Paul Teutul, Jr. was just 27 years old when American Chopper: Jet Bike premiered on the Discovery Channel, featuring “Paulie” and his father, Paul Sr., That show sparked a full series following the Teutuls and their business, Orange County Choppers, that aired in 2003. Six years of family ups and downs ensued, culminating in 2009 with Senior firing Junior. Today, Paul Jr. has gone on to start his own very successful business, and has written a book entitled “The Build: Designing My Life of Choppers, Family and Faith.” Paul details the tumultuous time working with his Dad and his difficult home life as a child, and how his faith kept him going during all of it. Father Mark Keene has been the Pastor of the Church of St. Agnes since 1999. He describes how Jesus Calling has been meaningful to his church; a community of believers sharing their daily walk together.
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Today we speak with Paul Teutul, Jr. Jr. Paul was just 27 when American Chopper: Jet Bike premiered on the Discovery Channel, featuring “Paulie” and his father, Paul Sr. That show sparked a full series following the Teutuls and their business, Orange County Choppers, that soon followed in 2003. Six years of family ups and downs ensued, culminating in 2009 with Paul, Sr. firing Paul, Jr. Today, Paul, Jr. has gone on to start his own very successful business and has written a book entitled The Build: Designing My Life of Choppers, Family and Faith. Paul details the tumultuous time working with his father and his difficult home life as a child and how his faith kept him going during all of it.
Walking with Jesus Daily: American Chopper’s Paul Teutul, Jr. and Father Mark Keene – Jesus Calling Podcast Episode #79
Paul Teutul, Jr.: My name is Paul Teutul, Jr. I have a company called Paul Jr. Designs. We had a TV series called American Chopper that was on Discovery Channel for a decade. Essentially what we did was we built bikes for corporations, charities, or individuals via the television program. That was the content for the show, and we were fortunate enough to do it on a global platform.
I grew up in a little town called Montgomery, New York, which is where I still live currently. I’ve been here for almost 43 years now.
We were raised Catholic. So we would always go to church on Sunday, and I think my mother really championed that for the family. And then once I got into my early teens, we started go into a non-denominational church. From that point on, my mother was a little bit more intent on teaching us right from wrong and about Christ and what he means to us. She definitely had a big impact on how we viewed God, and she was very consistent about it.
I think I was 12 when I accepted Christ. And, you know, you start walking down on your own road. You can only go so far on what your parents tell you, and then you have to start experiencing these things for yourself. I really started to press in and have my own relationship with God, so that was a process that I that I started to walk through.
A Family Deals with Alcoholism
On the outside, my life was kind of all-American, apple pie, football and corn fields. There was never a shortage of things to do or people to play with, you know. But at an early age on the inside, my father was an alcoholic and there was a lot of unrest.
It was a very unstable environment because of that. And that was kind of the other side to my childhood which was really stepped in fear, and you just feel instability as a child. I think it’s even harder at that age because you can’t put your finger on it. You don’t know why you feel that way, you know. The fights that you see because of the drinking between my father and mother on a consistent basis all the way through my childhood, it doesn’t give a child a sense of safety or comfort.
I think as you get older, you kind of understand what the problem is. But again, you don’t know. You don’t have any life experience, so you’re relying on your parents to really show you how things should be. And when that’s out of balance, it really creates a developmental problem, I think. For me, it really manifest itself in a tremendous amount of fear… fear of everything: fear of the unknown, fear of traveling, fear of being away from home you know.
“…you’re relying on your parents to really show you how things should be; and when that’s out of balance, it really creates a developmental problem.”
I still struggle with fear at times. Of course, I think we all do. It’s in different measures. It’s usually around big events and things of that nature because we’ve gotten into some situations where we’ve had live events and very high pressure situations, and those are always a little unnerving. Public speaking is still kind of difficult.
There’s always this sense that there’s nothing that’s really ironclad or that you can really depend on.
I grew up in my father’s house right until I was…well whatever age. I worked for him in the steel business, and then I worked for him in the motorcycle business. So like two-thirds of my life was under my father’s control or whatever you want to call it, and it was it was a very unhealthy dynamic. It was a very oppressive environment.
Recognizing A Gift For Design
My exposure to motorcycles came at an early age with my father. It being a hobby of his, he always had motorcycles, and he had one custom bike that he would work on all the time. And I would be exposed to that, but it was never really a driving desire to do much with motorcycles. I will say at an early age I had a good mechanical ability, I guess. I was able to put things together, so I could always figure things out and troubleshoot and mechanically put a bicycle together, say at Christmas time, without really looking at the instructions, just the picture. So I always had kind of an aptitude for it. And if there were something that needed to be put together, people like brought it to me, but I don’t think it was anything over-the-top or exceptional. I just think I liked putting stuff together.
I really started to realize that I had a gift. I was never good in school. I’m not a book guy. I feel like I’m a smart person. I just don’t have academic skills, so to speak. I have no higher education. I have no experience with creative. I have not taken any art classes. I can’t draw. I can’t draw or anything other than a stick figure or an explanation as to what I’m trying to do. So I just organically was able to start to build things, and I realized, “My goodness. I see something.” And I started to express that through the platform or canvas of motorcycles. And it was liberating.
I feel like God has given me a very unique gift. I feel like He gives me the ideas. I know to some that sounds crazy and to others obvious, but I just feel like God has giving me a gift to do this.
The industry was really booming. Motorcycles were hot, and we had gotten into it just about the right time. And we just got a call one day from… I believe the first time it was an intern. And they said, “Hey, would you guys be interested in doing a show possibly? A pilot?” And I said, “Yeah.” And they said, “Well, okay. You know, it’s for Discovery and this and that.” And I said, “Yeah, we’d be real interested in that.” I wasn’t thinking much about it other than, “Wow! This could be a good opportunity.” And really, it took like a week and a half and we never heard anything, and then, all of a sudden, one day we got a call.
We were not seeking television in any way. We weren’t looking for it. We hadn’t pitched a show. We just got a call out of the blue. That’s so God. I’m telling you. Unbelievable. So he says, “Here’s the deal. I have a full crew. I have them booked in hotels. I’ve got their flights booked, and I have a shop picked out that I’m going to film at in New Hampshire.”
We filmed the first episode. It was a new thing for me. I remember I actually talked slower than I should have because I was so intentional. I was so intentional about being honest or clear. I don’t know what it was, but it’s just weird. You have cameras in your face, and I didn’t even like my picture taken, you know? So now you have video cameras in your face, and you’re doing interviews. Anyways, over time we got used to it and more comfortable, but it was about six weeks of filming.
An Opportunity of A Lifetime
My father is a very difficult person to work for. There was always a lot of, you know, we have very different personalities. He’s very volatile, and I’m more laid back. So it was always a point of contention.
And there were always arguments and fights. And quite often, it was an abusive situation, and so that went on forever. But when you’re in that, you don’t know that, and people say to you, “You know that’s not normal.”
The show aired the first night. We watched it and had mixed feelings because we felt like we looked like idiots because we were fighting, and we worked so hard to try and present like a professional business.
The next morning, we met at the shop, and we just sat there shaking our heads like, “We’re done. This is the worst thing. You know, we looked like idiots, and you know we had our shot and we blew it.” We were really feeling like that. By the afternoon–we had a secretary at the time–email started coming in, and she started printing out emails because that’s what you did back in 2002. So she is printing out emails, and, all of a sudden, by the end of the day, we had like a thousand emails of people who really, really loved the show. And so we realized, “Woah, what is this?” Then, by the evening, we got a call from the producer saying that the ratings were really good. So that was a good thing. And before you knew it, we were doing the second pilot.
It really is amazing, and we got to build bikes for all kinds of people or celebrities and corporations.
As far as celebrities: Billy Joel, Bill Murray, Will Smith, Russell Crowe, Michael Strahan, to mention a few.
There were a lot of athletes. We built a bike for the Yankees, the Jets, the Giants, other hockey teams and corporations like Cadillac, Microsoft, Geico, and different companies you may not have heard of. We did all kinds of tribute bikes. We did the “Fire Bike” which was a tribute to the 343 firemen that died on 9/11. Later, I was able to build a bike for the New World Trade Center. Ten years later, we had quite a ride.
The Final Struggle Between Father & Son
Eventually, it came down to a day where me and my father had a final blow out, and he fired me. And I had always thought, “Man, I’m going to ride it out, and I’ll take over the business.” I know it’s not always great, but that was always my intention and goal was to stay on and keep progressing forward. Well, when he fired me, obviously, I was devastated. I was a part owner in the company, and it created all kinds of problems. And basically, from that point on, I had to figure out how I was going to make a living because I no longer had a job. And also, because I was a part owner, I had a one year non-compete, so now here I am. I have to figure out how to make a living without building motorcycles for one year.
That’s kind of when I started Paul Jr. Designs, and that’s when it transitioned into really doing some design work, and I was fortunate enough to get a really great client in Coleman, which is the camping company. And we designed a grill together, and that carried me for quite some time, and so, you know, we were able to get through that one year by doing design work outside of motorcycles. Then it was time. My one year was up, and I said, “Well, I’m going to build bikes again.” And I really did need the break. It was such a long run of such high deadlines and so much pressure, that, to be honest with you, I was done. I didn’t even want to look at bikes after the separation. So when that one year was over, I was like, “I’m ready. I’m fresh. I’m ready to build bikes, and I’m going to do it for myself this time.”
What seemed like a really bad situation ended up being one of the best things that had ever happened to me because, in the absence of the oppressive environment, it allowed me to mature. I had stand on my own more.
“..What seemed like a really bad situation ended up being one of the best things that had ever happened to me ”
Paul Jr. Finds His Own Way
I was able to grow spiritually and mentally and even creatively. I feel like I was kind of getting a little bit stifled where I was, so everything started to really develop. It was a very difficult road. It wasn’t like all of a sudden it was easy street. It was very difficult, but through adversity is how we grow.
I look, and when I started the show, I was a young guy, and I was in a different place. And I knew I had creative ability, and people loved it. And I feel like maybe my relationship with my father was kind of off base at times, but it was what it was, right? But I think once the separation happened, you know, I had to really figure things out for myself.
This is where you really have to be in touch with what God would have you do. And this is an area where you can be right, you can be justified, and you could be wrong by responding a certain way. You might have the right to do it, but if you really feel like you’re not supposed to, then you don’t.
“You really have to be in touch with what God would have you do.”
We have these friends that have a ministry called PR Ministries, Guido and Celeste Michael Guido and Celeste Guido, and God really brought them into our lives at an early stage of the separation from OCC. And, in any event, I believe Celeste gave my wife a Jesus Calling book. This had to be eight or nine years ago, something like that, and that kind of kicked it off. And then, at some point in time, I got the app. I don’t read the book. I listen to the app, and I’ve listened to the app for years and years now.
So yeah, it’s been amazing, and as part of this, I know one of the things is like. “What is your favorite day or verse or…”
And I’ve had them through the years. I’ve had ones where when I hear it… And you know, honestly, I was talking to my wife about it, and I feel like my favorite one is the one that makes the most sense for the situation that I’m in for that day. Does that make any sense? It’s so timely, and it always meets you where you are.
I think things with my father are better than they’ve been, but they’re not really anywhere. I don’t know if that makes sense. In other words, we’re not fighting, but we’re not really hanging out. So I think the fact that we’re not at odds, so to speak, is a good thing. But I also think it is progress, and I just worked through it. And you know what? I really got in the Word, and I really got involved, and I think it really began to shape who I am today because that’s how we learn who we are… through the Word of God. And that’s how we that’s how we develop, hopefully, you know?
Narrator: To find out more about Paul Teutul, Jr.’s book The Build: Designing My Life of Choppers, Family, and Faith visit pauljrdesigns.com.
Narrator: We’ll be right back with more of the Jesus Calling podcast after this brief message from Audible.
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Jesus Calling Transforms The Prayer Life of a Church
Narrator: Our next guests are a part of the Church of St. Agnes in Fort Wright, Kentucky. Reverend Mark A. Keene has been the pastor of this vibrant church since 1999. Don Able is a member of the church who has attended since 1981. They both are passionate about building a community of believers who have a close relationship with God and each other and talk about how they use Jesus Calling to facilitate this within their church body.
The thing that’s been really impressive for me over the years here at St. Agnes are a couple of things. In our Catholic tradition, we have Mass every day, and we have a Mass at 6:30 in the morning. And we have an amazing crowd. I mean, sometimes the little chapel that we have holds about 60 or 70 people, and sometimes there has been standing room only.
It just has always impressed me to see people’s commitment and dedication to that, and for me, personally, it just is always a good way to start the day or be a part of my day.
I think, you know, the whole communal dimension of being Christian and a witness, obviously, supports us in our individual witness, but also, I think, we’re witnessing as as a body.
“the whole communal dimension of being Christian and a witness supports us in our individual witness.”
Bringing Light to Those Who Need It Most
Even today I tell people if they are maybe feeling they’re not getting so much out of church or going to Mass, I’ll say, “The thing you have to always remember is you never know how much other people are getting out of seeing you there.”
A story I’ve often told is: I remember, a few years ago, there was a priest in Chicago that was kind of trailed by a reporter for about a week or so, and he was in a really tough neighborhood. The only people that came to church were the people that you know didn’t have enough resources to move out. There were a lot of gang and drug problems in the neighborhood and certainly not a lot of younger people coming to the Mass there. And after a couple days, the reporter said, “Father, why do you do this? You’re really a failure. I mean, your churches aren’t thriving. You’re not bringing in people. It doesn’t seem like there’s even a great deal of interest except a lot of older people.” He said, “I do this so that the rumor of God may not disappear from this place.” I always thought that was such a powerful answer. And maybe it sounds like it’s not raising the bar real high, but in some some circles, trying to keep the idea of the rumor of God alive, I think, is a very important ministry.
Jesus used imagery like we are to be a “light in the world” and to be “like leaven in the bread.” That’s sort of an acknowledgement, maybe, that in this broken world, not everybody is going to be a part of or agree with Christianity or the church, but we still are faithful to it and strive to be a light to the world.
I think we all go through ups and downs in our religious practices and trying to be committed to it over the long haul to make sure we are there when there are important things for us to hear. That points to that disposition and openness to the possibility of God’s grace through a community and through a church.
There’s a lot there to be grateful for if we’re inclined to pay attention to our lives and to the blessings that come to us. I guess as I’ve gotten older, as I mentioned earlier I’m 60 years old, I’ve seen the way your perspective change in religion. It’s just seeing that the thing that I think resonates so much with the Jesus Calling book is that life is often this journey of coming to trust God in a lot of ways, in all ways, actually, and to live a life of thanksgiving to a greater appreciation of the blessings that we do have in the context of the world that we live in.
“There’s a lot to be grateful for if we’re inclined to pay attention to our lives and to the blessings that come to us.”
I think another thing I felt was good in the Jesus Calling book is that she’s not shy talking about that we live in a world that’s not utopia, and it’s a flesh and blood world that has its brokenness.
I guess it was November of 2015, a woman in our parish gave me an edition of it. I think was around November, and it was the edition that just had Sarah Young’s meditation for the day, or reflection, and then it had the scripture citations but didn’t have the scripture passage actually printed out. So I started reading those.
I had never heard of the book before and was really impressed with the things that Sarah Young was saying. As I tell people, it’s just not a collection of puff pieces, for the lack of a better word. She really talks about how we live in a broken world. She talks about our tendency to sometimes make planning an idol in our life and trying to over control things.
I saw that, and then I was in a bookstore, and I looked and saw the edition of Jesus Calling that actually had the scripture citations printed out. I thought, “Well, this is great having it all on one page there each day,” so I went ahead and bought a copy of that, I guess, in late 2015 or early 2016. I just kept on reading with that, and then every once in a while talking with people, honestly, in confessional, I would suggest that they read the book. I was amazed the number of times the people said, “Oh, I already am.” They really thought it was a very helpful book, too. It just kind of began this, I guess you could say, momentum for it.
For several years in our parish, at Christmas, we’ve given out a book or a CD to people who attended Mass on Christmas night, midnight Mass on Christmas day, and so forth. And I thought, “Well, this is really, really great book to give out.”
God Uses Jesus Calling to Touch a Congregation
Father Keene: Yeah, it was fall of 2016.
Don Able: And I can’t remember the conversation or how I reacted to him when he said, “Well, we want to try to get these.” I think I just said, “Okay, I’ll figure something out.”
In the end, it wasn’t me. It was, frankly, I believe, the Holy Spirit directing me and others who I reached out to to say, “Who wants to chip in and help pay for these books this year?” We had a couple of donors who sort of threw out some matching. They said “We’ll give this if you can make this much.” Before you knew it, we had enough money to pay for the books without even going into the parish budget. There was some money sort of in there for that, but it just wasn’t as much as we thought we were going to need to pay for the books. And so it was even a bonus that we could, basically, provide them to the parish for nothing through generous donations.
Father Keene: It’s been amazing the way it’s worked. I kind of agree with Don’s assessment about the way the Holy Spirit has worked through all this. It’s been very gratifying and very humbling to be frank.
Don: I’ll say this. These kinds of experiences helped remind me that it’s the Holy Spirit working, not me.
Father Keene: I think at last tally, we’ve ordered, I think, close to 1,400 books.
Most of them, we’ve given away. We give away most of them at Christmas and all that, but now, when people move into the parish, it’s part of the welcome package. I meet with people when they’re going to move in, and I give an overview of the parish and try to encourage them in the practice of their faith and all that. But then I’ll introduce them to the Jesus Calling book and say, “This is a gift that we want to give to you as a parish as you enter our parish.” I really encourage people to use it.
For a lot of people who just don’t really, honestly, have a prayer practice in place just yet, I think Jesus Calling is perhaps a good, structured way to begin in a manageable way. You know, it takes a few minutes each day. I think, probably, at the beginning of the day is the better time to set yourself for the day and just to prayerfully, slowly, intentionally read what she has written and then to read the passages. I usually then go back and reread her reflection. I think it’s just a good practice to have and to be open where that might lead you as far as other prayer practices.
We get reactions from the books we’ve given in the past. The positive reaction in January and February of this year from the books we give out at Christmas is like way beyond anything we’ve ever had in the past, which is gratifying to know that a fair number of people are using the book and finding it helpful.
Don: To add to that, I’m involved in a few different ministries and groups up here, and it continues to be a “Wow, did you read that one today? Did you read the one today?” I mean, it’s kind of cool.
Father Keene: It does provide a little bit of a common experience for people that they can share or talk about or even maybe go deeper with as far as their own personal experience of how that might resonate with what Sarah Young wrote on a particular day or the Scripture passages for those days. That’s the thing I like about it. I often think, with regard to Scriptures, first of all, it’s can daunting book for a lot of people. Then when you see all the commentaries and realize it’s in a language that’s different, there’s things that get lost in translation and commentaries. I think a lot of people, maybe, don’t see how they can personally relate to, or in a contemporary setting, relate to what’s in the Scriptures.
I think the reflection that Sarah Young writes for each day, kind of gets your mind in one place, and then the quotations from scripture, you kind of go, “Okay, well, this is what this can mean for me today.” Or “This is what it meant back then, and yeah, they had human issues like I do today.” And it just, sort of, makes the Scriptures more accessible to people, not only for their possibly historic value, but for their spiritual value and even their poetic value in a way that they can touch people’s lives today.
Don: You know, the format of the book, I think, is what makes it different than books we’ve received in the past. Frankly, it’s a thicker book, and a lot of people look at it first and are like, “Oh, wow. That’s kind of scary.” And then when I hand it out to him, and I say, “You know what? This is 3 to 5 minutes of your day, and it’s going to change your life.” And they say, ”How is that possible?” I say, “Because you’re reading a page a day.” And then they’re like, “Oh, okay.”
It was the book itself that is spawning the excitement about it, and she writes so simply and straightforwardly in her commentary. It’s just so easy to understand, and as Father said, then you’ve got the Scripture passages right below it. It helps you understand them. You know, what does this really mean? You know, somebody reading the Bible, no matter how many times you read it, you’re going to find something new in a particular passage. The simplicity in which she puts everything, I think, makes a huge difference for all of us “Regular Joes.”
Father Keene: Some people will say, “I don’t want to stop at one page. I want to start reading all of it.” And I tell people, “Stick to the discipline of it. Just one page a day. There’s always a lot there to think about, and it’s good that you want to come back the next day.”
Don: I bought a few extra ones, and I gave them to my family at Christmas time, too. And my Dad, I don’t think he touched it until the middle of February. And then he said he started reading it, and he had to go catch up. I said, “You don’t have to catch up because this is a forever book.” But that was kind of nice.
Father Keene: I think they just like the reassurance that the book–both Sarah’s reflections and also the Scripture–gives them. That’s kind of been a theme, if I could say. I can’t remember any particular, individual story, but just the book itself, in its daily reassurances and challenges. It’s not just always about affirmations, it’s also got some pretty good challenges in there.
Don: I was speaking with another parishioner here one day. In fact, it was the Sunday we were kind of cleaning up after the last “Christ Renews.” And we’re just sitting in a car and talking about some things, and he was, kind of, opening himself up to me a little bit. But then he said, “I’ve been reading this book every day, and it’s been so much help just to get through some of this stuff that I’m going through.”
So I just think, as I said before, this is so simple for me when I read it every day. It’s not necessarily that it’s a gigantic new message, but it says it in a different way. And it’s so consistent, and it reminds me that you’ve got to walk with Jesus all day, every day. It’s not easy to do when we’re constantly, you know, bombarded with all the stuff we think we have to do. So it’s that part where we say “Okay, Jesus, just let me know what’s supposed to happen today, and I’ll just follow down that path.” That happens over time, I think, and I think it’s just happening in this parish that way because of this book even more so than it was before.
Father Keene: I think just what Don was saying, to piggyback on that a little bit. You know, you hear words like “Jesus loves you” and “God loves you” a lot, almost to a point where you don’t really appreciate the real gravitas of what that means. I think the book Jesus Calling kind of helps you to really enter that more deeply. There’s been some passages, I can’t remember the particular days, where she talks about how you may feel like you’ve kind of walked away from Me and that I’ve turned, but I am with you in your life. There’s nothing, really nothing, that you can do that’s ever going to turn My love away from you. Never be afraid to turn toward My love.
Don: I think this book–and I’ve tried a lot of different things in a lot of different ways over the years to just help deepen my spirituality, and some things work better than others–has really helped me, I believe, just take that next step. You know, to realize that He’s there all the time in the day, and even in the little things I’m trying to do, to just remember that and say, “Thank you. Thank you, Jesus. I know you’re here. I know this is a tough spot.” That’s where I find myself even more and more, recognizing, “Okay, this is going well right now…” or whatever it might be. “Take a deep breath. You know, I need a little help here, Lord.” And then move on.
Father Keene: Probably really all of our discipleship, in the end, is one of gratitude or based on gratitude. We live lives trying to glorify the Lord because we know there’s so much we owe. Our journey in life is really about coming to recognize something that’s really very salutary and healing and beautiful in our lives.
Narrator: To find out more about how to use Jesus Calling with your church or small group, visit jesuscalling.com/churches.
Next time on the Jesus Calling podcast, we visit with Sadie Robertson, star of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars and also A&E’s Duck Dynasty. Sadie is passionate about speaking and writing in the hopes of encouraging others. Her latest book is entitled Live Fearless and Walk in Confidence of Freedom.
Sadie Excerpt: I had this kind of “cry out to God” moment. I was like, “God, why did You make me famous? Because I think you chose the wrong person. I don’t think I’m supposed to be a famous person. I don’t look like any of these other teenage girls. I don’t act like any of these other teenage girls. Am I supposed to look like them because I don’t? I just had this whole moment, and I just remember so clearly the Lord speaking to me and saying, “Sadie, I don’t need you to be another famous person. I need you to be a sister and a friend to people who don’t have a sister and a friend. When people see your page, I don’t even want them to see you. I want them to see Me and My
Jesus Calling Exerpt: Today’s passage comes from the July 19th entry of the Jesus Calling audiobook.
Bring Me all your feelings, even the ones you wish you didn’t have. Fear and anxiety still plague you. Feelings, per se, are not sinful, but they can be temptations to sin. Blazing missiles of fear fly at you day and night. These attacks from the evil one come at you relentlessly. Use your shield of faith to extinguish those flaming arrows. Affirm your trust in Me, regardless of how you feel. If you persist, your feelings will eventually fall in line with your faith.
Do not hide from your fear or pretend it isn’t there. Anxiety that you hide in the recesses of your heart will give birth to fear of fear: a monstrous stepchild. Bring your anxieties out in the light of My presence, where we can deal with them together. Concentrate on trusting Me, and fearfulness will gradually lose its foothold within you.
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