My number one childhood dream has always been to be a famous Country singer. My idols have always been artists like Keith Whitley, George Jones, Alan Jackson, and Garth Brooks just to mention a few! I remember riding down the road in the car with my parents and sister while we would all sing along to our favorite Country songs! Country music has always held a special place in my heart! I remember after I first announced my call to preach at the age of twelve, and I was so fired up for Jesus that I couldn’t even see straight! One Sunday morning, my Youth Pastor looked over at me and asked one simple question. “What do you plan on doing with your life son?” I began to explain that I was going to be a famous Country singer and travel from town to town on my new bus singing my songs! You have absolutely no idea how much I loved Country music as a young man. What my Youth Pastor said next completely devastated me! I would’ve probably been better off if he’d have just murdered me. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “You can’t sing Country music!” He continued on saying “You’ve been called by God, and you have a responsibility to preach the Gospel!” By the look on his face, I could tell he was serious and that I had better not mention Country music ever again!
As the years went by, I had begun to travel and preach in different little Baptist Churches around the Huntington and Kenova area. I still loved Country music more than life itself, and I just knew if I’d get the opportunity to prove myself that I could be famous! Every Church I preached in, I always made sure I took my battery powered CD boom box so I could sing. I always got complemented and told how well of a singer I was! That just fueled my passion even more to become a famous Country singer! I wanted to move and live in Nashville, TN so I could be singing all the time!
As I grew into an adult, My love for Country music stayed the same, but my love for church was fading. I still loved God and Jesus! I just had a major problem with some of His followers. I eventually quit going to church and started living my life the way I wanted. I even told people that I was no longer a Christian. I still loved God, but I wasn’t going to be a hypocrite! I wasn’t going to claim to be a Christian if I didn’t go to church. When people asked me if I was still preaching, I’d say no I’m not a Christian anymore! Many people simply didn’t understand what had happened to me. I have to say it so here it is! I was hurt by some people in the church as a teenager, and if that’s how God’s true followers acted, then I wanted no part of it at all!
I was already a smoker. I had started sneaking and smoking when I was twelve years old. Roughly right around the same time I felt God’s tugging for me to preach. That’s just like the devil you know! You start obeying God, and then you get a thorn in the flesh! Mine was tobacco! Once I had turned of age to legally buy tobacco, I wanted more. I wanted alcohol! I started sneaking a drinking because I had people who were of age who would buy it for me. It was easy to get what you wanted growing up in West Virginia. Just don’t let dad find out or he’ll beat the crap out of somebody! No joke! All this time that I was living for myself instead of Jesus, I was going to bars singing karaoke. No I wasn’t old enough to get in, but I knew people! I thought the bar was my way to fame and fortune! I was a stupid kid chasing my dream! For a span of about 5 years, I partied and sang in many different bars across a few different states. However, fame and fortune never came! My lucky moment, or my being at the right place at the right time never happened!
After moving to Alabama on Christmas Eve of 2005, I had decided I was going to try and live right again. It was hard for me because I didn’t want to trust church people and be hurt again! So, I started going to church with my grandma Judy here in Boaz. It was the most God awful boring church I had ever stepped foot into! Don’t get wrong, the people were very nice! Much nicer than anyone I had encountered in West Virginia. These people all started gathering around to meet me, and shake my hand, but the church in my opinion was dead! They needed to have a resurrection service! Now, I understand that different styles of churches accommodate to different types of people. That Pastor was preaching the Word of God in every service, and the congregation loved that style! Good for them! I personally just happened to be a Country music loving hillbilly from the mountains. I was used to a little bit more banjo pickin in church! Growing up in church, I was used to people jumping up testifying, running down the aisles, and even speaking in tongues every now and then. Almost even like some of the bars I sang in back in Ohio! You know, people running around mumbling words you can’t understand. So intoxicated on alcohol that they didn’t even know who they were.
I quickly came head to head with my grandma Judy and told her I wasn’t going to her boring church anymore. Let me just say, she was not happy! She let me know right then that as long as I was living under her roof, I was going to church! I agreed to go to church with her as long as she didn’t go to that church. Well that wasn’t an option, and one day after I made it crystal clear that I wasn’t going to that church anymore, she made it crystal clear to me that I could go back to West Virginia! Well I was furious and pretty much did what I wanted. I completely quit going to church with her, and started going to the bars again. I was do ready for some fun again! I had been doing some work for a woman in what’s called the Egypt community, and she invited me to go to the bar with her and her brother. I agreed and we had a blast! I had so much fun that I continued to be a regular customer there at TJ’s Sports Bar for a couple years until Jesus began showing up at the bar looking for me!
Now that’s a hard thing to explain to your drinking buddy! Hey man, I got to go! Jesus is calling me. What? Who’s calling you? Yeah, try explaining that one! There were a few times when I would be singing karaoke, that I would feel the presence of the Holy Spirit around me there at the bar. I hated those moments because then conviction would set in! Conviction was a sign for me to drink more so I could pretend not to hear Him speaking to me. It was just like Jesus to show up a ruin a perfectly good night of drinking and partying! I tell ya what was even worse than that, was when I’d be waiting for my turn to sing again and someone in the bar suddenly wanted to talk about God. I totally despised those times, because I knew in my heart that what I was doing was wrong. I wasn’t called to be a drinker, I was called to be a preacher! Instead of leading people to the bar for drinks, I should have been leading them to the well for everlasting water! I should have been leading them to a fountain of living water! I had tasted of the goodness of God as a young man, and I was running. Little did I know, but God hadn’t left me. I left Him! Even in the middle of that bar night after night waiting to be discovered by someone in the music industry, Jesus never left my side! Even in my despair, Jesus was still walking with me!
As time went one, the Holy Spirit began tugging at my heart more and more. I had come to the point that I wanted to try church again! I wanted to have peace and joy again! I wanted to feel forgiven and free again! I needed my chains and shackles to be removed! I was desperately crying out for help, and only one person noticed my pain. That person invited me to church with him, and I said no. He continued to try and get me to go to church with him, and one day I said yes! Of course I was at the bar all night Saturday night so I didn’t make it to church Sunday morning. When he asked me at work that Monday what had happened to me, I actually felt bad for not keeping my word. The following Saturday night I was back at TJ’s and when 2:00 AM came around, the shout for last call was given. Some friends and I made our way to the bar to pay our tabs and get some beer to go. We had hung out at some woman’s house for the night continuing to party. When I noticed that the sun was coming up, I realized I had to get home or my grandma would kill me if she knew I’d stayed out all night! I rushed home and had managed to sneak in the house without her noticing me coming in so late! I was relieved to know I hadn’t been caught. I went to the bathroom to put on my Pajamas so I could go to bed. When I opened the bathroom door, there she was standing in the hall staring me down! “You’re up awfully early!” she said. “Since you’re up, you can just get ready and go to church with me this morning!” she said. “I’m going back to bed!” I declared as if I had been home all night. “Oh no you’re not! she demanded. “You’re going to church whether you like it or not!” she proclaimed. Well I was so ready for bed and I didn’t feel like arguing so I said “sure! I’ll go!” The whole time in church, I couldn’t help but feel like people were judging me because of my strong scent of booze. I didn’t really care until people began to tell me how happy they were to see me back at church. I couldn’t even drink and be happy anymore because of these stinking church people being so nice to me!
Monday morning and the guy at work walked by not saying a word to me. I called him back and said, “I went to church yesterday with my grandma, so I didn’t get to make it to your church.” I couldn’t believe it! I felt bad for not going to church with that guy even though I was in Church with my grandma. I couldn’t see it then, but looking back I can see how the Holy Spirit was working through the people in my life to get my attention. Yes, He works in mysterious ways!
I rededicated my life to Christ one morning about 3:00 AM while listening to Mike Murdoch give his testimony on TV. What an amazing experience I had getting caught up with Jesus that morning! I was so sorry for the way I had been living my life, and the awesome thing is that He never left me! He was always with me even through the times that I was rejecting Him! It was then that I realized that the poem of the footprints in the sand was so true! It was in the toughest moments of my life that He carried me! Looking back on my life, I realize that I should be dead! So many nights I don’t even know how I made it home after leaving the bars! It was only by God’s merciful grace and protection!
I started going to church with the guy from work and it was then that God took Country music away from me. I went for two years not being able to listen to Country music. I literally couldn’t listen to Country music because I would start to cry. I’m not even kidding! Crying, not because I realized the error of my way and was sorry for my sin, but because I knew what I had given up in exchange for God! I felt as though I had given up every chance to fulfill my dream of becoming a Country music star. Over the next two years I completely dedicated my life to Jesus 100%. I did everything I could to please Him and make my new Pastor happy! It was my new goal to make my Pastor proud of me! If I could make him proud, then I thought Jesus would be proud of me. I studied and prayed, and even fasted not eating for a week! After two years, I had come to a point in my life that I no longer cared if I ever became a famous Country singer. I just wanted to please God with everything I set out to do. It was my new daily goal to speak to someone about Jesus! It was when I developed this attitude that something in my snapped. I don’t even know how to explain it, but this not being able to listen to Country music was removed from my life! Finally after two years I was able to listen to Country music without crying. However, I didn’t want to listen to Country music anymore! I was happy with my Christian music. It was then that I realized that I had made Country music my god! I had put my love and passion for Country music and becoming famous before God! That was why He had to take it away from me! I understand that now, and I can totally listen to Country music anytime I want to now! I still love Country music, but it’s no longer my god!
I told God that I knew it was Him who had given me the gift to be able to sing, and it was to bring Him glory! I told Him that I would spend the rest of my life singing for Him! Now I’m proud to announce that He has allowed me to start living my dream of being a singer. I’ve even started doing a little traveling as well. My first CD came out in March of this year! I released my song “The Scar That Held My Name” to internet radio on March 8, 2014 and within just one week, my song played in over 25 different countries around the world! It’s such an amazing tribute to my Jesus to now have a CD for sale on Amazon.com full of songs that I’ve written! I pray that all the glory and honor goes to Jesus!