Donny Pauling: I've begun writing a book. I'd like to share the first 3 pages with you. Please let me know what you think.
It's early September and I'm sitting in the office of Playboy Vice President Joe Lackey. Joe calls in Mark Navarro, one of his managers. The two of them have an offer to present to me.
"We want to start a new site and we think you and Belinda are perfect to produce the content for it," Joe tells me.
Mark lays out the details. The models we specialize in recruiting would indeed be perfect for this project. The offer of an additional $4,000 per day on top of what we're already shooting for Playboy is fantastic. I leave the office in high spirits.
On the drive back to Redding I decide to speak with God. This isn't something new: I've been doing a bit of praying from time to time, especially since the XXXChurch team started getting inside my head starting almost 2 years past, slowly changing my perception of Christianity.
"God, it seems to me that Christians have it all wrong," I begin, "because it doesn't seem to matter what I do, you want to bless me."
The immediate jolt that goes through my body feels like electricity. An audible sound escapes my lips, as if all the air is going out of my lungs. The feeling passes quickly, but my hands are still shaking. I pull my car to the side of the road because there is no way I'm going to be able to drive for the next few minutes. It is no mystery what has just happened: God just reached out and touched me. The thing is, this zap didn't seem in any way malicious. I'm not being punished. I'm not being warned. The intended message flashes into my mind: "This is so petty. I have much more for you than this. You wanted me to prove myself to be real, right? I just granted your wish."
I've instantly lost all desire to produce porn. I can't explain why, but in that brief moment, that literally shocking experience, my life has been changed. I don't understand it, but that's just the way it is, baby.
Once I'm on the road again, I pick up my cell to call Belinda, my fiancée and "partner in crime". "I have good news and bad news," I tell her. "The good news is, Playboy offered us another 4 grand a day to produce a lesbian series for them." Her squeals of excitement fill my ear. She's not gonna like the bad news.
"The bad news is, I'm not doing this anymore.
Belinda's response indicates she doesn't believe me. "We'll talk about this when you get home," she says. But what she doesn't realize is that I'm dead serious. I'm never going to pick up a camera to shoot porn again. I have no idea how I'll pay the bills, but porn production isn't going to be part of my life anymore.
As I drive home I make a promise to God. "God, if you answer the questions I have about the Bible and Christianity I'll surrender my life to you," I bargain.
Two weeks go by and God isn't answering. He isn't miraculously telling me why, because of the rebellion of a group of people, unborn babies were ripped out of their mother's wombs in Hosea 13:16. He isn't explaining why millions of people have been killed in His name since the beginning of time. He isn't shedding any light on the reasons for the behavior of those board members from my father's churches who were so cruel, so mean, so... NOT like Christ.
Instead, he is silent. And I am miserable. I no longer want to produce porn, yet God is not taking up the other end of the bargain I've offered to Him. Doesn't he realize I'm eagerly waiting for a reason to believe? Doesn't he know that if he can just answer a few simple questions I'll dedicate the rest of my life to Him?
It is now September 25th and I'm once again returning from Sacramento, California, this time on personal business completely unrelated to Playboy. I'm contemplating God and Christianity, as I've been doing nearly nonstop for the past 14 days. The floodlights come on and I suddenly realize the truth: God wants me to want HIM. He wants me to choose Him without conditions. He wants me to trust Him.
"God", I begin. "You know I have a hard time believing the sacrifice on the cross was ever really made. You know I have a hard time believing some of the things I've read in the Bible. But I feel like I'm supposed to surrender my life to you and trust you to help me through those issues. By faith and by choice I am accepting Jesus' sacrifice and am surrendering my life to you. God, it feels so good to say that."
A weight has been lifted off my heart. It seems to beat easier. I feel at peace, and excited about the future. I pick up the phone and call Craig Gross, co-founding Pastor of XXXChurch.com.
"Craig, I just surrendered my life to God."
Our conversation goes on for a few minutes as Craig tells me he'll be sending JR Mahon to my house the very next day to spend some time with me. I assure him I'll pick JR up at the airport and as I end the call I'm blown away that XXXChurch would spend the money to send one of their Pastors out to California just to see me, especially on such short notice. There they go again, behaving as if they represent the Jesus I've read about in the Bible. There they go again, further demonstrating the stereotypes I've had about Christians for so many years are totally wrong. There they go again, giving me hope.
There is no doubt God's presence has filled my car. He's all over me. I'm covered in goosebumps. For some reason I feel compelled to turn on KLOVE, a station I detest. A song is ending, a song whose name I'll never be able to recall. But as that song ends I know I'll never forget the song that starts next.
The great "I AM".
Commanding King of Kings.
And the only time... the ONLY time I ever saw Him RUN...
Was when He ran to me, took me in His arms,
Held my head to His chest, and said "My son's come home again!"
Lifted my face, wiped the tears from my eyes,
With forgiveness in His voice He said,
"Son do you know I still love you?"
He caught me by surprise when God ran.
Oh, my God! You are running to me? You're welcoming me home? After producing nearly 2 million pornographic photographs and hours of video, you are still running to welcome me home?
The visual in my mind is overwhelming. I begin to weep.