a very proud brother

Did you hear the news? Most of you know that I recently signed a recording agreement with Daywind Records. I'm thrilled about that, but that's not the news. I told you that to set up the scenario.

This past Thursday night I was sitting with a passel full of Daywind Records folks watching the Singing News Fan Awards show at the National Quartet Convention. These folks are loyal to their artists. Now that I am one, I can say that they treat us well. So, I sorta felt like the visiting fan sitting among the home team faithful when the nominees for favorite soloist were read and the winner was announced.

Dr. Jerry Goff: "And the winner of the 2005 Singing News Fan Award for favorite soloist is... - pause for effect, or opening the envelope or reading a novel (it seemed like I was under water looking for air until he finally said) MARK BISHOP!" I coulda swore the earth stopped spinning. What a moment! The earth might've stopped on its axis, but I didn't. I had an old fashioned Pentecostal shoutin' spell right there in front of my whole new record company. I'm surprised they didn't go into executive session to renegotiate my deal.

I think the last time I was as proud was when my then nine year old son Christian was playing on a twelve year old little league baseball team and the coach called him in from the outfield to finish pitching a game. We still lost, but the whole team rushed the mound when it was finally over and carried his tiny frame off the field on their shoulders. Or the time my daughter Casie made her debut as one of the Gaither Homecoming Kids, singing and dancing her way into the hearts and homes of millions via video and CD. These were some of the single proudest moments of my life. And now I have this new one to look back on. The fact that MY BROTHER was the only soloist to perform alone on that big center stage all week long did a lot for me too.

*NOTE TO EVERYONE WHOSE NUMBER IS STORED IN MY CELL PHONE - The frantic and incoherent call you received around seven o'clock this past Thursday night was me having a very spiritual moment. Thanks for not calling the police.


compassion instead of contempt - helping the victims

Hurricane Katrina has done a number on me. I won't pretend that I've been affected in the same ways or to the degree of the devastated people in and around New Orleans, south Mississippi and Alabama, but this terrible tragedy has not come and lingered without reaching into my home in Kentucky.

I was laying in my bed the other night, looking at the endless footage of displaced families, destitute mothers and hopeless hearts, thinking about how fortunate and blessed I am to be laying in my comfortable bed, viewing it from a distance. I didn't see anyone on the screen that I knew. No face looked familiar to me. No names came to mind as I watched. I wasn't personally affected, so why did my heart feel so heavy?

I was both amazed and saddened the next morning when arrogant and safe people who were thousands of miles from the heartache called the local radio talk shows to complain about the people in New Orleans. They called their demands for hastened relief unreasonable and impatient. "They should've got out while they could," one man said. "Seems to me they didn't have enough sense to get in out of the rain," said another. The more I listened, the angrier I got. As much as I believe there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for shooting, looting and raping, especially in such a time of crisis, the harsh and insensitive words of these callers revealed to me that they were no more honorable than the outlaws in the streets of that city.

I can't imagine, and neither can they, the enormous grief, sense of loss and utter despair that these people have all-of-the-sudden been forced to confront. Regardless of whether it could have been averted, now is not a good time to offer a sermon on how to be better prepared for the coming storm. (I could make some tremendous personal parallels to my own life here, but this is not the place or time.) Now is the time to offer shelter, comfort, life necessities and, most importantly, love to these human beings who've just had their lives scarred forever. These are deep gashes. Little children have just witnessed, firsthand, scenes that most of our own kids will only see from a distance on a screen. Some of them will never get over it.

As Believers, we now have the opportunity to be more than mouthpieces and cheap ministers. Some people have practical skills and services to offer. Many of them are in the middle of the devastation now, doing what they know how to do to help. I feel I'd be in the way there. So I am doing what I can to help from here. I have volunteered to serve in one of the FEMA call centers that is located here in Kentucky. I have also given financial resources to help some of the displaced families. And I am also participating in a fundraising concert event that will take place in Knoxville, Tennessee on September 27th at the Chilhowee Hills Baptist Church. Several other artists are appearing as well. We all should want to do what we can with the abilities we have. Our worship to God requires nothing less.