Donny's Ramblings


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Write a Better Story, Live a Better Story

This post was written September 12th.  I couldn’t post it until today because it contains my review, of sorts, of Donald Miller’s latest book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and we (“we” being the bloggers given advance copies) were not supposed to release our reviews until today.  This is cross-posted on both this blog as well as in a note on my Facebook page.  Feel free to comment at either (or both) location(s).

Late Thursday night I finally opened the package I’d received from Thomas Nelson earlier in the day.  Had I known what was inside I wouldn’t have waited so long.  For some reason I’d been sent two copies of Donald Miller’s latest book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.  I started reading, but stopped long enough to text Don, telling him I was reading his book.  He had no idea why I was sent two copies either, but offered to send yet another one if I wanted it.  Of course I want it!  I’ve a few people in mind to send the two extra copies, but I’ll keep the one Don sends, especially if he autographs the inside.  It was late, and I had an early flight to catch, so I put the book down, deciding to instead read it on my flight to Indiana to speak with part of the XXXChurch team at Purdue University.

Donny Pauling, Meet Donald Miller

Donny Pauling, Meet Donald Miller

Friday morning started… interestingly.  My flight was delayed more than two and a half hours, creating a scheduled arrival time that would put me at the university an hour after I was scheduled to speak.  That wouldn’t work.  I explained the situation to a very helpful Alaskan Airlines employee, who was kind enough to put me on another flight with another airline – United – the only catch being I’d have to drive more than two hours south to Sacramento to catch it.  My efforts would be rewarded: if nothing else went wrong I’d arrive at Purdue just 10 minutes after the time I was scheduled to take the stage.  Much better – the band could easily play a couple of extra songs and the crowd would never know the difference.

Finally on my way to Indy, I cracked open Million again.  I read it all the way to my connecting flight in Denver, often laughing out loud, likely making my seat companions wonder if I was mentally unstable.  If you’ve read one of Don’s books I’m sure you can identify: the man is funny and can tell a story! This one really amused me:  it’s inspired by Don being told his life is just too boring to make a movie out of.

I only read for a few minutes after leaving Denver for Indianapolis.  I needed to catch a nap so I’d be sharp enough to speak to the thousand plus college students expected to attend Friday Night’s Porn and Popcorn event.  I put the book in my bag in a revered, sacred place: the pouch occupied by my beloved MacBook Pro and Kindle DX.   Don’s latest would have to wait until the return flight…

…which was also delayed more than two hours, getting me into Chicago an hour after my next flight left, but not before Don’s pen reduced me to tears in front of my fellow passengers on the Indy to Chi town stretch.  While taxiing to the gate in Chicago I texted Don to harass him for this.  “Wow.  That wasn’t intended I assure you!!” was his response.

Once in Chicago, and after more than an hour standing in a customer service line to be rebooked, I learned I’d have to spend the night at O’Hare and settle for a 10:40am departure the next morning.  I had a decision to make: I could go postal like the lady standing behind me, or I could accept my fate and see this as an opportunity to finish the book and perhaps experience what it’s like to sleep on the floor of one of those family bathrooms – you know, the kind that lock and give you the stall all to yourself? While I don’t think that’s any part of the kind of “better story” talked about throughout Don’s book, I decided it’d be much better than the heart attack Ms. Postal was about to give herself.

Probably because of the smile I kept on my face as Mt. Saint Helens erupted yet again behind me, the United Airlines Customer Service Rep gave me a standby ticket for a flight that wasn’t mentioned earlier.  It was very full and the odds were just about zilch that I’d actually catch it, but with two hours to kill before knowing the answer for sure, I took the ticket, found a family bathroom, plugged in my iPhone to charge, and relaxed a little.  I couldn’t get comfortable enough to feel like reading, but the hour and a half spent in that solitary space was still a great escape from the noise of an insanely busy terminal, and I only felt a little guilty when the handle was wiggled a time or two by people who probably actually needed to use the facilities for the purpose they were intended.

Divine intervention must have opened heaven, earth, and a few seats on the 8:16pm flight to Sacramento, because my name was called – and I got a window seat.  In another miracle rivaling that time the USA won the gold in hockey against the Russians, the seat in between me and the other guy in my row remained empty after the doors closed and boarding ended.  With the extra space to stretch my legs, I was soon comfortably finishing A Million Miles in a Thousand Years…which brings me to the present, where I still sit on that same plane hurtling towards Sacra-tomato at 500 miles an hour, writing to you, my constant readers.

I gotta tell ya:  I honestly don’t know how to write the review this book deserves.   Don tells a story – his story – yet somehow his story challenges the reader to go out and live a better version of their own life story.  He does this in a way I can’t put into the right words to make you understand how special a gift you’ll be giving yourself when you pick up a copy.  He just does it… Donald Miller style.  Just buy it! Then come back and tell me if I’m the only grown adult it moves to publicly laugh and cry, unconcerned about those sitting nearby.


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Donald Miller’s Benediction at the Democratic National Convention

Donald Miller was asked to give the closing Benediction Monday night at the Democratic National Convention.  Here’s the prayer (around 1:44 into the video there is a 10 second silence for some reason):

Before the benediction was given, Don shared his thoughts with Christianity Today magazine.  I really enjoyed what he had to say:

Thoughts?


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Donald Miller's Benediction at the Democratic National Convention

Donald Miller was asked to give the closing Benediction Monday night at the Democratic National Convention.  Here’s the prayer (around 1:44 into the video there is a 10 second silence for some reason):

Before the benediction was given, Don shared his thoughts with Christianity Today magazine.  I really enjoyed what he had to say:

Thoughts?


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From Sea To Shining Sea

Donald Miller and the Ride:Well Team have crossed the country on bicycles, all for a good cause. Yesterday Don posted a photo and a simple
“We made it!” after he and the team rode their bikes into the Atlantic Ocean. Check it out.

If you’re not familiar with the Ride:Well cause, browse through that site a bit. Good stuff.

This post made from my iPhone with the WordPress iPhone app.


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Donald Miller's Ride:Well

Check this out:

Learn more here.

See the latest updates, with pictures, here.

If you don’t already know, Donald Miller is the best selling author of books such as Blue Like Jazz, Searching for God Knows What, Through Painted Deserts, and To Own a Dragon. Making any donation to the Ride:Well cause, even as little as a dollar, gets you the first chapter of Donald Miller’s latest book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.


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Donald Miller’s Ride:Well

Check this out:

Learn more here.

See the latest updates, with pictures, here.

If you don’t already know, Donald Miller is the best selling author of books such as Blue Like Jazz, Searching for God Knows What, Through Painted Deserts, and To Own a Dragon. Making any donation to the Ride:Well cause, even as little as a dollar, gets you the first chapter of Donald Miller’s latest book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.


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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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Emotional Roller Coaster, a Healed Ear and a 45lbs Lighter Donny

I started writing this on April 3rd, 11 days ago. I wrote most of it, saved it as a draft, and haven’t returned to finish it. Today I intend to do so.

Before becoming a Christian, I’d never seriously considered ending my life.

Ever.

Ever ever ever.

So after surrendering my life to God… after He begins doing amazing, powerful, profound things for me… after having real encounters with the Creator of the Universe… why is it that after all of that I arrived at a place where I seriously wished to die?

This happened just a few days short of a month ago. John says I played it down when I very briefly mentioned it in my “Dear Daphne” letter. He says I did so because I’m afraid that if I tell the truth people won’t like me as much. People might stop reading my blog. People might think I’m not really a Christian. People might think I’m crazy and, as such, might not want to listen to me speak.

John is very blunt. I love him. He’s my best friend and he knows me pretty damned well. He calls it like he sees it and trusts me enough to know I won’t be offended when he does so. He knows I respect that about him.

And really, what is there to be afraid of? I discuss everything here, and because of that I’ve received dozens of emails thanking me for being transparent. Telling me that this blog speaks into the lives of many.

I feel that’s what I’m supposed to do here. I feel that very strongly.

So now I’m going to tell you about the emotional roller coaster I was riding.

It felt like the world came crashing down on March 16th.

On that day:

– I’d just settled in to a new place to live after the bank took my house. The new place isn’t nearly as comfortable as what I’ve been used to, and having two roommates takes a bit of adjustment, especially when you have to share a bathroom with one of them.

– That afternoon Wendy let me know that there’s no hope for reconciliation on any sort of romantic level, and when I heard her reasons for feeling that way I knew she was serious.

I had to face a very serious issue from my past that I’ve been trying to forget.

– I was still upset that, the day before, a man from the adult industry… a man I used to consider a good friend… publicly posted the following message to me, where hundreds if not thousands of people could read it:

If you think you are some reborn Christian, you have lost it. Seriously, I anticipate the day I hear/read about you offing yourself, and I will state now that not only does it not surprise me, but it doesn’t sadden me either. You have inner demons that must be cast out, and at the rate you are going, death is the only thing that will help that along.

– Feelings of rejection (Belinda) begun raising up inside, once again (sometimes I still can’t wrap my mind around how someone can move on so quickly after 6 years of being together – deep inside I know it was my fault, but that doesn’t always satisfy my questions).

– My counselor was out of town.

– My dad, too, was out of town: on vacation for the entire month.

I started thinking, “Lloyd’s right. I should do the world a favor and take myself out.”

I don’t want to discuss the full details of that day because, looking back, I am very embarrassed to have felt that way at all. But I will tell you what kept me from parking my running car in a garage at my former residence, where my garage door opener still works, and listening to music until I went to sleep: I ended up making a call for help. That call brought me down to earth enough that I deciding to check myself into a mental hospital instead of doing something really stupid.

The hospital turned me away. It was after normal admissions hours.  I was informed that in order to be admitted I’d need to go to the emergency room of a regular local hospital and ask for a counselor to be sent.

On the way to the ER I became angry and asked myself what the hell I was doing. Why was I being so stupid? It turned out not to be necessary to check in. Simply attempting to admit myself made something change inside of me, so instead of going to the ER, I went directly to the church for Friday night service…

where God healed my ear. It had been hurting pretty badly for several days. During the service, a man whose name I don’t know started praying for it. Less than 10 seconds into his prayer I started hearing popping noises, the pain went away, and it hasn’t returned.

How can one continue wallowing in self pity after God heals their ear?

God, that was a really good way to refocus my mind back onto you. Thank you for that.

The next day I read Donald Miller’s To Own a Dragon. I was very embarrassed about how I’d felt the day before. How could I have allowed such thoughts to enter my brain?

I was feeling normal again.

For a few days.

The beautiful conversations I’d been having with Wendy were over. There’s nothing more intimate than connecting with words and being on the same page. But that intimacy had to stop.

Once again, I started feeling like I had nobody who truly cared. I bought into that lie. I didn’t sink again to a level where I wanted to die, but I sure was feeling sorry for myself. Today I can’t even remember why.

Because of all of this I realized I was giving myself way too much free time to ponder things that don’t need to be pondered. I immersed myself in work, which is why this blog hasn’t been updated as regularly as I’d like. Dealer Web Concepts, the business I started to help auto dealers with their internet marketing needs, now services 7 auto dealerships in 4 towns. I had to drop one client due to a conflict of interest with another. That turned out to be a good thing, however, because I have no idea where I’d find the time to service them.

Is now a good time to take a break and mention that I’ve lost 45 lbs? I haven’t been at this weight for almost 6 years. Not long ago I read a comment made on an internet message board by Belinda’s new boyfriend, alluding to him wanting to be “the bigger man” and I couldn’t help but snicker a little. Because now he literally IS the bigger man. But I digress.

Dear God, you’ve allowed me to work past my hatred of Mark to the point where it no longer exists, now please help me lose the residual bitterness as well.

Besides immersing myself in work, I’ve begun attending more home groups. Surrounding myself with like minded people works wonders. When I was growing up, the churches I attended never had small groups. Are these a relatively new creation or were we just clueless? Home groups are amazing! And the churches I associate with have so many to choose from! I attend a Singles group, a Single Parents group, a Christian Sportsman group and another group that wouldn’t quite fit into any particular category.

Feelings of being “alone” no longer exist.

As a Christian I’m still an infant, but I’m loving every experience, good and bad. I’m so far from perfect it’s not even funny. Thank God for Romans 7 verse 17-25. I’ve used those scriptures to help lead others to surrendering their life to God, but I personally find a lot of strength to stand back up each time I fall down.

Here’s Paul, the man who wrote the majority of the New Testament upon which literally BILLIONS of people have lived their lives, talking about his personal struggles. Not struggles he USED TO HAVE, but struggles he faced as a Christian, all the time. “The Message” translation says it best:

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help!

I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it.

I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway.

My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up.

I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

As Rob Bell talks about in the first of his Nooma videos, so many people think being a Christian means you have to have your life in perfect order. But Jesus himself said he didn’t come for those who have it all together. He came for the sick.

Thank God for that.


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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.)