My story, My Body

I remember when I first showed up at seminary. I was meet with wonder and surprise. I did not fit the “model” of one that would go to seminary. I was a foul-mouthed, “edgy”, smoking, drinking,tattooed, idealistic, worldly former missionary Jesus thug. I arrived ready to do my best to answer the call on my life. I arrived ready to give up all that was “bad” and focus on the good and Godly ways I expected that was to follow.

It was customary to meet with folks that would essentially tell you if you had a shot at being called up to the big leagues.  I had my meeting and was told, “You are not going to receive a call to traditional ministry. You had better carve out your own space in ministry. I think you are a breath of fresh air here and love that you call it like you see it. I just do not see you being able to enter into the traditional church world as a minister.” I was crushed at first to hear this. I had not expected this at all. I gave it no thought that i was anything short of called to serve the church I loved as I sought to grow closer to Christ.

It hurt me deeply and on many occasions I felt the odd man out. I grew a tough exterior and said phuck it to the wonder and surprise I was initially meet with. My colleagues grew to know me.  I made friends and found a family in seminary. People grew to discover my gifts. I found a niche in the church that spoke to me as it feed my soul. It gave me hope that God had not indeed messed up in calling me to seminary.

Over time I understood the words the were offered to me in my first year of seminary. I loved that someone loved me enough to watch out for me and supported me. I am very thankful to the people that took the time to see past the foul-mouth, “edge”, smoking, drinking,tattoos, and idealism to witness me as one of Gods beautiful, wonderful, fearfully made creatures called to serve.

I remember these things as I think about the tattoos that dot my body. I do not regret the map of tattoos that share my story of where I have come and to whom I am going. I can remember the place I was at in life with every tattoo on my person. I remember the people, places, [some] names, the tale of who & what I was at the time. I am lucky to carry a record of my past upon my body. With these things God is sealed upon my heart as I am constantly reformed, renewed, and recharged into a new creation. My tattoos are a picture of the Christ that rescued me from danger, as I was wandering from the fold of God. I was bound with the fetters of a God I dare not whisper.

A few parts of my story…






This tattoo was blessed to me by Billy Benson, whom I loved like a brother. In many ways he and I are kindred spirits seeking a path to peace and compassion. This was inked in 1997 at Lefty’s shop in Balboa Island. It was my first color piece. It connects and grounds me to my early childhood, living in the Valley and N.E. LA. I have always had a deep affinity with Catholic imagery, especially those filtered through Hispanic culture.  

















This one was the first one I got in seminary. It is inspired by a systematic class taught by Cindy Rigby. It is my take on the Trinity. The Creator is the all knowing eye with the deep understanding & wisdom available to all that dare to see. The Redeemer in the shed blood of reconciliation and in the risen cross arising from the glorious cleansing fire of the Sustainer. These are framed upon the Sacred loving Heart of the Christ fettered with the phrase, “Bind my wandering heart to thee.” A line from my favorite hymn “Come Thou Font.”




photo-8This one is an anchor, an early Christian symbol for Christ with a banner of “Soli Deo Gloria” or Glory to God alone. This is another one inspired by Cindy. It represents my need to stay anchored in Christ as I seek to be pleasing to God alone. It is my most needed reminder of my story.

photo-111My calavera! I love this one. It is my funniest piece. It is a nod to my Hispanic influence and cultural identity. It represents death in Christ as a new creation. The “Tres Floras” represent the Trinity, the risen cross calls forth the power of a risen Christ in my life and in the life of this world. I enjoy the intricate design in the chin and love that my calavera has a pachuco mustache.

photo-13This tattoo is of the risen Christ snuggling a lamb [that would be us all]. Christ has the wounds of the cross upon his loving, caring hands as he caresses the world. I thought about this tattoo for over 5 years before I found the right artist to bless me with it.

photo-17My well wore, sun damaged praying hands. This is an old one. I think I got this one in 1999. I did not care for it as I have not cared for my self in prayer. The deeper I have gone into prayer these days the greater the desire has become for me to touch up this piece.  I have a few more planned. The throat tattoo of “Jesus” is a no go since I got married. We have a deal, I get to finish the sleeves, back, and legs I started and she gets to keep the chest and stomach clear of story. So far I have about 30-35 hours of work done.I have another 20-30 hours of work I want done. I had better start saving my pennies.

*If anyone wants to donate their service or pennies I am all for completing this ministerial canvas sooner rather than later.

7 thoughts on “My story, My Body

  1. Tim says:

    Ryan, I remember meeting you your first day at seminary. I was bored out of my mind during the summer and playing video games on my computer when I heard rustling from the dorm room next door that had previously been occupied by very wonderful and quiet older woman. This was going to be a change. I knocked on the door and several minutes later I think you were on the toilet) a large tattooed man in boxers answered the door. I was suspicious at first, but very blessed by your presence and tattoos. I gave you a lot of shit (as you did to me), but I am better for having known you.

  2. Pappy, thinking about you and your wonderful tats was one of the things which inspired me to get my own last summer. Can’t wait to show you!

  3. Hey– I love this story of your tattoos and the larger story of your call, struggles, life and ministry. It’s great to hear that a tattoo can be inspired by a systematics class! I have always loved this hymn, Come Thou Fount, but I haven’t known many other people other than you and a few others who also loved it. I reread the words this afternoon and was inspired by them again. I took a break from working on my Pentecost sermon (May 31) to read your blog. I am going to weave the following words into my sermon that is in progress.

    Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
    Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
    Call for songs of loudest praise.
    Teach me some melodious sonnet,
    Sung by flaming tongues above.

  4. Georgia says:

    These tattoos are part of why we love you! But – I have to say that I am with Mer on the neck tattoo……besides – I think that would be PAINFUL!

  5. YAV Hermann says:

    Pomocious – stumbled upon this but you are full of many layers. Thanks for continuing to peel them back for me and many others. Here’s to 2004-2005 huh? YAV City. I am gonna miss living in the same city bro’. It was a delight to further understand your story Ryan. Thanks for sharing.

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