The Origin of a Professional Wrestling Fan

I remember how it began very clearly. As all great loves start in life,Hulksterme it began when I had to go somewhere I had no desire to be. Little brothers know the joy of having to go to your older siblings’ events, and this second grade kid had to go to one of the worst of them all, the middle school band concert. All boys love hearing their sister and about 30 of her pimple faced classmates squeak and squawk through “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, right?

In order to make it through, I brought along one my favorite things in my late 80’s world, the latest issue of Nintendo Power. These magazines were amazing. They were not the giant advertisements video game magazines are today. They were full of tips, level maps and codes for the coolest games.

When I got to the concert I discovered that I was not the only one being dragged to this concert; my good friend Brian Border found himself in the same boat. Thankfully, our parents let us sit next to each other. Though, I have no idea how that lasted because I am sure we were not super quiet.

As the wonderful butchnintentdopowerering of music ensued, we thumbed through the magazine talking about the latest games for the Nintendo Entertainment System. We came to a game that Brian was very excited about.  It featured these guys named The Honky Tonk Man, The Macho Man and Andre the Giant. The game wasWrestleMania, and the main featured star was of course Hulk Hogan. I listened to Brian go on and on about them. I had gone through my He-man and Star Wars phases, but these guys were real.

Not long after, I found myself at our family video rental place of choice, no not Blockbuster, our grocery store of choice, United Super. While looking for a video to rent, I found a case that had Hulk Hogan starring a hole in the eyes of Andre the Giant on the cover. It was WrestleMania 3. I took it to my dad and asked, “Brian was talking about these guys, could I get this?” He agreed, but he wanted to watch it with me. That evening, we sat in my living room for the three hour event of professional wrestling matches. I was introduced not only to the guys in the game, but Junkyard Dog, King Kong Bundy, and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. I loved all of it. But nothing comWrestleManiaIIIpared to when the Hulkster made his huge come back in the main event by body slamming the 500lbs. Andre the Giant to defeat him. Hulk had just become hero number one, and he stayed there for many years.

My dad did give me the professional wrestling talk afterwards. “These guys are not really fighting. They know who will win.” I did not care that strong man just really picked up that gigantic man, and that made it real enough for me.

I went on to get all the figures, watched it every Saturday and rented every video I could find. Brian shortly became one of my best friends of my childhood. We watched many matches and had even more against each other. Our couch arms  turned into top turnbuckle pads, and we took each other on without holding much back. We attended three events together. He was the Ultimate Warrior for Halloween my third grade year, and I of course was Hulk Hogan. My mom made these fantastic plush muscle costumes. When we went to the second live event, we wore the costumes before the event started and walked around. After a while, I got the nerve in one of the big aisles on the floor of Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium to point a famous Hulk Hogan ear cusp to the fans on one side. They erupted in cheers, so I gave them the traditional Hogan pose down. I did the same to every side of the arena. I was in ten year old heaven.

I phased out of wrestling in middle school. Then my cross country friends got me back into it when they started talking over and over about the N.W.O. in high school. I watched the night Goldberg defeated Hogan onWCW’s Monday Nitro, and I’ve been watching ever since to some degree.

Shortly after high school, Brian’s life was taken tragically. It was like losing a family member. I don’t contiJerryandmenue to watch as some type of tribute to him though. I watch it because I like it too much; however, a lot of my enjoyment does stem from how much fun we had with it as kids.

I have been to nearly 20 live events now. I have seen every major star in the last 28 years from Andre the Giant to John Cena. I have no thought that it might be displeasing to the Lord at all. In fact, He has used it dozens of time to connect to kids who were not much different from Brian and myself both at school and at church.  Someday higher priorities will wane it out. But, until then I will be sitting most Monday’s watching RAW and every year around this time geared up for WrestleMania which has it’s 32nd annual event this Sunday.

If you have an interest that might be goofy to others, do not let it keep you from enjoying it. Life is colored by these things, and you never know how the Lord may use it. On the flip side be wary of looking down on anyone because of the same thing. You never know what is behind it until you take the time to find out.

At 35, A New Question to Guide Me

Guatemala LakesideOnce in a blue moon, God will cause my mind and heart to understand my life through a whole new lens. My 20’s and early 30’s were dominated by one over arching question,

“God, what should I be doing with my life?”

Every opportunity, relationship, task, and nearly every day was underscored by it.

“Is this really what I should be doing?” “Is this how I should be doing it?” “Are you sure this is right?”

This question and the ones that came with it caused a nervous undertone to live in my heart and my soul in just about everything. Friendships. Ministry. Entertainment. My Teaching. Family. Etc. It assumes there’s one small dot of what I should be doing, and if I missed it in some way or am doing it not completely on point then I am all off. It resulted in a great deal of snobbishness honestly because if X fell out of what I supposed to be doing then I did not engage it. Along with that it paralyzed me even more often from engaging all the different people and opportunities that were right there around me with fear of not doing it right.

This past holiday break I had just turned 35. I took a few afternoons to go to a coffee shop and reflect on what direction to take my next 35 years. Somehow in that time, He hit me with one of those rare insights that had the potential to change everything.

It was as if He was saying, “I have a different question, Ryan, I want you use to decide Cooper bubblesthis.” I ask for some answers, and He gives me a question, just like Him isn’t it?

“No, longer ask what should I do, but ask what could I do with my next 35 years, my next year for the matter, my next tomorrow?”

What can I do for the students I teach almost everyday to bless and serve them?

What can I do for my family to let them know I love them?

How can I be a loving servant with those I work?

How can I make my niece and nephew laugh for an hour each week as I pretend to be an Evil Zombie Pirate or Angry School Marm chasing them around my parents’ house to let them know how much You love to hear those laughs?

Syler Summer 2015 (2)How can encourage my friends to let them know they belong and that Your love for them is always true?

How can I enjoy the time with the one of the few kids I get to sit with and have a time of fun and laughter almost every week in Syler Buck that he will know the sheer joy You have in him that You cause me to know each time we hang out?

What can I do to for my fellow FBC Raytowners, my fellow laborers in Christ. My family in You to let them know the grace and love You continue to pour out to them each day?

Each day the opportunities are ripe for the picking.Andy Lightsaber Fight 4

Then You take me to a place south of Mexico called Guatemala. I grow such a great admiration for two of the principal leaders there in Sara and Edgar. I connect and grow so fond of this Star Wars enthused, Captain American loving kid named Andy. Briefly get to sample a ministry where You could use so many of my skills and gifts. Headed back I found myself reverting backward asking the old question, “God, what should I do?”

Then you softly whisper, “No, Ryan, it’s what can you do, remember?”

The old question constrained my life. Limited it and choked out the joy of engaging the people and things around me. With the new question, the possibilities are endless, and the nervousness about the how vanishes. No longer checking my “should I be” thermometer stick anymore. You have me right where I am. Let’s see what can happen…


For the Love of Rich Mullins

At the point Rich Mullins’ music became a staple in my life, adult life was kicking my over idellistic butt. I had just began renting my own place, substitute teaching five days a week, and working on my teaching certification wondering all along if I made a complete batch out of all the God had originally planned for my life. It was a hard and lonely time. I had known Rich’s music before.
    I can’t remember exactly when I first heard Rich Mullins’ name. In the campy youth group I went to in my middle school years, we sang “Awesome God” and “Step by Step” quite a bit. “Awesome God” seemed cool on the fact alone it featured the word “awesome” which was still a cool word at that point. Then in high school sometime during my sophmore year I bought his compelation album Songs on cassette. I liked it well enough. Then about a year later I can remember my youth pastor announcing Rich had died in a car accident, so we sang a bunch of his songs that night. But he still just remained an artist I listened to occasionally. Through my years at Southwest Baptist and New Life Ranch I ran into a number of Rich Mullins fans, but I was in love with a band named Waterdeep at the time.
   I think I had to hit real hardship, deep confusion, and painful rejection before God could use Rich’s music to help build me into a man that can truly know God along all the pain, struggle, and joy that comes in living and finding our place. His song “Hard to Get” I cried out along with Rich,

Do you remember when You lived down here?
Where we all scrape to find the faith to ask for daily bread
Did You forget about us after You had flown away?
Well I memorized every word You said
Still I’m so scared, I’m holding my breath
While You’re up there just playing hard to get

His music allowed me to get out all of the disillunsionment with how I understood my life would go, but definitely was not going. But the Lord also used it along with the Scriptures, other authors, and life to start to truly get what actual regular Christ focused servant living looked like in the real world beyond camp highs and college mission trips. Starting with coming to grips with the absolute truth of God’s love for me that continued to draw my heart dispite myself as put so beautifully in “The Love of God,”

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
I cannot find in my own
And He keeps His fire burning
To melt this heart of stone
Keeps me aching with a yearning
Keeps me glad to have been caught
In the reckless raging fury
That they call the love of God

30 Minute Shuffle Vol. 1

The idea is simple. Enjoy 30 minutes of shuffled music on my iPod and write a brief bit on the 5-6 songs that pop up. I love a wide range of music. Here we go.  I posted this last week but deleted the alerts on Facebook/Twitter for foolish reasons. I might do another one of these today.

Hallelujah (Live) by Jeff Buckley

This song has been performed on nearly every singing reality show. The song in its  popular version was made by Jeff Buckley’s cover in 1994. An album highly acclaimed by the music world by an artist who died not long afterwards. While beautiful in its musical quality, the lyrics keep me from liking it too much. Taking the word Hallelujah which means “praise Yah (Yahweh)” and liking it to a broken love affair, hurts the whole thing for me from the start. It’s one of those songs much like John Lennon’s “Imagine” that I don’t entirely agree with, but have because of it’s fame and musical quality.

JarsofClayMuchAfraidHymn by Jars of Clay

One of my favorite tunes from Jars of Clay’s second album Much Afraid. Written with the solemn nature of most hymns, it combines the band’s typical violin and guitar alternative rock sound with the steady pace of an old hymn. All about yielding one’s self and pride to a life of worship unto the Lord.

Love Reign O’er Me by The Who

One of classic rock’s biggest songs. I came to know the song first through the Pearl Jam cover featured in the movie, Reign Over Me, named after the song. To me it’s a song from the perspective of a man crying out for love to rule over all the other conflicting emotions in a relationship and life even when it may be really, really hard.

Like Teenage Gravity by Counting Crows

One of the best tunes from Counting Crows’ latest album Underwater Sunshine. It retains much of the classic great Crows sound I’ve loved since their first album. I think it’s a song about two young people falling in love young, coming to terms with falling in love with the other person, and having the courage to speak it to them.

 What’s the Matter Here? by 10,000 Maniacs

Those who don’t know the band 10,000 Maniacs may remember their lead singer Natalie Merchant. If not, I highly recommend her. She is up there as one of my favorite female voices period. This band was one of the pioneers of the more mellow alternative sound in the early 90’s. This song is about a person living next door to a family where it is obvious spouse and child abuse is going on and how so many neighbors in such a situation although they are torn up about it choose to remain quiet. It’s a powerful lesser known song. I recommend the version from their MTV Unplugged album. MTV once featured high quality music and concerts not just whatever it does now.


Sheep, Can You Hear His Voice?

Have you seen the movie, A Beautiful Mind? It’s the movie where Russell Crowe does an amazing job portraying genius mathematician, John Nash who suffers from black-sheep_10952_990x742schizophrenia. Despite being so naturally gifted, John can’t get past these characters that keep popping up in his life distracting him from what’s real. Eventually he learns to live with it. I wonder if most of us do. What do I mean? While most of us don’t live with seeing false images of people who speak to us, I’d venture to guess most live with some amount of internal voices that attempt to keep us from real life. Insecurities, jealousies, anger, addiction urges, or simple pride that bing us around in life. For some, we’ve been blessed to have another voice come along. One who has spit in the mud, wiped our eyes, and caused us to see. His voice is so very different. From the moment we heard it, we haven’t been able to get over it. Like dumb sheep to their shepherd, we know the voice of the own who truly loves us. The other voices persist. The thieves and robbers who work restlessly for their master. Because we are foolish, we’ll entertain these voices for a time still. But inside we know something’s not right, and we wait for the voice of our true shepherd. I got to discuss the 10th chapter of the Gospel of John with two of my beloved brothers yesterday, and just got to thinking of these things this morning. Wondering how many who know that true voice have been listening to the liars for too long. I know many hours and days of mine, some not too far in the past have been lost listening to them. The Good Shepherd’s voice is there. Calling us each by name. Has been all along. Telling us we will never perish- ever! And unlike John Nash, we will not merely just learn how to live with the voices. His voice will drown out the rest until one day the voices of the liars are no more. He’s calling; do you hear Him?

Remembering the Fun Savage Brought…

I don’t know how many of your famous childhood heroes were real people and how many of them were fictional. The large bulk of mine were both. I have come to terms with a universal truth. Like a lot of the odd forms of entertainment interests, it is impossible for those who don’t have the prowrestling bug to understand those who have it. I have had it in varying decrees since the second grade. Therefore, I will waste no time in trying to explain it now.

When I got that bug in 1989, Hulk Hogan was the main hero; he quickly became mine. His main nemesis at the time was Macho Man Randy Savage. It is a peculiar thing to realize later in life that the guy you booed as a child was actually more talented in 8 out of 10 categories than your hero. This is the case with Savage. In the 1980’s and early ’90s he was second to none at both creating incredibly entertaining matches, performing off the wall interviews, and consistently being part of the most interesting feuds of his time.

Several nights after his death, I popped in the anthology the WWE put out on him several years ago and watched about a dozen of his classic interviews with Mean Gene Okerlund. It came back to me why I loved this crazy ridiculous form of entertainment so much. This guy was absolutely hilarious, and I kept on shamefully wanting to watch more.

Randy Savage was a major key player of something that was so top to bottom fun in my life. As life goes on, you begin to realize how precious those things are. Even though there are many highly entertaining individuals in both the WWE and entertainment today; I have a strong hunch they’ll never be at the level or flavor they were during Savages day. His death has reminded me of childhood friendship long gone, and enthusiasm for this larger than life characters were unmatched. For every kid who did an elbow drop from their parents’ furniture as a kid onto their friends below, Savage’s death reminds those us of more fancy free days.

Keep Christ the main thing, and enjoy the life He’s given you. Don’t despair of it.

The Dust of Disappointment

In the dust of disappointment, I am left with a void of feeling. Perhaps, since I received the news I have tried too hard to answer the questions I should reserve for tomorrow, next week, and the months ahead. I have not failed. In fact, in the tasks I have been judged and graded, I have excelled. Disappointment is a tricky bit of emotion though. I just was not chosen for this one. His providence remains; it never waivers. My disappointment just needs to be dealt with before I move on. It deserves its moment, but nothing more.