my best pal's big day!

Thirteen years ago today it was Father's Day, the most special one I'd known until then and since. It was a beautiful Sunday morning. The Bishops had just performed in West Virginia the night before, and soon after I'd settled into my bus bunk for the ride home my phone rang. The word was that Debra was ready to deliver our second child. Our first was named Casie, and she was the prettiest, smartest and most talented child ever born in these United States. We had a pretty good track record, and I had no reason to believe our son would be any less.

Soon after we learned we would have a son we settled on a name. I always liked the name Nicholas, so I proposed and lobbied for that one. We decided we could raise a Nicholas, so for most of her pregnancy that was his name. I even mentioned him in the liners of a recording we released while we waited for little Nick to arrive. But on delivery day, we changed our minds and liked the name Aaron Caleb instead. Those were two awesome guys in the Bible, and we liked the A.C. thing. So Nick became Aaron. But just before we were to give the attending nurse the name our beloved child would carry for the rest of his life we changed our minds again.

Just before the church bells started ringing on June 20, 1993 the announcement by way of a tiny cry introduced our family to one of its most lovable and tender members. After putting the nurse off for several more minutes we decided that we wanted our son to be known as a follower of Christ. His birth certificate reads Christian Caleb Bishop. The name Christian is a lot to live up to. Caleb was a great role model for the earliest faith. But the Bishop part is the one I'm most selfishly proud of. Happy birthday Pal! You know how much I love you.


everybody knows father jim!

Father Jim Sichko is a really good friend. He pastors the St. Mark's Catholic Church in Richmond, Kentucky. I think he knows everyone. It sure seems like everyone knows him. We had dinner tonight at a nice little restaurant in downtown Lexington. The weather was nice, so we decided to sit out on the sidewalk to enjoy the sunshine, the fresh air and the really good food. We sat there attempting conversation while person after person walked up to our table or shouted from the street to Father Jim. It never bothered him. He stopped what he was doing, put down his fork (He told me I would have to forsake using my knife when we go to Rome later this fall.), and visit with everyone who bothered to say hello and chat.

It should always be expected that anyone should be friendly and cordial whenever possible. Father Jim really was. His food was getting cold. His drink was getting warm. It was difficult for us to finish a thought in conversation before someone else stopped by. I was feeling more and more honored to sit across the table from this guy who was obviously well known and even more obviously, well respected. Top business execs, common blue collars, college students and others were compelled to at least let their presence be known to him. I was astonished.

I met Father Jim a few years back during the Governor's campaign. He was assistant to the Bishop of the Lexington Diocese. We sorta had the same jobs - his with the Bishop, mine with the then Congressman. We admired each other's positions and became distant friends. Now that we're better friends we realize that we have much more in common.

Music and the stage is in Jim's blood - mine too. At one time he traveled and performed as a professional vocalist. So did I. He pursued what he knew was the calling God had placed on his life. Me too. Now he stands before congregations and conference crowds sharing what he knows to be true about God - grace trumps sin. I am too.

We had to do it in quick segments, between interruptions, but the thing that consumed our conversation more than anything else was the wonderment of knowing God well and sharing Him within our own limits. He pastors a beautiful congregation of caring people, and at the same time he rubs shoulders with many of the entertainment world's most well known. Not only to us commoners appreciate his heart, but so do the big time movers and shakers. And even though celebrities know his name, Father Jim Sichko is much more interested making it clear that God does too.


my time in the lock-up - well, sorta

Looking around the room I wonder what everyone else is in for. I've never been in jail, except for visiting a friend or touring a new facility with the Congressman/Governor I work for. It was almost a creepy feeling - sorta like I was dirty for being there. I kind of felt that way tonight as I sat among the admitted guilty at traffic school. We all broke the law to get here. The fine folks at the courthouse don't just randomly draw names from a lottery to share the experience with. We all earned our place among the condemned.

The instructor told us right up front that we were not there to be punished. He then went on to say that we'd spend the next four hours without food, drink or communication from the outside world. If we decided to leave we would forfeit the privilege of driving for a while. The doors were locked and we were processed in one-by-one. Never being incarcerated before, it sure felt prison-lite to me.

I don't have any traffic violations on my driving record. And to be honest, I had a friend in a strategic place who offered to see that my recent speeding violation did not exist on any official transcript. But I was ready to take full responsibility. I was going too fast when the officer hit me with his radar. He was well within his rights, and obligated to slow me down. Besides, as dumb as it sounds, I was ready for a new experience. I'd never been to traffic school before.

I'd love to see a crowd like this at church. There were only about thirty something people in the class, but the mix of humans was great. Name a people-group, they were probably represented in the room. And as much as we probably all had not in common, we were all much more alike than not. It was really cool to see how we all understood by the end of the night. The older, white guy who was pulled over in the BMW found a seat next to the young Hispanic whose jalopy van got stopped. I was driving a marked state car when the radar picked me up. I spent my four hours next to a big and burly biker wearing a do-rag who thought motorcycles had special road privileges.

Two grandmas sat behind me. They showed off pictures of their grandchildren and laughed about how they'd explain their criminal behavior to them. The fairly effeminate black guy in front of me was more upset about the cell phone ban than anything else. He obviously was missing something in the outside world.

The class included a nurse, an attorney (obviously not very well connected), a few college students (including a star athlete), a school teacher, a mechanic (the pimp-my-ride kind), a very quiet stay-at-home mom, an exotic dancer (again obviously not very well connected), a minister (again, again obviously not very well connected), a lady that I wasn't sure was a lady, and, of course, the executive director of the Governor's Mansion (that would be me.) What a group!

I sat there, among such an eclectic mixture, envisioning all of us as a group of humans who had come to worship God. I imagined how pleased He would be if we were not forced, but delighted to gather with such strange and different people that we obviously share life and the road with, but we've come as His colorful creation worshipping the imaginative Creator who made us all.

At the end of our four hour lock up, we were all anxious to hear that our time had been served, our penalty paid, and our lives returned. As the instructor read off each name, the room cheered the accomplishment of each newly freed convict.
Nothing mattered more than seeing a cellmate (more like a classmate) attain their liberty. Every color, profession, persuasion, accent, age and education congratulated the other as they stepped back into freedom. What I'd offer to see it all over again - in our churches, among the redeemed.


a party in hell

It's a holiday in Hell, Michigan. They've been waiting for two thousand, six years, six months and six days for it, but the town is having the blowout party of a lifetime to celebrate the "most evil and sinister day of the century." Although this is not the first time the calendar has read 06/06/06, it's the first and only time anyone who is alive today will see such a calendar page. The last time it happened was a thousand years ago, then a thousand years before that. Actually, that first June 6th was the only legitimate six-six-six day ever. The rest are copies of the original with an additional thousand years tacked on.

It's turned into quite a festival of events too. A major motion picture showcasing the birth and life of a kid who grows up as the Antichrist debuts today. It's a remake of an older movie. I didn't see the original. I most likely will not see the remake. I'm not into horror sorts of films. I heard there is another movie opening in theaters today too. It's called The Beast.

Then there are the Christian opportunists who've taken advantage of the occasion to market their own version of stuff that seems more appealing to us on a day like this.

I'm into the Left Behind book series. I think we're up to book 57 now (exaggeration). I've invested in every book (hard back edition) in the series, so I sorta feel like I'll be abandoning ship if I don't stay with it at this point.

When the first book in the series was released I grabbed it and read it fast, I was thrilled to know there would be a follow-up book. I was still excited when the story continued into yet another edition. I was thinking I'd heard somewhere that there would be five or seven books in the series altogether. But I knew something was happening when the first two books covered two years, and the third and fourth only six weeks (exaggeration). Now we're up to book number fifteen with the 060606 release of what I was sure had to be the last title, The Rapture. Not so.

I actually got my copy of the book yesterday. Feeling like I'd been lured into a buying pattern that I couldn't escape, I turned to one of the inside front pages where all of the previous titles are listed to find out if this was in fact going to finally be the end. At some point these folks have to die. As a matter of fact, if you've read the series, you know that they actually did - a book or two ago. That was supposed to be the end, but someone who saw this as a way good opportunity decided that all of us with the dollars to buy the books would enjoy learning about the births, lives, baptisms and possessions of the characters we'd come to know so well. So we started all over again, just earlier in time.

So now, here we are on June 6, 2006 picking up where we left off. It's the perfect day for a book called The Rapture to be released. And I learn that this will in fact not be the end. There will be more after The Rapture. Even though eyes have not seen and ears have not heard and it has not even entered into a man's heart what Heaven will be like, somehow Tim and Jerry will find a way to put it into words and sell it in a book. Lord knows they're good at both.