porn and Pancakes event. I told one of the pastors about Donald Miller’s books and how every Christian should read them and, in fact, every church should start a small group to go through them chapter by chapter. Craig told me that I was a walking advertisement for Don and that he was going to email him about me.

The thing is, although he writes about life as a Christian, Donald Miller’s books are romantic. Not in a way that men can’t appreciate, and not in the way you might typically think of romance. It’s not possible for me to properly describe what I mean. You just have to experience them for yourself. That being said, let me at least attempt to draw you into what hooked me into reading Blue Like Jazz. I opened the book and this is the first thing I read:

“I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn’t resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes. After that I liked jazz music.

Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way. I used to not like God because God didn’t resolve. But that was before any of this happened.”

That, my friends, is what I’m talking about. What a great way to start a book! I couldn’t put it down. Don Miller’s books show a Jesus I want to know. A Jesus I want to love. A Jesus I want to serve. A relationship with God that I want to experience.

He paints with words. I can’t describe his books any better than that: the man paints with words.

On March 17th, the day I announced the Hiatus that wasn’t a Hiatus after all, I read To Own a Dragon in one sitting, down at Caldwell Park in Redding, California. In it, Don discusses growing up without a father. Once again, the book changed my life. Perhaps some day I’ll tell you more about that. Perhaps not. But that weekend changed the direction in which I was heading.

Isn’t it funny how powerful words can be?

Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself.”

How does that sentence make you feel? I know what it does to me: it makes me want to be that Jazz Musician. It makes me want to love what I’m doing SO MUCH that others love what I love, just because they witness ME doing so. I want to fall so deeply in love with God that people come to know him simply because of the joy he brings to MY life.

I know that is possible. That’s part of the reason my brother surrendered his life to God. It’s part of the reason that after being an alcoholic for years, he’s still sober to this day. It’s part of the reason he calls me with hope in his voice, where before there was none.

I have no doubts whatsoever that I’ll be reading those three books numerous times. I’ll continue, as I do now, to tell people what I’ve learned from them. I’ll share the Confession chapter of Blue Like Jazz over and over again, because IT REALLY IS THAT POWERFUL.

And I’ll always remember the day an email showed up in my mail box, without a subject line, from the author of three books that were quite instrumental in rewiring my mind.

It was great to hear from you, Don.


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To Daphne

You’re right, Daphne, most of what people will say to you is going to be trite. There’s simply not a whole lot of substance that the majority of the population will be able to offer to you.

I know how you feel. I can offer that much to you. Perhaps I don’t know EXACTLY how you feel, because nobody can know that. I don’t have magic answers for you, either. I just know that it was a very short time ago I wanted to check myself into a mental institution because just minutes earlier I was planning out how to end my life.

And that happened AFTER I became a Christian.

“God, what’s wrong with me? I SHOULD feel on top of the world, but I don’t! You’re doing so much in my life, and I even feel your presence all the time. Why do I still feel this way?”

The answer is that I have no idea what the answer is, Daphne. I simply can’t understand how those feelings still enter my being. I’m sure you feel the same.

Daphne, I’m just an overweight ex-porn-producer who gave his life to God on September 25th. Yesterday made 6 months for me. God has given me so much, yet I still feel like a failure much of the time and feel despair on a regular basis. Then I feel like more of a failure for the mood swings I keep having. My mood changes from being on top of the world to feeling really low. There’s no reason for it, but for some reason it happens anyway.

Why do I mention all of that? I dunno. Probably to just let you know that you are not alone. Sometimes that helps. Sometimes it doesn’t.

I can tell you that I’ll pray for you, and while that’s true, I’m sure that offers little comfort. It’s just another trite thing to say. I will pray for you, for sure. But I’ll also ask God if there’s anything he wants me to tell you.

I don’t have an answer to your need for a family, Daphne. I live in Redding, California: 500 miles north of you. And the only people I really know in LA are in the porn business. “I’ll pray for you to find what you need” just seems like worthless words.

What I do know is this: you’re a talented writer. You’re an amazing artist. You’re a beautiful girl. Looking at the photos in your profile, my heart skips a beat. That, my dear, is not some trite sentence. I mean it. I know you feel broken right now, but from the little I can learn about you on MySpace it sure looks to me like you’ve got some really good ingredients sitting in your bowl. You can use what you have to bake a really beautiful cake. You’ve got the makings of something very good.

And, look forward to this: there are hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions of other girls out there who feel just like you do. If you can reach inside and find a way to get over what you’re feeling right now… if you can find a way to step on Satan’s head and tell him that he’s not taking you down… then at some point in the future when another person comes to you asking for the help you’re seeking right now: YOU will be able to help, instead of posting trite replies on MySpace.

That, dear Daphne, is PURPOSE. That’s something to hold onto. You matter, and God wants to use you to help other Daphnes that he loves so dearly. I want to tell you something I learned recently, about Jesus. Perhaps Jesus isn’t what you want to hear about right now, but I’m gonna tell you anyway:

In Jesus’ day, children received their education from Rabbis starting around age 6. Between age 10 and 15, the rabbi would start to consider which of the kids he taught was good enough to carry on his yoke (his yoke = his way of teaching the Torah, or scriptures). He’d tell those who were “good enough”: “Come, follow me”. Those who were good enough would then have the honor of following that rabbi around for years, learning how to teach about God in the style of their master. The rest would be sent back home to learn the family business. They weren’t good enough to carry on the Rabbi’s yoke.

When Jesus called his disciples, you’ll notice he went to the losers. They’d been cast aside by other rabbis and sent home to learn the family business. He went to them and said, “Come, follow me.” He was saying “YOU are good enough to carry on MY yoke. You’re good enough to do my work and carry on my traditions. I don’t care if others have cast you aside, I am telling you that you’re good enough to do what I need you to do”.

I hold on to that when I feel like a failure. How can I be a failure when God himself, in the form of a man, has told me I’m good enough to carry on his yoke?

Daphne, you’re good enough to reach other people for Jesus. He wants you to be part of his family, and to help the rest of his kids through you. It doesn’t matter how often you fail. All that matters is that you get up one time more than you fall down. He’ll give you a huge hug and sit you on his lap, wiping away your tears. I know, I know, it sounds trite. But it’s so true.

I hope you find the physical family you’re looking for, but you’ve already got a spiritual family. God himself is your father, brother, and even your lover (yes, God is a lover – read Sex God by Rob Bell if you can – I’d also recommend reading Donald Miller’s Books: Blue Like Jazz, Searching for God Knows What, To Own a Dragon – you’ll SO identify with them, and I’d be happy to send my copies to you). And there are many of us in your spiritual family who can identify with how you feel. We’re here, even if it sometimes doesn’t feel like it.

(I’d like to ask all readers to please keep Daphne in your prayers. She’s having a rough time right now.)


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My Brother Daniel



I have one sibling, a younger brother named Daniel. He’s 3 years younger than me, which makes him 30 years old.

The two of us were always very close growing up, except during certain times when he thought it would be funny to shoot me in the butt with a pellet gun, or when he’d decide to try shooting me with a rock from his slingshot. Other than that, childhood together consisted of two brothers who felt they could take on the world together. We did fight a bit from time to time, but what siblings don’t?

As an adult, Daniel grew as bitter as I was toward church. In fact, it just might be possible he hated church and the “saints” who attend even more than I did. Where I attempted to drown out my anger and frustrations using porn production and rebellion, Daniel chose meth and alcohol. In 2005 I forced him to move from Las Vegas to Chico to live with me for awhile because his meth use was close to killing him. There was no way I was going to sit around and wait for him to die, so I packed as much of his stuff as I could fit into my Explorer, evicted him from his apartment and got him away from the so-called “friends” with whom he enjoyed shooting up.

For some reason he’s always been in the habit of not just using, but seriously abusing his drug of choice. One example is with his alcohol consumption: where other alcoholics might be happy to just be drunk all the time, Daniel chooses to drink half a gallon of vodka per day. He was recently at a doctor’s office having his shoulder examined. His doctor asked about alcohol use and Daniel was honest with him. At that point the doctor let him know that there really was no point treating his shoulder because his alcoholism was going to kill him soon anyway.

I’ve fought pretty hard to make my brother seek professional help, as has my father. He hasn’t wanted to listen. He is of the opinion that when he’s ready to quit he’ll just do so on his own. Because of this, our relationship is not nearly as close as it once was. We’ll sometimes go a few months without talking.


THIS PAST MONDAY:

This past Monday I decided to drive to the small mountain town where both my brother and my father live. My dad had an errand to run so I waited at his house. When Daniel called to give my dad his new phone number, I answered instead. He was surprised I was in town.

“Dad told me you want to talk to me about this new life you’re doing. You can talk to me anytime you want, bub.”

An hour or so after our telephone conversation I drove over to talk to him in person. He let me know how surprised he was that I was “going back to church again”. I asked him if he wanted to hear some of the reasons why I’d chosen to do so. He said he’d listen.

“But honestly, Don, I believe in God but I don’t believe in Jesus or the Bible and I never will.”

I started sharing with him some of the things that I’ve been reading and experiencing that have been rewiring my mind. We talked for a long time about the Christians from our past, mutual frustrations we’ve had, anger and a wide variety of other Christian oriented topics.

I pointed out to Daniel that the hatred coming out of his mouth was hatred toward PEOPLE, not toward God or Jesus. I started showing him scriptures that demonstrated Jesus was all about love, not condemnation and judgment. I read to him from Blue Like Jazz and Velvet Elvis, two books that have changed my life.

Over the course of the time we talked I could see tears forming in my brothers eyes. The message of love, not judgment, is something all of us need to hear. It’s so important to separate the love our father has for us from the hatred the “saints” so often show. There is nothing unattractive about a perfect, pure love. Nothing.

I could write several pages about the conversation we had that night, but what it boils down to is this:

I HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF LEADING MY LITTLE BROTHER BACK TO A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD!

Yep, he invited Jesus Christ back into his life this past Monday.

I explained to Daniel that Jesus isn’t going to beat him up if his alcohol problem doesn’t immediately go away. All he wanted was for Daniel to reach out to him first, and he’d take care of the rest.

“Do you want to go to a crazy church service with me this Friday, Dan?”

“Sure, why not?”


“Okay, I’ll be back Friday morning to pick you up. You can stay at my house.”

The service was different than anything from our past. It touched him. Like mine, his mind has begun to be rewired as well.

Out of respect for me (and because he knows he needs to do it) Daniel significantly reduced his drinking when he arrived at my place. Rather than a half gallon of vodka, Daniel only consumed half a beer on both Friday and Saturday.

SATURDAY NIGHT:

Last night (Saturday) Daniel and I were sitting in my room. As I’ve mentioned, I live in the master bedroom of my house. This is a living situation that will be changing this week, as I get the last of my things out of the house and turn the keys over to the bank this coming Friday. The house didn’t sell. I couldn’t afford a $3,600 per month house payment anymore and the bank finally decided not to wait any longer. That really doesn’t bother me too much, however. It’s just one more weight off my back.

Daniel was sitting on the floor watching a movie on TV while I sat in my easy chair doing a bit of writing on my laptop. As the day got later and the room darkened, the only lights came from the TV and from my computer. At 7:06pm the TV turned off and the room went completely dark. I asked Daniel to turn it back on. There was no response so I got up and turned on the light. My brother was having a seizure on the floor. He’s never had one before in his life.

That freaked me out. Big time. But I resolved to remain calm and I kept him on his side as best I could. Puke was coming out of his mouth at the same time, and it sounded like he was struggling for every breath. I dialed 911 on my cell phone, gave them my address, quickly ran to the front door to unlock it, then returned to his side while the convulsions continued. They went on for a minute and a half. I thought he was dying.

He must have been hungry because he bit a nice piece out of his tongue.

Once the convulsions had passed, and as I waited for the ambulance to arrive, I tried to communicate with my brother. Every time I’d get near him he’d scream and jump, scared out of his mind. He struggled to his feet and walked toward the bathroom. When he saw his reflection in the mirror he screamed again and fell to the floor. He had no idea what was going on.

The paramedics arrived and Daniel was taken by ambulance to the hospital. To make a long story short, we spent several hours in the ER as the doctors ran tests to see what was wrong. It turns out his body was going through alcohol withdrawals.

Daniel was given some prescription drugs to help with the withdrawal symptoms. He’s also been instructed to check into rehab ASAP because his liver is highly inflamed and the doctors don’t think he’ll live longer than a few years if he continues to drink.

Perfect timing. After his decision for Jesus on Monday he realized quitting is something he desperately needs to do. Now he has the motivation to do so, and a God he can lean on to help him through it.

Daniel is doing well today. He’s asleep on the floor in front of my television as I write this. I’d like to ask all readers to say a prayer for him as he struggles with this addiction.

These last few days he’s mentioned several times that a real God encounter is something he badly wants. Help me pray that he gets it.


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Dear T.N. from Texas

Thank you so much for your email this morning. I took your advice and purchased Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. I’ve begun reading it already. In fact, I just stopped reading at the beginning of Chapter 5 because I was so excited I had to stop to write to you, and since this book has touched me so much already I wanted to do so right here on my blog. So many people read this blog and they need to know what an incredible book this is.

Thank you for taking the time to analyze me and reach out to me in understanding. Yes, you called it right. And I agree, after reading the first 4 chapters, that this book could have been written by me.

I like it so much that I forced Belinda to listen as I read a few chapters to her. She laughed in parts. Yawned in others.

I copied and pasted the email you wrote into Microsoft Word for Mac. I did this because I wanted to see how long your email was so that I could tell on you to those who read my blog. It was 7 pages, man, 7 pages! Two thousand five hundred seventy words, to be exact. And I read every one of those words and was touched that you took the time to write them.

Your email shows that you have an obvious love for people, and you must read people well because you read me perfectly. This is indeed the book I need to be reading right now.

Thank you, my new friend. Thank you very much.

– Donny –

PS: to all the others who recommended this book, thank you as well. This particular person happened to email me a 7 page letter and explained to me (amongst other things) WHY he thought I should be reading this book. And since he made so much effort, I decided to drive down to the Christian bookstore right away. He was right on.