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Gratitude Post – Metal

Today I am thankful for metal. Whether it’s thrash metal, death metal, metalcore, power metal, world metal, or any other genre of metal you can think of, I love it! I like other styles of music, but no other musical expression scratches the same itch that metal does.

I’ve been a metal fan ever since I discovered Van Halen and Motley Crue when I was 6. I overheard construction workers building a house right next to the apartment building my mom and I lived in at the time. They were listening to KMBY, a rock station that played lots of hair metal. This was 1986 after all. I later discovered Metallica, Megadeth, and Pantera.. I really got into metal in high school. Sepultura and Death, along with Fear Factory, Korn, Corrosion of Conformity, White Zombie, and a whole slew of others. I was pressured to keep metal at bay, first by overzealous Roman Catholics at the church where my mom and I attended. Then, when I understood Christianity on a deeper level, my faith became more personal. Within six months of my conversion experience, for lack of a better term, I left the Catholic Church. I still have a lot of appreciation and reverence for the Roman Catholic expression of Christianity, but I digress…

One of my closer friends at the time was a very well meaning person, or so I thought. (He later turned out to be a child molestor…) He prevailed upon me to get rid of all my secular music… Secular music, for you people who dont’ speak Christianese means non-Christian music… Fortunately, I found some really solid Christian metal that didn’t suck. Tourniquet and Mortification (especially early Tourniquet and Mortification), Ethereal Scourge, Paramecium, Virgin Black, Narnia, and of course… Saviour Machine.

After going through a sort of crisis of identity around the time I moved to San Diego in 2003, I was easing up on my tightly held to beliefs and standards that had less to do with the essence of Christianity, and more to do with the seemingly arbitrary conservatism and traditionalism in American Church culture. It was during this time that I got really into System Of A Down. (Got to see them in 2011. That! Was! An! Amazing! Show!) (Also, don’t tell me System isn’t metal. The heaviness and the musicianship, as well as the complexity of composition, are all consistent with the markers of metal music.)

In later years, especially after my last band, Arimathea, broke up, I started struggling a lot with depression, anxiety, and some post traumatic stress rooted in some really nasty crap in my childhood. One of the things that has proven to be a huge source of relief is metal music. Often times, the angrier, the heavier, the more intense the better. It’s as if metal is a furnace, and my depression and internal sludge is being burned to mere ashes in the flames. If you’re a Dio fan, you may substitute dragon for furnace.

I may not be as knowledgable of a fan as others, but I am grateful for metal on a very deep level. I can feel like absolute garbage, and listening to “Angel of Death” or “Psychosocial” will make me feel like I can stand firm in the sheer assault of emotional daggers, no matter how sharp they are. There are moments in which I feel very far from God, and bands like Sleeping Giant (Yeah, I know they’re more hard-core) and For Today will draw me back in, inspire me to prayer, and remind me of the beauty of the Gospel.

Despite the fact that I am writing this a day later than I had wanted, it seems fitting. Today is the day that Christians all around the world remember Christ’s Sacrifice. There is no more metal person whoever lived than Jesus. Even if you don’t believe like I do, you can still appreciate the story. God born a man, grows up in the same way every human does, and then this same man, who has lived a sinless life, takes all the sins  of every person who has lived, is living, and who will live… He takes all that sin on to pay the price for that sin. Willingness to face pain and heartache, instead of trying to deny the reality of the situation is the most metal thing ever. The only thing that is more metal than that is rising from the dead three days later to demonstrate your power over sin and death.

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Gratitude Post – The Flores Brothers

Today I am thankful for Jacob Flores and Justin Flores. It is their instruction at Studio 540 which has most helped me to better understand judo. I took my first class with them a little less than a year ago. In a couple weeks it will be 11 months since my very first judo class.

That first class, I was already exhausted from the jiu jitsu class taught by David Reed. I was catching my breath from my last roll and the push-ups David had us do at the end. Then, I hear Justin’s voice. “Judo in 3 minutes!” I thought to myself, “Uh… uh… uh… ok…” Then I firmed my resolve. I wanted to pass out from the warm-ups alone, but I stuck with it through that first day, being thoroughly confused and thinking that my prior martial arts training wasn’t helping me in the slightest.

For the first few months, I was only doing judo once a week. Then, I started coming to the other 2 classes at 540. At Justin and Jacob’s encouragement, I started getting extra judo training at San-Shi Judo Club. Mostly randori on Monday and Wednesday nights. They told me they used to train there back in the day. After training with the guys at San Shi, I can understand why they recommended it.

I’m still learning judo. It’s a slow burn to be sure. I am grateful for Justin and Jacob’s help and encouragement. Thank you Coaches. I have definitely appreciated learning from you.

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Gratitude Post – Public Transit

I am thankful for public transit. It is true Andrea, a.k.a. Xena Warrior Princess, and I go a lot of places together, in which cases she usually drives. That being said, I have a lot of transportation options. Of course, I can travel by foot with the use of Hobbs or a cane. I can also ride a bus, a troley, a train, a plane, or a boat. I can use Uber or Lyft. Some forms of public transit take more time or cost more money, but I can still get where I need to go, even if I am not able to drive. For this fact, I am extremely grateful.

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Gratitude Post – My Health

I’m thankful I wasn’t hurt nearly as severely as I could have been. Almost 2 years ago to the day, I was hit by a slow moving car while crossing a driveway near Fletcher Pky. It definitely messed me up, but it was all soft tissue damage, and I have very few permanent effects left over from the accident. It could have been so much worse. I could have been killed or paralyzed. Sometimes bad things happen, but there is often some good to be found in the midst of those difficult circumstances.

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Gratitude Post – My Friend Ben

I am thankful for my friend Ben McCandless. It’s astounding the similarities between us. We’re both blind. We are both martial artists. (Ben practices tang soo do.) We are both Christians. We both play bass. We both would like to open a tea shop or a cafe some day. We both love fantasy literature. We both write; though, Ben had his first novel published, and I’ve yet to complete my first book. (Check hout his book Sword of Dreams: Book 1 in the Portal Walker series by Alexander Bentley. Yes, that’s a pen name.) He lives across the country in Pennsylvania, but he’s been a huge encouragement to me as a Christian, as a martial artist, and as a man. (As an aside, he makes some of the best barbecue suace I’ve ever had. When he starts selling it on a large scale, you’ll do well to try some.)

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Gratitude Post – My Bro Chad

I am thankful for my bro Chad Rivera. He’s a BJJ black belt where I train. He’s also visually impaired, but he can see a little better than me. He’s definitely helped me up my jiu jitsu game, helping me understand new techniques and concepts. I especially appreciate his help on Tuesdays in the no gi class and at 10:00 AM with Jeff Higgs.