Donny's Ramblings


4 Comments

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.


24 Comments

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.


4 Comments

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.)


14 Comments

In War You Shoot The Enemy, Not The Hostage

I wrote this blog entry while on an airplane bound for Grand Rapids.

It’s Friday, December 1st at about 1:50pm Pacific Time. I’m sitting on an airplane thirty-something thousand feet in the air. As I type this we’re flying directly over the Great Salt Lake. If the bottom of the plane were to fall out from beneath my feet and I plunged straight down I’d land directly in the salty water below. I was hoping to fly over this lake because I’ve never seen it in person, only in photos on Heather Armstrong’s website as well as her husband Jon’s website. I wanted to see if the lake was really as ugly and dead as it appears to be in those photos. From here it looks like that is the case. I wish it was possible to make a quick pit stop here in Utah and have coffee with Jon and Heather. I’d love to meet them, kiss their little girl Leta on the head, and scratch the ears of Congressman Chuck (the dog). Or maybe just balance a doggie treat on his nose.

“Someone Saved My Life Tonight” is streaming from iTunes through my headphones and into my ears.

Just a few moments ago I was praying and reading a few scriptures from Eugene Peterson’s translation of the New Testament (The Message). I’ve also brought along one of the books of my-new-friend-whom-I’ve-not-yet-met, Donald Miller. Someday I intend to shake that man’s hand and thank him for writing such thought provoking books. Many of the ideas he presents in his books have been going through my own head recently, but Don has a way of putting them into words in such a beautiful way. As Forest Gump would say, “Momma always had a way of explaining things so as I could understand them!” Substitute “Donald Miller” for “Momma” and that sentence would be an accurate way of explaining how I feel about these books of his. I’m most of the way through Searching for God Knows What (I wish I had the money to buy every Christian a copy). The book is so damned good I’ll probably read it again when I’ve finished it, which will most likely be during the next leg of this flight to Grand Rapids.

J.R. Mahon from XXXChurch will be picking me up at the airport. He says it’s snowing. Hard. I’m glad I decided to wear my boots today.

At the moment I should be contemplating the answers to some of the questions J.R. will be asking tomorrow morning at “Porn and Pancakes”. Instead I’m writing a blog entry in Word for Mac and saving it for later publication. Some of the thoughts that have been racing through my head have built up a mental pressure, for which the only relief is to write.

In Searching for God Knows What, Donald Miller wrote something that, if I had an internet connection up here in the friendly skies, I’d set as the quote above my name on my MySpace page. Hold on a second while I find the page it’s on so that I can share it word for word. Okay, I found it. Take a breath and get ready, because this is deep ladies and gentlemen. Here goes:

“In war you shoot the enemy, not the hostage”.

Think about that for a second and then apply it to Christianity. It almost made me cry for some reason, but that’s not really too hard to do lately. I’ve been experiencing so much of Jesus’ love lately that, at times, it’s pretty difficult not to become emotional.

Let me share with you the direction that sentence took my mind. Tell me in the comments section where it took yours. Don used that sentence to sum up the idea that Christians too often focus on attacking the person sinning, rather than the source of that sin. Man may be sinful by nature, but covering him with the true love of Jesus can alter his nature. Instead of attacking and “killing” people, let’s focus on the Enemy and not on the hostage. The only way to kill the influence of evil within another person is to cover the hostage with the love Jesus challenged us to show to all people. That love will smother the one who tries to hold each of us hostage.

It seems to me that Satan has really used the church to do his bidding. Much of the world is so turned off by the war Christians have raged against “hostages” that it refuses to listen to the true message it’s meant to hear. That message is love. That message does not focus on sin. That doesn’t mean sin should be ignored, just that it needs to be placed in proper context.

Since the word “sin” has been used as an arrow with which Christians pierce the flesh of others, let me break it down a little. That word has always seemed scary to me, because I definitely don’t want to SIN. I was always taught sinning will send me to hell, and nobody wants to book that trip on Expedia. Tell me if you agree with this or not:

Sin is simply behavior that separates us from God. It drives a wedge between us. It’s not some big scary monster; it is a behavior. Jesus didn’t dwell on it, because it’s not something we should use to bash each other. It’s just a behavior that needs to be corrected, lovingly. If you’re a parent you know that children develop lots of behaviors for which they need guidance to overcome. With growth and proper guidance, they naturally mature and many of those behaviors become ancient history.

I’m lucky to have a son who has been shown enough love that good behavior (for the most part) comes pretty naturally to him. I have to think his behavior comes from the way he has been parented. My ex-wife is a great mother, and when Caden is with me I try to be the best father I can be. I have never once raised my voice to my son, nor have I used the words “because I said so”. I’ve only spanked him one time in his entire life and regretted doing so. Instead of such “old school” corrections, I get down on my knees so I can communicate with him at his level, I look him in the eyes and I explain in a calm loving voice the reasons why I feel he should behave in certain ways. If we’re in public I’ll pick him up and hug him and whisper what I have to say in his ear so that he’s not embarrassed. Because of this, he obeys out of love and respect, rather than fear of physical pain in the form of a spanking or mental pain in the form of yelling. It is more work to raise him this way, but Wendy and I feel that is our job as Caden’s parents. Not putting in the work would be selfish and lazy.

That same concept applies to humanity in general, don’t you think? Applying the love of our Father to our lives is the only way to correct our screwed-up (sinful) behavior. Threatening someone with “hell-fire” only results in behavior modification motivated primarily by fear. A true change of heart comes from respect and love, which comes from first being shown respect and being loved.

An hour and twenty-five minutes have elapsed since starting this, and Word for Mac shows that I’m now beginning page three. It’s time to stop rambling. Post a comment or send me an email to let me know your thoughts.


28 Comments

The First Day Answering to a Bossman

I can sum up my first day with two words:

Hated
It

Yes, yesterday was my first day working for someone else. Some might wonder if the thought crossed my mind to return to porn production. I have to admit, answering to myself is nice. Setting my own schedule is heavenly. Producing porn, however, is not. The desire has been completely removed from my being, and days like today won’t bring it back. One thought that did cross my mind, however, is how depressing it is to give up my freedom all month to make less than I used to make in two days while self-employed (focus on the positive, Donny, focus on the positive).

Do I hope to be self employed again anytime soon? More than you can imagine. The sooner the better (so send all your friends and congregation members to my blog and tell them to click those Google advertising links). But porn production will not be the vehicle that takes me there.

I spent a lot of time praying today. It was a fight to keep negative thoughts out of my head. During times when I had a few moments to myself I pulled out Searching For God Knows What by Donald Miller. It really helped get my mind back where it needed to be.

Even so, at the end of the day I came home in a bit of a funk. I logged on to check my email and several of you had written me. The encouragement in those emails nearly brought tears to my eyes.

It also helps that I’ve added more than 60 Christian blogs to my Google Reader. After reading several dozen blog entries from Christians all over the world, my mood was raised. I’m really starting to get what Paul meant in Hebrews chapter 10 when he told us not to forsake assembling together. Even if it was only a “virtual” assembly it sure helped today.

If you have a blog make sure to post your URL as a comment. I’ll add you to my Google Reader. Who knows: the words you write just might change someone’s day.

PS: Waking up to an alarm clock sucks!