what a girl!!!

I never know how to feel on days like this. My little girl isn't so little anymore. It's funny how I can't remember what food I put in my mouth yesterday, but I remember the smallest details of this day 19 years ago when the earth, or at least my part of it, sighed and smiled when Casie Rachelle Bishop became a part of it. That little prune of a newborn human very quickly became one of the world's most beautiful, smart, caring examples of the best our species has to offer. Newborn, toddler,... preteen, teenager,... As quickly as I typed it, it happened. She's made me awfully proud in less than twenty years. I look at her today and feel pretty good about myself. Happy birthday baby doll! You always win.


talking politics - not politicians

I'm not good at political debate. You'd think with the work I do at the place I do around the folks I do that I would be all about a good round or two of defending my allies and debasing my opponents. Problem is, I don't see those who view political ideas different than mine as my enemies.

First off, I chose several years ago not to allow politics to choose my friends. I have a lot of conservative, Republican friends. I also have a lot of conservative, Democrat friends. I have just as many friends from both parties who are much more liberal. They are all my friends, even when we disagree on politics.

There is much, much more to their person than their politics. And hear this; they all have valid reasons for believing the way they do, and often valid arguments for their opinions. Both sides of every issue are usually very passionate about their ideas.

There are such things as atheist Republicans and praying Democrats. Interestingly enough, those are the ones who usually say that politics and religion should not mix.

If you listen to the conservatives, they will tell you, with lots of emotion, that the media in the United States these days is made up of screaming liberals. Oddly enough, the liberals say the same thing, only opposite. The conservatives feel that CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post and all of the big TV networks are propagandist carrier pigeons for the liberal wing of the Democratic party. The liberals are sure that Rush, Sean and Bill, along with Fox News and the Washington Times are loudmouthed ultraconservatives just shy of Nazism.

Personally, I think they're all wrong. Or maybe they're all right, but only as a whole. If you watch CNN long enough you'll likely be convinced it leans to the left. The same amount of tube time will leave you with the impression that Fox News nods to the right. It seems to me that the only way to get all the parts of a story, bias and all, is to watch both, put the left and right together, take out the over-the-top rhetoric, and maybe, just maybe you'll get enough of the truth to make an honest judgment about what you've just seen and heard.

News rooms are run by people. People have opinions. As much as we'd like to believe that news reporting agencies are motivated by reporting just the facts - all sides of a story, I'm afraid there are no major media outlets that do it that way. You and I see and hear what an editor with an opinion one way or another on what he/she is disseminating, decides we should be exposed to. As a friend of mine in the news business once told me, "Sometimes facts just get in the way."

Sex sells. High drama and violence caught on tape sells. The word "exclusive" sells. Whistle-blowers who expose corruption or deceit sells. Politicians caught in the act sells. All of these things make for good business for the people who sell us the news. People tune in or log on to that sort of stuff. No one buys chastity. Watching a run of the mill traffic stop or routine city council meeting gets no ones attention. Someone bragging on the performance of a hard working elected official doesn't usually gather cameras. When people do what they're supposed to do no one is interested. Thus, the majority of everything good or normal that happens in a day is never mentioned at six o'clock.

There are 535 senators and congressmen in Washington, DC. When one or a handful of them messes up or does something dumb it's a scandal of monumental proportions. When the overwhelming majority of them report for work, represent their peeps and do the business of government it's not news. And when the reporters who circle the Hill like vultures smell blood, they make sure the shock is felt around the world. They'll make it as big as they can.

The reporters aren't the only guilty solicitors in such cases either. If a Repub gets caught jaywalking the Dems make sure we see them in horns and tail by sundown. The GOPers are just as guilty. Then they both complain that it's an overreaction. Is there any reason our elected officials are looked upon with great disgust and tremendous mistrust?

The first rule of a successful political race is defining your candidate as a deceiving demon at worst or an incompetent oaf at least. Most of the time they are neither. And the real humor of it all (if there is any) is that we are asked to respect the winner of the nasty, ugly and misleading duel in the end. I know a lot of honorable and good men and women who serve their constituents well. I know a lot of others who would do a fine job in the elected halls, they just don't want to subject themselves or their families to the innuendo, traps and grime of a political campaign. The most qualified don't want it that bad - and don't deserve the mud in their face.

Sometimes I'll be in a group of Republican friends who are talking trash about Democrats. They say ugly things. When they ask my opinion, or prod me to join in, I tell them that I think some Democratic ideas are good. They see the other party as an enemy. I don't. When I'm hanging with a group of Democrat friends they try and bait me into either feeling embarrassed about my conservative beliefs, or demeaning me for simply acknowledging there are good Republican people. Both sides accuse the other of being dumb, blind or arrogant. I say, if you feel that way about the other political party it probably describes you.

Tony Campolo is, in my opinion, a wonderfully brilliant man. I heard him say once, when someone asks him what political party he belongs to, he simply says, "State the issue please." I'm like Tony. If an idea is one of truth and honor, I'm for it. If it is proposed by the Republicans, so be it. If it is advanced by the Democrats, so be it. The ideal is what is important. The party of origin is not.


little ol' me at the grammys!!!!

I'm not a big, big follower of awards shows. I know the Academy Awards (Oscars) are all about movies. The Tony Awards recognize Broadway's best. The Emmy's reward TV and big screen achievement, and the Grammy's are handed to those who contribute to the huge, huge, huge world of music in every conceivable style and approach (as versus the CMA's - country music, the Dove Awards - Christian music, the BGMAs - bluegrass music, etc.).

It's not my habit to spend a lot of time watching or guessing who's gonna get the trophy at the awards shows. I have friends who wait to see who wins before they load their Itunes. I tend to buy what I enjoy most. Sometimes and often that includes the "losers."

Beyond the southern gospel music industry's several presentations I've been a part of, I'd never really had much award show experience. I remember being really impressed several years ago when I sat in on the Gospel Music Association's Dove Awards show in Nashville. They did it like the big guys. The sets were slick and everyone stayed pretty much with the script. I was really fascinated with the quick set changes and all of the other distracting things that go on just out of camera range. So this is what happens at a real awards show...

I recently got back from Los Angeles. I went out for the Grammy Awards. It was an enjoyable trip, and a remarkable experience. I'm certainly not used to the star treatment. Of course, even the biggest sensation in Lexington, Kentucky feels like a c-lister in a town like LA where the has beens are huge stars compared to someone like me. But it was fun being recognized so far away from the environment I'm known in.

As soon as I landed at LAX a car arrived to pick me up. My luggage was carried into the downtown hotel where the hospitality manager met me at the door. "Mr. Bishop, we are honored to have you stay with us while you are in Los Angeles." Wonder how he knew my name? "And, by the way, congratulations on your Grammy nomination." He was good. I was feeling famous.

I was rushed past others who were probably standing in that check-in line when my plane touched down an hour ago. It was then announced that my room had been upgraded to the private top floor where I would be "more secure." Who did they think I was? The room was gorgeous, but much more than I needed. And the huge fruit/cheese/crackers/jellies/biscotti and other stuff I'm not sure of basket kept me busy for what could have been hours. Governor Fletcher of Kentucky sent his congratulations. I was honored he was so thoughtful. Governor Schwarzenegger of California also sent a message. Maybe he sent one to everyone who was up for an award.

My friend Amy and I, along with folks from my record company, did what tourists do in southern California. We window shopped on Sunset Boulevard and Rodeo Drive. We went searching for stars. We visited famous Hollywood landmarks, took lots of pictures and tried to guess how much Botox was walking in and out of these stores. Then there was the Grammys...

I've seen the red carpets on TV. It looks pretty crazy. Microphones everywhere and cameras following the stars. People are yelling. Handlers are shunning some red carpet reporters and rewarding others. The highest bidder usually gets the longest interview. There's politics and money in everything.

When I've seen these things from my couch at home I've often wondered why the celebrities are always surrounded by so many people. It was while we were in our ride on our way to the arena that I realized I was surrounded by my own little entourage. Besides Amy and I, we were joined by a handful of folks from my record company. It really did make for a respectable looking celebrity's entourage. When it was our turn to pull up to the carpet I was told that I needed to wait until everyone else got out of the car. Then I would emerge - from the passenger side please - and smile at the cameras.

Once out of the car and on the carpet, the fine folks at the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences assigned us a handler. This would be our navigator of all things red carpet. The handler does not speak to me. Even though I can hear every word she says, the handlers speaks to the publicists who speak to the artists. Seems like a prime opportunity for something to get mis-communicated, but I suppose some celebrities don't like being talked to by the rank-and-file. My handler seemed very sweet. I wish I could've chatted with her.

The carpet was a lot bigger than I expected. It was all under a very long enclosed tent. It was pretty warn in southern California that day, and a controlled environment is important on live TV. We stopped along the way and talked to red carpet correspondents from several of the big celebrity gossip shows and magazines. We spotted several other nominees and had a hard time not acting like star-spotters. (You know, poking each other then pointing, "Look! It's Justin!")

The still photographer's area was the most surreal experience of the day. I was separated from my group and told, through my publicist of course, to stand on a piece of tape that indicated a toe-mark. "Just stand there and smile," she said. There were dozens and dozens of photographers all shouting my name. They were all trying to get the "face-on" shot. Those are worth more money. After about a minute and a half on that piece of tape I was moved down about ten feet to do it again, then again. The flashes were dizzying. The photographers were loud. Maybe the big time stars get used to it. I nearly felt accosted. But wow, it was cool!

The rest of the day was fun and crazy. We saw a really, really cool show in $500 a ticket seats. We mingled among some of today's most recognizable faces and voices. I had a surreal conversation with Tony Bennett, then a discombobulated one with Patrick Swayze. We watched as hundreds of celebrity assistants rushed into the big arena during the commercial breaks to "accommodate" their bosses, then completely disappear when the cameras came back on. They were like ants on a hill.

Being nominated for a Grammy was a real honor for me. The Dove awards and southern gospel music awards my family and I enjoyed through the years were beautiful reminders that our words and melodies are a blessing to others. That's the ultimate sense of ministerial satisfaction. The very unexpected Grammy nomination that came with this last, my first, solo recording was a very satisfying gesture that has encouraged me to give time to my craft, and not be satisfied with anything less than my best attempts to write and perform the best art I can.

By the way, Randy Travis won my Grammy.


saying something - doing something

How can you not be moved? I'll ask you again later.

You are safe at home in your bed. The rain is falling, but that is on the outside. You are comfortable. You are dry. You are warm. You are safe. As a matter of fact, you feel sorta giddy because you've finally reached that soft spot you've been inching toward for hours. It may not be on your task list, but you know that resting your head at the end of the day is a sweet reward for all you've dealt with since your last visit.

You rest well as the day's events play through your mind. You're satisfied you've accomplished so much, or you try and bury the undone things under happier thoughts at least until morning. The children are well, only steps away, resting just as safely - just as warm.

Suddenly, a very loud and angry crash is at your door. Being startled and a bit dazed, you wonder what causes such a terrible commotion? Now voices - angry, loud incoherent voices are screaming words you can't understand. They near your retreat. Your heart is pounding. Your mind is racing. Who are they? What do they want? Why are they here?

Your children scream.

Protecting yourself is an afterthought now. You have to stand for your children. You are their protector. No one is going to harm, to violate your children. You won't let it happen. Your love is stronger than your fear, but before you can reach them, they are gone, and you will be too very soon. Your peace is shattered. You are broken. You have no voice. The intruders are in control.

Still lots of questions. Still no answers. Moments ago you were warm. The once distant rain now chills the clothes you only intended to rest in. You shiver in the wet cold.

Only moments ago these streets were quiet. Being led through them now, you realize you are no longer safe, and as far as your attackers are concerned, not completely human. Who could treat another human like this? You can't avoid the screams of close and friendly neighbors pleading for their own lives and the lives of their children. You know their fear - their sense of helplessness. You want to grieve for them. But you sense that the worst is yet to be realized. The "cleansing" continues through the night.

How can you not be moved?

If you lived today in Darfur, Sudan this would not be a movie script sort of story. Closer to home, if you were black, and lived right here in the country we are so very proud of as recently as 140 years ago, the same scenario could be played out in your own neighborhood, on your own street. If you were Jewish, in Europe, it was just a generation ago.

"In a sense, we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
-Martin Luther King, Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC August 28, 1963

Read the entire speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. here.
Learn more about the effort to save Darfur here.


goodbye to a good, good year...

I don't ever remember as a youngster saying, "where has the time gone?" It seemed to creep along and move pretty slow to me then, especially those last couple of weeks before Christmas and those last, long few days of summer. Of course, summer break from school seemed to last a lot longer back then. I'm a bit older now, so I have the obligation now of saying it. Where has the time gone?

I think about time a lot. Try if you want, but there's no escape from the oft reminders. As long as there's a need for perpetual calendars, deadlines, watches, time clocks, birthdays and reminders from the TV weatherman to replace the batteries in our smoke alarms twice a year we'll be reminded that time comes, goes and generally leaves a trail. Follow the crumbs back and you'll remember hard earned promotions, happy celebrations and magnificent milestones. Of course, the difficult moments and devastating memories are there too. Life has such a texture.

The year 2006 was landmark for me and my family in several ways. I started a new decade of my own. Casie, my daughter, became an adult of eighteen years, and my son Christian turned into a teenage middle-schooler. We've made some fantastic family memories these past twelve months. I traveled coast-to-coast visiting California and New York and lots of interesting places in between. After seeing much of the country through a bus window, it was fun actually getting to touch things.

My first solo recording in over a decade was released back in May. We'd worked on it for nearly a year, and I was excited, nervous and anxious to see what kind of response we'd get. I couldn't have predicted it. I can't imagine that I would have said to anyone a year ago that I expected this recording to get the attention it has. For years I sang to my fellow choir members. We enjoyed safe, harmonious fellowship; engaged in a little friendly competition; amanned each other's songs; and were grateful for the success. I still am. But I've found a somewhat different audience this time around. Many of them didn't follow my previous career, so I get to start at the beginning when telling them my story - yuck and all.

This new record has brought newer, broader opportunities than I've known before. I've spoken with more mainstream writers and reporters in the past year than I ever did my entire previous music career. Looking into cameras that typically cover major news events and telling whoever is waiting for the weather and scores how grateful I am that grace still works is an awesome thing. Reading in major newspapers and trade publications how I've proven that prodigals remember and return, and then getting a note from a celebrity wanderer is just overwhelming to me.

Then there is the GRAMMY thing. I told a friend of mine that, that was certainly not on my list of things to do. But again, the honor has brought many more opportunities to tell chart minders and career watchers why I sing of mercy and grace.

I've given a lot of thought to these unexpected opportunities. I believe firmly that God has all of His people in strategic places, and if they are not there, they are on the way. If that's true, knowing that I'm quite likely not where I will always be, these next seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years ought to be really exciting. Pray with me that I do something smart and effective with them.