I’m nearly a week into this road trip as I sit here in Bend, Oregon. I’ve had 3 days of long drives thus far. We are in Bend until Sunday, so we’ll get some planned down time as I golf in a 4 day event. I could listen to Eric Church for hours straight, which I’ve proven to myself once again amidst the long windshield time. I honestly believe as an artist that he’s the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time), at least he is for me. We all identify with musicians for our own reasons. I believe the depth and meaning behind his lyrics simply resonate beyond any other artist I’ve heard, and by a long shot. I’ve gotten so many other people hooked on E.C.s music as well, including my girlfriend and my best friend. I find people just need to be introduced to the vast quality beyond his hits on mainstream radio. I’m actually listening as I write this now, as I embark to tell a story stemming from his Denver concert back in May. This is a longer post than normal, yet is one I’m excited to share.
My Surrender Project undoubtably has layers, some I probably don’t even know of yet, at least that’s my assumption. The project all started back in May when I wrote down my prayer (see My Surrender Prayer link on the home page). My prayer is designed to be something I get on my knees and pray every day. Something I intentionally feel every time I say the words aloud. My Surrender Prayer is asking God to guide my steps, instead of living with the notion I can somehow control my future. I’ve realized the more I try to control my steps, the more anxiety and fear creep in. I figure God can probably handle my life better than me. 😉
A little over a week after I started hitting my knees each day in early May, my girlfriend and her friend, along with my best friend went to see Eric Church’s Double Down Tour in Denver. PIT tickets were hard to come by when I purchased them last fall. I tried for Chicago and Denver, finally getting the tickets for the Saturday night show in Denver. I still went to Chicago’s two shows in March as well, figuring his concerts are the best and I might as well find another reason to visit my dad in the Midwest. I’ve seen 11 of his shows in the last few years alone and the Saturday night show in Denver topped them all!
EC has a song called Record Year, which happens to be one of my favorites, although I have a ton of “favorites” at this point. During this song he’ll go around and sign records fans sneak in, often holding them up to show the crowd which one he’s signing as he goes. I decided to bring an old Merle Haggard record, knowing Eric likes him so much he even has a song called Pledge Allegiance to the Hag. I held up the album as the show started and he immediately looked over at the album and pointed toward us, I was stoked!
His last two concert tours consisted of two sets each night, which is one of many reasons I’m typically frustrated that Eric Church doesn’t get more votes/consideration for Entertainer of the Year Awards for the CMAs and ACMs. I don’t get it, more people need to see these shows! I’m not sure many artists connect with tens of thousands of people at a time like EC does. That’s my soap box from years of annoyance watching those shows! I feel like the lesson here- winning popularity contests and awards shouldn’t be the main driver for why we do what we do. We do what we do because we love and find joy in it, at least if we’re doing what God designed within us. Yeah, money typically follows as well and making a living is important of course. Sharing your God given talents with the world and having a blast while doing it has to be a main form of compensation though, something I believe many people miss out on! I’m betting Eric Church is pretty dialed in spiritually, just listen to his lyrics. I’m also very sure he’s doing what God created him to do while having an absolute blast, just go see one of his concerts!
Back to my story- we reached set #2 of the night after a short intermission. Within the first few songs Eric and the band busted out Pledge Allegiance to the Hag, which always gets his crowd fired up. I was almost surprised to hear it because they played it the night before. During an instrumental break he walked around the stage and came right up to me, grabbed the record and took it to the middle of the stage with him. He literally stood there holding the record while he finished singing the song, even pausing a moment to look up toward Heaven, as if to honor the late Merle Haggard who passed away in 2016. I’m guessing EC has a special spot in his heart for Merle, probably stemming back to childhood memories, which is pretty awesome. I was happy that he signed and gave me the record back, yet even happier that it seemed to really impact him and the show in a positive way. I will also say I don’t think it’s “ironic” that I came across an old Merle Haggard record and had the idea to bring it with me shortly after I started to intentionally surrender my life to God. Might seem like a small thing in the grand scheme of life, yet sometimes it’s little moments that create memories that can last a lifetime.
Putting it into context- we all have a favorite athlete (mine’s Peyton Manning btw), musician, actor, etc.. I guess me meeting EC is similar to someone who grew up in Green Bay meeting Brett Farve, or perhaps a die hard Yankees fan meeting Derek Jeter. I wouldn’t say Eric Church is an idol, because my only Idol is Jesus Christ himself. I’d simply say I have an ultimate appreciation and respect for the good work EC has put forth, and a sincere thankfulness for getting to hear it. Perhaps that’s the same way EC felt about Merle Haggard, who knows?! Overall, the experience was my favorite concert of all time, hands down. I’m grateful that I finally got to shake the man’s hand whose music has had such a profound impact on my life, regardless of what season I was going through. I had some fun describing my road trip with song titles below just to show how much the music resonates. I’ll continue listening hours at a time over the next ten thousand miles, while throwing in a little Garth, George and Luke Combs along the way. Thank God for music!
The real world has me feeling like a Drowning Man over the past few years. I realize as I take this 7+ week road trip how grateful I am that I’m not What I Almost Was! I’ve had my Record Years but now it’s time for me to finally start enjoy the Livin‘ Part of Life, hence the road trip with me and my pup. I’ve learned so many lessons The Hard Way, but I’m grateful The Snake and his Monsters didn’t snatch me up along the way. Guys Like Me are on a path to make the world a better place. I want to impact by being a light, not quite as bright, but similar to Like Jesus Does. I’ll keep exploring these small towns along the way, searching for a Jukebox and a Bar to keep me company as I navigate this spiritual journey I’m embarking on. I’m letting go of my past, realizing you just Can’t Take it With You if you want to experience life in a truly joyous way. I used to fear being A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young, now I’m focused on being a man who lives with no regrets, one who will truly live regardless of how long. So if you need me I’ll just be out here on the road, Hangin Around, hoping in a couple weeks they’ll Give Me Back My Hometown when I roll into Fort Wayne, Indiana. Funny as I drive I’m reminded of my old road trips with my dad, listening to his old Hippie Radio while soaking up every moment. I have weeks ahead to reflect back and be grateful for life’s lessons, along with Those I’ve Loved along the way. Half way through my trip These Boots will be headed to Nashville for the first time ever to celebrate my 36th birthday. August 12th….”the morning that I’ll turn 36, you just remember half of it, you wonder how you outlived Hank and Jesus.” Who knows, maybe I’ll even meet some cool Sinners Like Me as we celebrate God’s gift of music and we Pledge Allegiance to the Chief!