Donny's Ramblings


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God's Back… (plus JR Mahon and NEOChurch)

Just moments ago I wrote an email and sent it to a few friends. I wasn’t going to share it here, but have changed my mind. The subject line was God’s Back. In the body I wrote:

Believe me, I realize God didn’t go anywhere… that I’m the one who neglected my relationship with Him. The subject/title of this email simply reflects how I feel.

Months before I moved to Corning I felt God wanted me to stay in Redding. I moved anyway, because I was convinced that if I did so my relationship with Wendy would be restored and I’d have a family again. It turns out nothing could be further from the truth. At this point in our lives, Wendy and I can only stand being around each other for a few minutes. Thinking, or hoping, something is going to happen does not always make it happen.

In Corning, my spirit began to die. It didn’t fade completely, of course, but it sure dimmed quite a bit.

It’s only been a few weeks since I’ve moved back to the city I never should have left, and the difference within me boggles my mind. I feel God again. I feel like we’re communicating again. I walk with Him each morning along the Sacramento River trail, and the conversations we have sometimes make me cry. Inside I’m at peace again. Things I’ve worried about aren’t such a big concern.

In Corning, I knew He was there, but just couldn’t seem to reach Him as often or as deeply as I’d like.

Now I’m home, and He’s thrown a welcome back party inside my spirit.

I just wanted to share that with you.

– Donny –

JR Mahon, formerly a Pastor with XXXChurch.com and now the Executive Director for NEOChurch, was one of the friends to whom I sent the email. When he replied I clicked on the link in his signature to visit the NEOChurch Website. I then read the latest blog entry he’d written. I hope you are as touched by it as I was. It’s titled Great First Sunday and reads:

I was reminded Sunday why we do what we do… After a GREAT first NEOsunday service for which we are all very proud of and grateful, we had lunch. In Christian circles thats what you do after church, eat like there’s no tomorrow.

There was a guy sitting at the end of my table at lunch. I had watched this man show up early, help set up NEO and sweat if ya know what I mean while helping. I watched him lift things, move things and generally be helpful to anyone who needed a hand. He looked liked us, acted like us and worked like us. He was a blessing.

There he was again at lunch, at the end of a full table of people minding his own business until I started up. “Hey man where do you live?” I yell across the table. He smiled slowly and quietly made his way over to my chair. Bending down to talk with me he says, “I’m homeless, kinda in between things right now.” Imagine that, a homeless dude helps us move into our new church and I’m yelling across the table were do you live! Idiot!

We talked for about 15 minutes… his life, my life, our ups and downs, the next steps, the faith it requires to conquer sin in our lives. This guy had no air about him, no entitlements, no preconceived notions about us or his situation, he was a part of us and yet knew things most of us would never know or want to know. Like how to get a bed in a mission or simply survive day to day while rebuilding his life and faith and yet he showed up to NEO. He served so the Gospel could hit peoples ears and eyes. I’ve done a lot of church over time but this one moment had me speechless. He brought his faith to NEO. Not his cash. great car, stellar career, influence or great theological knowledge just his appetite to help and serve. He was real and in big need of a God who can and will take care of him every second of his life. I shuttered and looked at myself. Do I have the same appetite?

My new friend showed me faith… faith, that says showing up affords opportunity to serve. Nothing more, nothing less. It was pure in it’s lesson, and smacked of the bitter truth in my life. God is like that John Mellancamp song, “Hurt so Good” or in my life “Sucks so Right”

So… we started NEO on Sundays… all the build up, all the work, all the conversations about lighting, plasmas, children’s ministry, 23 year olds in Jesus costumes, steel things, coffee, greeting, rent for the school and sound systems couldn’t hold a candle to me and a homeless guy sitting at the same table enjoying each-other because God gave us saving grace. Thank God!

See ya all Sunday and thanks for making NEO home.

What an inspiring story.

—–

Here are a few photos, taken with my iPhone, from the Sacramento River Trail, along which I walk at least 6 miles each morning:

On My Morning Walk

Sacramento River Trail, Redding, CA


18 Comments

Greg Boyd’s Blog: I Appreciated This Entry

The author of Letters from a Skeptic (a book I HIGHLY recommend), Greg Boyd is a former atheist who surrendered his life to Christ in 1974. He graduated with honors from Yale Divinity School and Princeton Theological Seminary. Greg was a professor of theology for 16 years at Bethel University and is the founder and senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church, an evangelical megachurch in St. Paul, MN.

I just finished reading his latest blog entry, where he contemplates the issue of a violent God in the Old Testament vs the loving God shown in Jesus in the New Testament. Great reading!

Click Here To Read It For Yourself


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Greg Boyd's Blog: I Appreciated This Entry

The author of Letters from a Skeptic (a book I HIGHLY recommend), Greg Boyd is a former atheist who surrendered his life to Christ in 1974. He graduated with honors from Yale Divinity School and Princeton Theological Seminary. Greg was a professor of theology for 16 years at Bethel University and is the founder and senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church, an evangelical megachurch in St. Paul, MN.

I just finished reading his latest blog entry, where he contemplates the issue of a violent God in the Old Testament vs the loving God shown in Jesus in the New Testament. Great reading!

Click Here To Read It For Yourself


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Interview: Former Model Roschel Wynn

Roschel Wynn modeled for me when she was 19 years old. Yesterday I interviewed her for this podcast (which is also going to be released on the XXXChurch podcast as well as Jason Harper‘s Triad Podcast). She wanted to share her story, her experiences.

Beginning with a shoot that incorporated both photos and video content, her first job for us was for a Playboy owned website. She also modeled for a handful of amateur sites that purchased content from us. Even though she did all “solo” work and never touched another person, the work she did for us still affects her to this day.

Roschel reads this blog, so if you’d like to say something to her feel free to leave a message.

This audio interview lasts 33 minutes, 16 seconds. You can listen here:

Or download the file here:
Right click and save to your hard drive…


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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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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 fiancĂ©, 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 clichĂ©, 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.


56 Comments

Allah Vs God

When I posted Ali, The Mulim, a sentence in my post began a bit of discussion in the comments area. I feel that discussion merits it’s own article, so I’m writing this one to clarify what that sentence means.

Here is what I wrote:

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”.

What’s your thoughts when you read that? Does it make you angry? Does it move you to “correct” me?

The simple fact is that my statement is very much true when taken for what I actually said, rather than reading more into it than I meant. The sentence immediately preceeded one that stated:

During a conversation about the departure of Ali’s wife of many many years, it was not the time to discuss theological differences.

And that, my friends, is also exactly what I meant. I was acknowledging that there are definite differences in what Christians vs Muslims believe about God (and many other things). In no way was I trying to make any assertions as to the “salvation status” of any groups of people. I was merely stating that our Father and their Father are the same Father. There may be differences in perspective on His attributes, but both Christian and Muslim faith begin with the God of Abraham. Keep reading and I’ll further clarify that statement with an example from my own life. But first…

In comment # 22, Jeff posts the following:

I don’t dispute that both faiths start at the God of Abraham, but as you’ve even said, the attributes given to that God are different for each faith. So let me name off three differences in attributes:

-Followers of Christ say that God has a son who became man (Jesus), where followers of Islam say that Jesus was a prophet but NOT the only begotten son of God.
-Followers of Islam say that Muhammed is Allah’s prophet, where followers of Christ say that the law and prophets that had been passed down in the Hebrew faith are God’s prophets.
-Followers of Christ say that God’s blessed people followed the family line of Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 17), where followers of Islam say that God’s blessing followed the family line of Ishmael.

These three statements point out three distinctly different historical attributes given to either God or Allah. They also point to attributes that are 100% at odds with each other. But either side says, “These are attributes of my God, the same God that Abraham believed in.” So even though I agree that each have the same foundation, the foundation alone cannot does not mean that what is built upon it is the same.

— > Yes! Score! Touchdown! Great way to word it, Jeff! <—

Do our differences in beliefs about those issues make one group better than the other? Not at all. Does it mean one group has something confused? Let me answer with that promised example, which I also posted as comment # 24 (in response to the quote I posted from Jeff above).

Here’s what I said:

We’re both speaking the same language now.

This whole thing started because of a sentence I used in my post in which I stated “The Muslims serve the God of Abraham…”

That’s all I meant by that. The sentence after that statement was this one:

“During a conversation about the departure of Ali’s wife of many many years, it was not the time to discuss theological differences.”

The rest of this resulted from comments on that first sentence, and has been a slight bit frustrating because I am of the opinion that so much bickering in the world can be avoided if all of us, Muslim and Christian, remember to just communicate like we would if we were brothers (Christian and Muslim).

Let me elaborate:

Just a few months ago my brother and I were sitting around discussing our childhood. I was completely blown away at some of his perspectives of our parents during our younger years. He seriously believed some of the things that were coming out of his mouth, yet I don’t remember any of the things he claimed happened. It was like he was talking about different people than the parents I knew. I didn’t bother correcting him, because it was evident he was convinced these memories were true.

As I’ve mentioned before, I hated Christians, but I never hated my parents. The negatives I associate with Christianity were the result of actions of people from my parents’ churches. My brother, however, was bitter toward Mom and Dad for many things he attributed to them. I remember it being OTHER people, he remembers it being THEM.

One of us is completely wrong, and if you ask me, it’s HIM. He’d say the same thing about ME, however.

In the case of the Muslims, looking at it from a logical perspective I cannot blame them for the way they feel about God. I have no doubts Ishmael felt like an unwanted outcast when Abraham’s favor followed his younger, “legitimate” siblings. He must have been bitter, don’t you think? Things must have snowballed to the place where all his memories of God were skewed by the hatred and bitterness. To cope with it, who can blame him for beginning to believe that God had actually passed on the “first born” favor to HIM, rather than those hated brothers? He passed his opinions on to his children, who passed it on to their children who… you get the picture.

So now we have a group of people who know no better.

So many Christians fail to realize we have the same “parents”, but like the case with Daniel and I, one of us has our perspectives wrong. At some point I’ll tell my brother about the loving parents I remember, and tell him where the negative feelings I had were rooted. Perhaps he’ll begin remembering things the same way I do, and get rid of some of his bitterness toward Mom and Dad.

Likewise, it would be so much easier to speak with Muslims from the perspective of realization that we both worship the same God, and that we’d like to give them our perspective of His grace and plan. It won’t be enough for most of them, no doubt, but it would sure make it easier if all they have to accept is a “perspective shift”, rather than the acceptance of an entirely different Creator.

Know what I mean?

Does that make a bit more sense? I’m sure hoping so.

In my opinion, Muslims definitely need a “perspective shift” about God. I’d love for all of them to realize that God wants a relationship with ALL of his children, and that he’s made it SO EASY to have that relationship. He sent Jesus to die for all of our sins, and simply accepting that sacrifice, that gift, allows an amazing relationship to begin between them and their Creator.

Unfortunately, discussions like that rarely happen, because humans seem to prefer feeling superior to others, and often use their beliefs on God to somehow back up those feelings. I don’t get it. God loves all of us. We’re all his kids. He doesn’t want us fighting and arguing. He wants us loving each other, and having a great relationship with Him. Some of us have screwed up “memories” of Him, and those memories will never be changed with a spirit of hatred and division.

And when our brothers don’t accept what we have to say or what we believe, let’s never resort to killing them over it, whaddaya say? World history has more than enough bloodshed (be it literal or otherwise) in the name of God, don’t you think?

That’s just my 2 cents…