How To Avoid The Worst Christmas Ever

Let me tell you about the worst Christmas present I ever opened.

My parents would sometimes allow me the scandalous privilege of opening up one present on Christmas eve. One year when I was 9 or 10 my eyes were drawn to a curious cylindrical package. With approval from my parents, I was able to open this gift early.

Filled with the giddy excitement of getting a head start on Christmas, I made confetti out of the wrapping paper.

Then, my heart sank. Continue reading

The Nativity Scene Smackdown

slide.001The Doriot Family Nativity Scene was a war zone.

Every year my parents put out a handmade wooden Nativity scene. There’s a swinging fence, hay on the ground in the barn, a reverent recreation of the first Christmas.

And every year I couldn’t help but desecrate it.

The first thing I did when the Nativity Scene came out of the attic was hijack it to use with my wrestling figures. The barn became the backdrop for an epic wrestling match. I called it the annual Christmas Clash.

The Christmas Clash was the centerpiece of my make-believe wrestling federation – the biggest card of the year, my own personal Wrestlemania. For some reason I loved having this beautiful barn as the setpiece for my miniature grapplers to have their most important matches.

The baby Jesus sat in the background and an angel looked down overhead as Shawn Michaels and Diesel wrestled all around. This is what I turned the Christmas story into as a child.

What have we turned Christmas into?

The mission of POP GOD has been to seek God in the present tense of pop culture. You would think it’d be easier than ever to see God’s presence in pop culture during Christmas. But Christmas has become less a celebration of the arrival of a Savior and more of a pagan holiday celebrating generic platitudes like giving and happiness and togetherness.

God has allowed us to redefine our worldly celebration of the birth of His Son in many different ways. Still, if you look closely, you can see the spirit of Christ amongst the masses. Just as the baby Jesus was present in my Nativity Scene Smackdowns, the Lord is present in the pop culture of Christmas.

So this season on POP GOD, I don’t want to ask the question of “Where is God underneath the wrapping paper?”

Instead, I want to ask, “Where is God in the wrapping paper?”

Where is God in the minutiae of this holiday? Where is God in the cheesy Christmas songs and movies? Where is God in egg nog and Christmas Tree Cakes?

I used to think I was being blasphemous with the way I used my wrestling figures. Now I think I was just embodying what Christmas is all about – the presence of the Lord descending into our everyday lives.

As a child though, I relegated the savior to the background as my wrestling figures brawled before His birthplace. This year on POP GOD, we’ll be celebrating the presence of God in the midst of every aspect of Christmas in pop culture.

Stay tuned to POP GOD during the Advent season for a special Christmas countdown. We’ll have a new post every weekday leading up to Christmas including a few Guest Posts and a special Christmas music episode of the POP GOD POPcast.

(If you don’t want to miss anything, enter your email address in the box on the left side of the page to subscribe to POP GOD and have every new post delivered to your inbox.)

Christmas does not mean what it once did. God’s presence is in the background of how the world celebrates the season. But He is still there – if only we will look.

Did you ever misuse your family’s Christmas decorations as a child? What’s an unusual place you’ve seen Jesus at Christmas? Leave a comment below and join the Christmas conversation:

Why I Love Fake Things

I learned the truth when I was about 6-years-old.

I was watching a video in the bedroom while my parents had friends over. My father came in and he just couldn’t take it anymore.

He had to tell me the truth – the truth about wrestling.

20110907_past_ss_1990_r“You know it’s fake, right? It’s all planned out and scripted,” he told me about the hulking superstars I had recently become obsessed with.

Funny, though. The revelation didn’t bother me. Even at a young age, I simply shrugged and went back to watching Randy Savage drop elbows. Continue reading

All You Need To Be A Great Friend

Kermit+The+Frog++Fozzie+Bear+Jim+Henson+Frank+Oz+ker+fozThere’s a special kind of love that exists between friends. Friends are the only people in our lives we choose to love.

You’re born into your family’s love. You may or may not love them. They may or may not love you back. If you do love them, it’s not because you chose them to be your family above anyone else.

When you fall in love you usually can’t help yourself. Something stirs in your heart. You’re romantically drawn to the person of your dreams. You don’t always choose who you fall in love with.

Friends are a different story.

When I was in elementary school, I had certain qualifications a person had to meet to become my friend. I quite literally would walk around the playground at recess with potential pals and interview them for a position in my social circle. The three major qualifications for being my friend were:

– You had to like X-Men.

– You had to like wrestling.

– You had to like country music.

These three things of course being the most important things in my life at the age of 8. If you were a fan of all three of these, congratulations: you and I were about to be buds.

No matter how old you are, you still get to choose your friends. You’re not forced to love these people as family or as a spouse. Instead you think so highly of them that you want to associate with them on a regular basis without any patriarchal or romantic ties.

And to think, that’s how Jesus thinks of us:

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:12-15)

Jesus calls us His friends, and this entails a very special type of love. He does not have to love us; He chooses to love us intentionally.

Jesus also says He does not look down on us as servants, though we are called and should be moved to serve Him. Instead He calls us into His inner circle, sharing great truths and secrets with us from His dad like any best friend would.

Read through the gospels and you’ll see Jesus being a friend a friend would like to have. He talks with the disciples. He eats with them. He walks with them. He parties with them. He spends the night with them. He challenges them. He listens to them. He forgives them. He ultimately gives His life for them. And He does all those same things for us – His friends.

What turns an average friend into a great friend? The answer lies in how Jesus treated His friends: He gave to them out of love without any regard for Himself, up to and including His own life.

It may seem impossible to love your friends the same way that Christ did. But that’s what the holy spirit is for. We can call on our friend Jesus anytime we want, since His spirit lives inside of us.

So here’s a piece of friendly advice – try loving your friends unselfishly, no matter how outlandish it may seem. Boldly love your friends the way you want to be loved. Love them without expecting anything back in return. You’ll gain more from it than you give.

What do you think makes a great friend? What sort of friends have modeled Jesus to you?

Mr. Imperfect

Lately I’ve been plugging my way through the new WWE Blu Ray “Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart – The Dungeon Collection”.

The “Hitman” is one of my favorite wrestlers of all time, and this Blu Ray collects many of his unseen and rare matches.

A few nights ago I watched the chapter on one of Bret Hart’s greatest opponents – Curt Hennig, also known as Mr. Perfect. bret_2

Bret’s match against Mr. Perfect at Summerslam 1991 is quite possibly my favorite wrestling match of all time, so I was giddy to see a rare earlier match between the two.

Before the match Bret was interviewed about the first time he and Hennig ever met in the ring. The pair had a reputation as being the best two technical workers of their generation.

Their first match was eagerly anticipated by fans and fellow wrestlers alike. The boys in the locker room gathered around the curtain to see these two second generation superstars put on a five star match.

So it was much to my surprise to hear what Hart said next: Continue reading

You Are A Wrestler

Welcome to Wrestling School 101. You can be a professional wrestler today in just a few easy steps.

Don’t believe me? You have all the qualities. You don’t have to weigh 300 pounds and be in exquisite shape. You can be a wrestler right from the comfort of your couch.

20121106_EP_LIGHT_honest-abe_C-homepageAnd who wouldn’t want to be? Becoming a professional wrestler is an honor. Abraham Lincoln wrestled for fun back in his youth. It’s biblical to0 (we’re getting to that).

It’s quite simple: if you want to be a wrestler, all you have to do is know how to talk. Continue reading

How To Win The Impossible* Ladder Match

A lot can change in 50 years. Watching wrestling in the 1950s, you would think it impossible for the black and white sport of Gorgeous George and Verne Gagne to ever turn into this:

(Click Here if you can’t see the video above.)

The Ladder Match. Maybe the most dangerous match in all of wrestling. A championship belt is raised 15 ft above the ring. The only way to retrieve it is climb to the top of a ladder and unhook it. The first man to do so wins the championship. Before you grab the belt you can use the ladders around the ring as weapons and launching pads for insane aerial assaults. Continue reading

Macho Madness

RS

(It’s Wrestlemania week on POP GOD! Join us everyday this week as we count down to Wrestlemania XXIX this Sunday with new posts searching for God in the squared circle.)

Today we’re talking Macho Madness: That confidence, strength and intensity personified best by the one and only Randy “Macho Man” Savage.

May you tackle all of today’s challenges with Macho Madness. May you turn your life around 180 degrees. May you go left when the world tells you to go right.

You are more than a conqueror, and no matter what life brings you can trust “the beat goes on”.

Happy Friday. (And no more questions!)

(Click here if the video above does not work.)

 

Tales Of A Wrestling School Dropout

(It’s Wrestlemania week on POP GOD! Join us everyday this week as we count down to Wrestlemania XXIX this Sunday with new posts searching for God in the squared circle.)

This is the tale of a wrestling school dropout.

324122_278504272180672_1937001811_oBefore my alter ego Ice D ever defended his championship, I flunked out of wrestling school.

A few years back I stepped into a professional wrestling ring with two of my best friends in the outskirts of Harlem, GA. We grew up watching spandex-clad athletes assault each other every Monday night for years. One day we heard of a local wrestling group offering tryouts. We decided to join them.

We had our ring names picked out – a faction known as The UnXpected. Our T-shirts would bear our catchphrase: “Respect The UnXpected.” The merchandising dollars would be rolling in.

We dreamt of winning world championships and entering the Hall of Fame.

We never made it out of training. Continue reading

Hall Of Fame

(It’s Wrestlemania week on POP GOD! Join us everyday this week as we count down to Wrestlemania XXIX this Sunday with new posts searching for God in the squared circle.)

4,040 days – the length of time Bruno Sammartino held the WWE (then WWWF) Championship in the 60s and 70s.

20 years – the length of time the WWE Hall Of Fame has existed and ignored Bruno Sammartino’s unmatched accomplishments.
BrunoSammartino02At this year’s WWE Hall Of Fame ceremony, one of the great injustices of professional wrestling will finally be righted. After over two decades of feuding and  refusing to appear, “The Living Legend” Bruno Sammartino will take his rightful spot in the WWE Hall Of Fame.

This is a momentous occasion for wrestling history. Sammartino has been at odds with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon since the 80s over the way McMahon commercialized and sexed up the wrestling industry. But the WWE’s new PG attitude seems to have bridged the gap between the two sides.

WWE is finally recognizing Sammartino’s incredible contributions to sports entertainment. A new generation of fans who never heard of his legend will get to see Sammartino’s accomplishments on TV, DVDs, and the internet.

To many pundits Bruno’s career, and his legend, will not be set in stone until he is granted his gold ring. This despite the fact that people like Koko B. Ware are already enshrined. (Also, so is Drew Carey. What?)

Does Bruno Sammartino need the Hall Of Fame? Would his legend die out without it? Continue reading