naughty mary!

It’s just crazy how these things happen. From over here, across the street, everything looked just fine. Their yard was always neat, their car always clean. You never heard any yelling or loud music from their house. I don’t know when’s the last time they missed church. They seem like the perfect, got-it-all-together family. You never know what goes on behind closed doors though.

I’m not sure if you’ve heard. Word is, lean in, I’ll whisper. Word is the girl is pregnant. And she’s not married! How sad. And such a sweet family too. Oh Lord! I hope our property value doesn’t slide. Maybe we should move. Maybe they should. I think I’ll keep the kids close to home for a while. Maybe her parents will send her away. I may suggest that. Yeah, Mary needs to go away for a while.

Up until now I don’t think she’s ever given her parents or anyone the first ounce of trouble. She always seemed so sweet and quiet – and responsible. She was our best bible quizzer. I loved her solos with the choir. My kids say she’s smart in school, a teacher’s pet. I wonder what went wrong.

I hear she’s talking out of her head now and seeing things. She claims she talks to angels, and they TALK BACK! And then there’s something about a “holy ghost,” whatever that is. Does she have any idea of the shame she’s bringing on her family?

You know how things like this get blown out of proportion, but there’s all kinds of stuff floating around out there. Not that it’s any of my business, but evidently the girl refuses to accept any kind of responsibility for her recklessness. She won’t say who the kid belongs to, except that it’s “God’s plan for her.” Pardon the finger-quotes here, but unmarried teenagers having babies is NEVER God’s plan!! She needs to just own up to it, tell us who the daddy is and make him take some responsibility. If he was a real man he would. Then again, a real man wouldn’t… Ah, I’ll bet it’s that Joe guy she’s been seeing. They had wedding plans didn’t they? I’ll bet he’s embarrassed. He should be.

Evidently there’s some weird story going on with the rest of her family too. Someone told me her Aunt Liz is expecting in a few weeks and her Uncle Zach, the preacher, is mute all of the sudden. They’re both hearing voices, and Liz’s baby is doing summersaults in her belly. Personally, I think the whole family is going nuts. Thank God I’m not related.

That’s the part that bothers me most. They keep invoking God. They’re blaming Him for all of this silliness. One thing I know, God wouldn’t want to be associated with the likes of people like that who do things like that. Maybe the church should consider some sort of intervention, maybe even just ask them to leave. The deacons ought to at least say something. We can’t have sinners and crazies hanging around the church. What will people think??

*I enjoy sharing a few of my thoughts as a contributing writer to several web sites and print publications. This writing was seen far and wide recently at sgmradio.com.



Some people have sad, even tragic stories. You probably know someone who's worked hard and believed that one day things will be good, or at least better. Their todays look remarkably like their yesterdays, but they make the effort and really believe that they'll rise above their current place sometime, hopefully soon.

I don't think Ronnie's story is tragic, not even sad. It's actually very inspiring and contagious. He's a hard working achiever who's done just that - achieved. Through dreaming and learning, he realized the world was much, much bigger than the one he'd always known, and his options and opportunities for success were really real.

It's not all he talks about, but I've heard my friend tell of his life as a kid in southeastern Kentucky. He's the first in his family to attend, much less graduate college. According to him, no one around his house ever saw the need. He did though, and he's doing quite well because of it.

That makes it even more of an honor for me to say, "Happy birthday Dr. Ronnie!"


the boy, er, reporter who cried...

There once was a shepherd boy reporter who was angry bored as he sat in on the newsroom hillside watching the American people. village sheep. To arouse amuse himself he took a camera and a mic great breath and reported, sang out, "Beware! Beware! No one is shopping!" "Wolf! Wolf! The Wolf is chasing the sheep!"

The American people villagers came running to the stores to buy all they could. up the hill to help the boy drive the wolf away. But when they arrived, the stores were full, they found no lack. at the top of the hill, they found no wolf. The reporter boy laughed at the sight of their gullible angry faces.

"Don't cry 'emergency', 'wolf', reporter man," shepherd boy," said the American people, villagers, "when there's no emergency!" wolf!" They went grumbling back to their houses. down the hill.

The next Christmas, Later, the reporter boy sang out again, "Beware! Beware! No one is shopping!" "Wolf! Wolf! The wolf is chasing the sheep!" To his naughty delight, he watched the American people villagers run to the stores to buy all they could. up the hill to help him drive the wolf away.

When the American people villagers saw no lack wolf they sternly said, "Save your frightened song for when there is really something wrong! Don't cry 'emergency' 'wolf' when there is NO emergency!" wolf!"

But the reporter boy just grinned and watched them go grumbling back to their houses down the hill once more.

The next Christmas, Later, there was he saw a REAL lack of holiday shoppers in the stores. wolf prowling about his flock. Alarmed, he leaped to his feet and reported sang out as loudly as he could, "Beware! Beware! No one is shopping!" "Wolf! Wolf!"

But the American people villagers thought he was trying to fool them again, and so they didn't come.

After Christmas At sunset, everyone wondered why the reporter shepherd boy hadn't returned to been on the TV. village with their sheep. They went to the mall up the hill to find the reporter. boy. They found him working the counter at the video game store. weeping.

"There really were no shoppers! was a wolf here! The economy is broken! flock has scattered! I cried out, "Beware!" "Wolf!" Why didn't you come?"

An old man tried to comfort the reporter boy as they strolled through the mall. they walked back to the village.

"We'll take you seriously when you report honestly," help you look for the lost sheep in the morning," he said, putting his arm around the reporter, youth, "Nobody believes a liar...even when he is telling the truth!"


love the sin, hate the sinner

Don't read this if you're easily provoked to anger or don't want to cry, or scream even.

Reading this morning's headline was not a good way to start the day, and I wasn't the victim or her family. I can only imagine how broken and angry they must be. The bold print was bad enough, but the details that followed made it even more difficult to comprehend. Last week, a child, a beautiful and completely innocent two year old baby girl had been raped and beaten. Yesterday she died from her injuries. The young man who has been charged with the crime, if he did it, is obviously deranged and terribly disturbed. The story says he was a friend of the baby's daddy.

If I spend much time thinking about it I become very sad. But then again, I don't have to pick out a last little dress or decide among the kid-sized caskets or look prematurely for a place to bury it. I don't have to wake up tomorrow with the numbness of a dazed parent who'd just thanked God for their baby blessing only a week ago. I don't have to figure out what to do with a newly emptied baby bed, a chest full of childless toys or a closet full of memoried toddler outfits. By week's end the press will have moved on and this story will be replaced. Most of us will no longer see little Katelynn Sinnett's baby picture smile. But all the hearts and hands that held her close will still be struggling to adjust to days and life without her.

It is a billion percent beyond me how a human being with any sense of daylight and dark can come to the place of doing such a terrible, terrible thing. At what point does the brain rationalize something so evil? The better questions is, when, in the process of such outrageous abuse does the heart, the conscience disengage? They tell me that even in a prison full of hardened offenders there is not a safe place for the child abuser, let alone a child murderer. Even to the common convicted criminal there is a line.

The story is sad, mostly because a child is gone, but partly because there are others who aren't even mentioned who grieve as well. There are parents, maybe siblings and friends of the accused who are trying today to sort out a million emotions. How does a mom or a dad show devotion to a son who has just violated and killed a baby? Knowing that most everyone who is aware of his deed wants him tortured and killed, what do you say to him? How do you love someone that everyone else hates? How much of the blame do you put on yourself? Do you even acknowledge your place in his life, or his place in yours? The newspaper never mentions them, but there are other broken humans to consider.

So far the responses from the community, with the exception of a very few, have, in my opinion, not represented God very well. After years of sermons telling us to hate the sin but love the sinner, there seems to be an exception here. The online edition of the newspaper that ran this morning's story is allowing readers to comment. I've been mostly disappointed in what I've read from my self-identified brothers and sisters in the faith.

"I'm a fairly calm, cool, and collected person. I'm a Christian... I think a splintered log rammed into his rear might be a good start. Then drop his torn and tattered butt off of the roof of the prison that he's in only to be met by several inmates that proceed to beat him to a pulp and whatever else they may choose to do to him. Then... lastly, make him crawl to the execution chamber so that the state can rid this world of such evil and filth... My prayers go out to Katelynn's family... I'm so so sorry for your loss!"

"I have never considered myself a violent person, but allow me to preside over the punishment of this pervert. In the end, he would beg for death to ease his punishment... The only comfort in this story is that the little girl died, and the Bible tells us that she is now in heaven, sitting on the right hand of Jesus..."

"Can I pull the trigger...please?"

"There is no other punishment that would fit this crime - send him straight to the execution chamber. And before all you self-righteous people go saying "no death penalty" and "eye for an eye does not make this right" answer this question - if this was your daughter, or granddaughter, or niece that this happened to, would you honestly feel that the death penalty was not the right punishment in this case? If you can honestly say you could forgive this man, I envy you. I could not."

The last poster has a good point. I've often said myself that there are only a small handful of people in this world that I'd be willing to go to jail for, and they all share my last name. I don't want to have to think about how I'd react if I were in the place of Katelynn's parents. I don't know if I'd feel satisfied in knowing that the person who hurt and terrified my baby, the last person to see her alive, was screaming from the pain of torture. I've contemplated and personally wrestled with this conflict from time to time - from a distance of course. This is what I do know; I feel great sadness for a family knowing terrible, tremendous loss. I feel great anger toward the man who did the despicable, pathetic deed. I get no joy knowing that a child did and the perpetrator will likely experience great pain.


world aids day

It's easy to see why some events, the life changing ones, stick around in our bank of memories. I remember where I was, what the weather was like, and the sick feeling I got when I watched 9/11 happen. What's weird is how we sometimes remember one of those long-ago not-so-spectacular life moments.

I was probably a young teenager when I first heard about AIDS. Reports on television, in the newspapers and magazines were talking about it. And of course the famous TV pastors/evangelists were weighing in too.

Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart and James Dobson weren't the first to call AIDS the gay man's disease. As a matter of fact, it was the secular press that first referred to it as GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency). The repeated reference though gave these preachers, and others, lots of ammunition and "scientific" support for their theory that God was killing gay people - and to hear them tell it, He's having a blast.

The memory that is so vivid to me is the night our family was driving down the highway in Richmond, KY. I was probably 14 or 15 years old. We were right in front of the new McDonalds on the bypass, when Dad said something about AIDS being God's judgement on homosexuals. Understand this, my dad is the most loving, tender and patient person I know. The things he was saying were not original to him, and he said it with grief in his voice and sadness in his eyes. It was the people he had confidence in and was learning from who were telling all of their followers that God created this new disease to punish people, specifically gay people. My dad was repeating the untested words of his favorite bible teachers.

I'm not sure why that moment, those words and those surroundings still stand out to me. Our family talked about a lot of things when we were together in the car. But even as a young and very naive fella it didn't seem right to me that God would be so villainous to one group of people while being so passive to all the exploits of others.

I recently had an opportunity to be part of a conference at a church just outside of Little Rock. While I was there I met Randall Balmer. I'd heard of him, seen him on TV and flipped through a couple of his books. At the conference I got to know him and to hear him speak. He mentioned how the Christian church, specifically certain leaders on the very conservative side, have used HIV/AIDS as a rallying point - not to show compassion, but to preach painful exclusion. What could be and should be an opportunity to exhibit God's mercy and healing is instead used as a tool for godless ridicule and shame on humans who are much more in need of help than scorn.

According to what we know, what is now referred to as AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is caused by HIV (the Human Immunodeficiency Virus). The virus was first detected and reported in the US in 1981 in Los Angeles among five homosexual men. A recent study states though that HIV probably moved from Africa to Haiti and then entered the United States sometime around 1969. This would mean that God was dealing deadly judgement on the people of Africa and other countries long before Americans were being punished.

In 2007 there were 33.2 million people around the world living with AIDS. That same year a little over 2 million of them died. That includes almost 330,000 children, and over 75 percent of those were in sub-Saharan Africa. Why would God have such disdain for the African children?

There are certainly consequences for reckless behavior. When anyone opens the door for disease or illness they are taking a risk. But to say that God is especially angry with a particular set of people, and chooses to inflict upon them a long, painful disease at best, or death at worst, is either ignorantly misleading or dangerously contemptible. What are the arguments for plane crashes, cancer, diabetes and rape victims? What did these people do to earn their pain and their punishment? Is God punishing black people with Sickle-Cell Anaemia? At least explain to me why those who are sick through no fault of their own have been sentenced with the disease.

Thanks in large part to the teachings of high-profile preachers, the stigma that comes with HIV/AIDS is still very real today. I know of parents who have disowned their infected child because their church said they should. This puts a sick kid on the streets in the name of God. I've read stories of people who contracted the disease and were told that God hated them, so they killed themselves. Was that really God's solution? There are so many good people who face life with HIV/AIDS, and God has chosen to embrace them while too many His people, His vessels of compassion, either out of anger, guilt, shame or ignorance, turn them away. Because of a handful of angry religious leaders who needed a villain to stir up the troops and bring in the dollars, there are millions who not only live with a terrible disease, but they do it without the very hands and hearts that were supposed to minister to them.

There is good news though. The Church of the Nazarene, the Presbyterian Church USA, the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, and several other Christian denominations are hearing God's heart and reaching into the lives of those who live with HIV/AIDS. There are other regional ministries such as AIDS Ministries/AIDS Assist in northern Indiana and Alexian Brothers Bonaventure House in Chicago among others that do it on a local level. Beyond the Christian church there is the Council of Religious AIDS Networks that provides information and real help to those who wish to start or join an AIDS help team. There are also many citywide and area non-religious organizations that help HIV/AIDS victims deal with practical life and matters. Where I live in Lexington, KY it is AVOL. On a national and global scale there are awareness organizations like ONE and the US government's web site http://www.aids.gov/.

There are lots of opportunities to get involved and be the compassionate, concerned Christian or casual citizen we all want our neighbors to be. There's no better time to get started than on this 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day. Maybe you'll remember exactly where you were when you started making the difference.


the sun/son

Did you see the show this morning? I hope so. It was spectacular. There it was, big, bright and right on time. We knew it was coming. Several things gave it away. First of all, there was the prelude. Just as the show was about to begin the birds, who'd been quiet and still for the last several hours, started their introduction. They must have received a cue from the conductor. Then gradually, one by one the stars began their disappearing act, giving way to the real star of the show. Then it started. At first just a ray, then a peek. And before you knew it there it was, bright enough and warm enough to dry the dew and melt the fog. The sun came up this morning and what a show it put on. Not that we weren’t expecting it. We figured there’d be another day.

When you last did the laundry you must have been thinking you'd be wearing that shirt again. Otherwise you would've just thrown the dirty stuff away. Same goes for the dishes. And believe me, I'd never bother mowing the lawn if I thought there was a real chance the grass wouldn't eventually turn to weeds.

At my house it can get really hectic in the morning. I’ve learned to do as much night before preparation as I can. I set the timer on the coffee maker, lay out my clothes and even do pre-prep on tomorrow’s lunch if necessary. At the Bishop house, I expect the sun to come up at its usual time or else I wouldn't bother to set that annoying alarm. So I’m really not surprised when it actually happens. (It would be nice though if it didn't happen so early.)

So we wash and mow and clock in and shave and shower and study and answer email because we're pretty sure the sun's coming up in the morning. If we didn't think so we'd probably all stink, let the yard grow into a jungle, live ignorant and max out the inbox. As Christians we read our Bibles, have our devotions and pray because we still expect the sun to come up in the morning. If we didn't, we’d live shallow and miss a lot of great promises, all with a stinky spirit.

So the believer asks, "Kenny, how can you be so sure about this? What if Jesus comes back tonight?”

As far as I'm concerned that doesn't change a thing. Whether it's the sun or the Son, there will be a dawning. Count on it. And since I’m so sure of it I plan to carry on with the business of faith and family and friends. Then once the Son has popped over the horizon all of the chores we’ve gotten good at doing out of habit will suddenly be done. Then the things we once just believed in will be just as real as the fact that the sun or the Son just showed up.

Did you catch the show this morning… the sunrise? If not there's another performance scheduled in just a few hours. If you've seen it before you know it's worth seeing again because every show is just a little bit different. Then there's the one with no repeat performances. It's a one-time only event. Believe me, you really won't want to miss the Son rise.

*I enjoy sharing a few of my thoughts as a contributing writer to several web sites and print publications. This writing was seen far and wide several years ago in the Singing News Magazine and more recently at sgmradio.com.


thanks for...

...God and all the trimmings. Wrap your head around that. When God gets access to you and your stuff you usually get much more in return than you really expected. And what's really cool is most of it is invisible. So, sometimes I just say, "Thanks, God for you and all the trimmings."

More later.


please don't, people

Christian and I had a cold blast last night. We'd been talking all season about going to a University of Kentucky football game, and this was our last regular season chance. The final home game was against Vanderbilt and was it evermore a cold one. As cold as it was down next to the field where we were I couldn't imagine how frigid it must've been up where the wind was really blowing. Even with all the layers we wrapped ourselves up in (think the kid in the movie A Christmas Story), we still did some shaking. But it was worth every bone chilling moment to hang with my best pal and cheer on some blue.

I'd say there were probably 50,000 or better in attendance last night. I always think it's fun to watch the different personalities and listen in on conversations that are too loud to be ignored. Right behind us were to older guys who I'da swore had to be those two old men who sat in the balcony on the Muppet Show. They were grouchy, sarcastic and hilarious. I don't know if they were talking so loud because they couldn't hear, or if they just didn't care to let section 126 in on their conversation. It was good play-by-play commentary though.

Besides the fact that UK lost, there was one thing that really disappointed me about the game. I know we all get emotional when our team is losing. I know we sometimes feel brave when everyone around us is wearing the same color, and every now and then the mob mentality takes over. It made me nearly sick though when I heard this kid sitting on the other side of me using pathetic, degrading names for the other team's players and even their cheerleaders. When an Asian guy in a Commodore uniform came close to where we were this kid screamed something derogatory about his eyes and told him to go back to where he came from. That would be Nashville, kid. You can guess what he had to say about the black players.

This kid didn't represent our team or our university, and he certainly didn't speak for me. But I was ashamed that someone with white skin like mine, wearing all blue like me, sitting in a seat next to me and cheering for my team would say such racist, repulsive things. He and I resembled way too much for me to be comfortable with it. Where did he pick up this sort of thinking? Who ever led him to believe that that's the way you support your own team, that it was funny, or even acceptable?

I've got a good idea that with all of the other games going on last night there were probably other kids, or even adults, at another stadium somewhere throwing out that same kind of language. When the Wildcats get to Vandy next time they may hear it themselves from a 'Dores fan. If I can't handle it being hurled at the other guys I'm sure I don't want my team to have to face it.



Knowing that the variety of my careers has taken me through the thick of political work and some high-level campaigning, a lot of my friends who are not necessarily involved in, but are fascinated with it like to talk politics when we're together. I usually enjoy the conversations, and I've picked up on the value of listening closely and talking without necessarily saying anything. I've also learned not to commit to a position when I'm conversing with a very opinionated political junkie.

One of the most startling observations I've made during my time in politics is the stark difference in the way things are sometimes portrayed, either by an opponent or maybe even the press, and the way things really are. Being on the inside of a real, honest-to-goodness, high-profile political campaign gives you a perspective that most others on the outside don't usually get.

When music was my main source of income I had the fun luxury of doing some small-time political campaign work on the side. I mostly worked for Republicans, but had some Democrat clients too. I've never been hung up on a candidate's political affiliation. Rather, we'd talk issues before I decided whether or not to get involved. I feel the same way today.

It was while I was at a political fund raiser several years ago that I ran into my US Congressman, Ernie Fletcher. We'd met before at other events, mostly charitable and non-political. At this event though he mentioned to me that he had formed an exploratory committee to look at a possible run for governor. He gauged my interest in joining the campaign and told me he'd have one of his folks give me a call. Within a month I was working for him.

Honestly, I was scared to death. My first job was to basically be his handler. I had to stay close enough that he knew where I was at all times. Actually, it was completely reversed. He moved like lightning and I had to know where he was all the time. Even if he lost sight of me, he was never to be out of my view. It was while we were in the car on the way to that first event that I asked him how he'd like for me to address him. I was thinking Congressman Fletcher or Mr. Congressman or at least Mr. Fletcher. He said Ernie was just fine.

That's how we got started. In the years since then he was elected and served four years as Kentucky's governor. I thought the year and a half leading up to election day was tough. The handful of days planning and pulling off the inauguration was grueling too. But then came governing.

No one is elected unanimously. Every person who serves in public office has supporters and detractors. From the moment a politician takes office there are professional and amateur critics who have already started the kick-the-bum-out campaign. Believe it or not, there are people who wouldn't mind us all living through a bit of grief if they thought their political nemesis would get the blame and the boot. This kind of treatment wasn't new or unique to the new governor, but this was the closest I'd been to the action.

In the new administration my job was to make him as comfortable as possible. Sounds crazy I know, but after being fed hours and hours of non-stop information about everything from Medicaid to trout farming, a man has to decompress at some point. He has to have a place to retreat to and scream if he wants to. I gave him that place, at least as best I could. I ran the house that the governor lived in. And I was very, very proud to do it.

When he'd come home and we'd just chat I always tried to avoid the stuff he'd been talking about all day. He'd had enough of that. He always asked about Casie and Christian, and I was always happy to fill him in. Sometimes he just wanted to release, so I just listened. I'll never forget the late night when he we were up in the residence and he just said it. "Kenny, I really do want to do what's right for Kentucky. I want to help the kids and their parents and their grandparents. I want teachers to make more money and I want people to be happier and healthier." No reporters, cameras or microphones. No crowds of supporters. No protesters. Just me and him. And there was frustration in his voice.

I learned a whole lot from the man Ernie Fletcher. I couldn't keep up with his intellect. Sometimes he'd look at me and say something really brilliant and I'd nod like I was right there with him. But a saxophone playing engineer/fighter pilot/doctor/minister/congressman/governor knows a lot of stuff about a lot of things. More than knowledge though, he taught me about sacrifice and service and faith and patience, all to the nth degree. I also learned control. When everyone around him was telling him to take off the gloves, he'd say he was a doctor elected to heal not injure.

After he became governor I didn't ask him how he wanted to be addressed. He would've said that Ernie was just fine. I didn't think so though, and to this day, nearly a year after he got his life back, I still say happy b'day Gov!!


papaw's service

Several years ago me and my brothers had to say goodbye to our last living grandparent. We called him Papaw Henry. He was Mom's dad. I don't remember Papaw as being a man with a lot of words. He always looked like he was thinking, and he never, ever seemed to sit down. As a matter of fact, he roamed a lot, mostly through the woods. He would sometimes head out the door before the sun came up, disappear into the trees and be invisible 'til sundown, sometimes sunup tomorrow. He knew how to live ruggedly and naturally. Papaw was a survivor - in more ways than I probably really knew.

When Papaw got too old to trek through the woods he pretty much figured he was too old to live. Sitting in an air conditioned room or at a nursing home wasn't his idea of living. Life was in the trees, under the stars, beyond the ridge, over the creek. There was too much Indian in him not to enjoy the dirt and the rain and their children. So when he couldn't make it among the elements he wasn't really interested in making it at all. Sadly, that's bound to happen after so many years.

I do remember Papaw driving a variety of cars over the years. He was somewhat of a horse-trader, so trading up to him meant getting a car with a full tank of gas. Honestly, I don't think he ever carried a driver's license. I could be wrong, but it seems like someone told me once that he never bothered to get one. Evidently he didn't see the need.

Knowing what I do about him, I'll bet Papaw learned most of his lessons the hard way. When any of his young grandkids asked him what he was chewing, and even with only a couple of teeth in his head he was always chewing - and spitting, he'd cut 'em off a piece of the tobacco twist he carried around and give it to them. They'd put it in their mouth, it would burn like the dickens, they'd spit it out and never take up chewing tobacco again. It was his way of telling us to do as he says, not as he does.

Papaw lived a very, very hard working and practical life. His pets lived in the trees and under the brush. They were also his sustenance. Squirrels, rabbits, turkeys and deer were part of the provision. His own cattle, pigs and chickens were too. The eggs and bacon came from the barn. He cooked his own sorghum and grew his own vegetables. Tomorrow's milk and butter was grazing just across the little wire fence. Papaw's yelp brought the cows back across the knob every night. We knew they heard him when we heard their bells.

I try when I can to pause and remember. I sometimes think if I could go back to those days and nights at Mamaw and Papaw's house, the one tucked up in the hollow (pronounced holler), just across the creek from the narrow, dirt road, I'd be where I belong. I know for sure there was no air conditioning in that little farm house. On cold days, heat came from the coal burning stove in the front room. I'm sure it got both hot and cold in that small, square box, but I don't remember it as a miserable experience.

Papaw Henry was a veteran. He served his country as a proud, young American. That was long before I knew him. That was long before my mom knew him. I've seen pictures of him in his uniform, but I don't ever recall him making a big deal out of it. We did though. When we were planning his funeral, we made sure that he was honored with a flag and a stone to remind all of us that it is the simple, common, everyday man and woman who keeps us free.


casie, princess, angel, daddy's girl

Looking back twenty years, interestingly enough, a Bush was getting ready to take up housekeeping in the White House. Since he'd been veepin' the last eight years it was just a short move - distance wise and positionally. But any time we elect a new president it's major stuff.

Two days after the vote, it was still break room chatter. And when I darted past the waiting room I noticed it was also still the headline. But if word got out about what was happening down the maternity ward hallway at Pattie A. Clay Hospital there'd be helicopters, news trucks, cameras, microphones and eager reporters all over the place. Presidential elections are big doings, but the birth of a princess is even bigger.

I woke up feeling very melancholy today. I've been reliving November 10, 1988 like it was both yesterday and a million years ago. It was one of the most memorable and remarkable days of my life. A moment of honest awakening that I'd heard about from other people with parental experience became real to me that day. As miraculous as the earthly entrance of my baby girl was, so was the love and immediate sense of baby-Bishop-protector that instantly took hold of my heart.

She didn't have to say a thing. It was automatic love at first sight. It would've been as easy for me to tell her how I felt as it would've been for her to explain the sensation of being born. Words would've cheapened it anyway. No attempt at affection on her part was required. I didn't have to know what her talents were. I had no clue of the beautiful young lady she'd become or of her winning personality. I didn't have to. Absolutely nothing was required of Casie Bishop to win my devotion to her. I was in love with her before I'd ever seen her. But I was madly, adamantly, crazy in love when her wrinkled little face made its very first worldly appearance. I was stunned and startled to be wrapped so tightly around those seconds old tiny fingers.

We try to celebrate the occasion about this same time every year. That's not unusual. Most people remember special days like this. We throw parties and give gifts. We buy cards and make phone calls. This is daddy's girl though. I can't even begin to gift her with anything that can mean as much to her as she means to me. If someone somewhere sold it, I'd trade all my stuff to see that she got it. It sorta frustrates me because I want her to know, somehow, what a precious, precious thing she is to me.

Just last week my baby girl cast her first ever presidential vote. I couldn't imagine that twenty years ago. It never entered my mind then that people today would be talking about a new leader. Not much has changed that way. But in so many other ways that matter I'm richer, happier and more satisfied than I ever could imagine. I owe so much of that to my princess. The world should be grateful. It's a much better place because she's in it.

Happy birthday Baby Doll!!


the rest of the story...

It’s hard to have out loud qualms with anything in the Bible. You can think it all you want I guess, but if you actually say something like, “What was God thinking when he outlawed shopping on Sunday and pork rinds?” someone very religious is likely to hear from Heaven and accept God’s call to get you saved again. So I hesitate to verbalize my little bit of disappointment in a great piece of holy text.

Being sort of a rebel myself, I’ve learned that there is a whole lot more to the prodigal story than just a good son, a bad son, a good dad, a bad son turned good son and a good son turned bad son who ended up disappointing his dad with his selfishness. The basic message of patient grace is wonderful indeed, but what about the unsaid parts?

I wonder what the younger son’s name was. I kind of wish we knew something other than just Prodigal. It would be nice to tell the story and call him Chad or Jeremy or even Kenny. Then again, attaching a name to something as deeply personal as scandal and rebellion and failure might be a bit embarrassing, especially since the story is an international best seller. Still, a proper name might help put a face on the drama. So, I’ll just call him Prod.

I wonder if Prod ever shook the memories of his old pig-pen pals. The smells, the sights, the sounds, the moments, the people… How could those faces not be embedded deep into his recollection of the whole terrible experience? When he closed his eyes, or found a few moments of quiet, it must’ve been very easy for the one time rebel to live the emotion all over again. You don’t share your last corn husk or the loneliest days of your life with someone and not remember. He had to wonder where they were now. Did they ever escape the slop? And if they did, was there even a place for them to go? Having despair and hunger and shame in common would certainly create a bond, and it’s usually not understood by the well fed or the well respected.

Prod’s daddy owns the farm. That’s why the guys in the front office can’t figure him out. Instead of lunch at the corporate table, Prod finds a place in the back field, under a tree with the farm hands. Their calluses, their brows, their eyes all remind him of the ones he worked beside and even partied with when he was running. He feels he owes them something, even if it’s just attention – or compassion. As much as his upbringing had taught him about his rightful place in the family, it was the conversations, the empty expressions and the broken spirits he encountered in his rebellion that led him to discover his place in the world. To forget who they were and where they were and why they were there – to ignore their need and their plight would be as sinful as the rebellion itself.

It’s not just the guys in the suits who don’t understand. No one can unless they’ve risked and lost everything; slept on a cold sidewalk; stared down the barrel of a mugger’s gun; woke up in a stranger’s bed; fought the temptation to drink and shoot up; begged for a morsel and robbed for a dime; hated their very existence; wondered if anyone back home ever even thought of them… Unless they knew what he knew, Prod knew they’d never understand.

It’s crazy what being a prodigal does to you. Prod knows. The throw aways become treasures. The misunderstood are respected. The despised are embraced. Obligation becomes passion. That is the unsaid part of the story.

*I enjoy sharing a few of my thoughts as a contributing writer at sgmradio.com. As older posts are removed from that site I'll be posting them here. This writing was seen far and wide over there during the month of October.



One of the real treats I get to enjoy as I travel is meeting wonderful people and making friends. Several weeks ago I had a chance to worship with, visit with and eat with a wonderful couple in Petersburg, Indiana. Steve & Donna Mikels are two of the most genuine and kind people you'll ever find. A glance at their eyes proves it. You can see their hearts in there.

Steve and Donna own and operate the Log Ends Bed and Breakfast in Petersburg. I had a chance to stay there this past weekend. Besides the gorgeous log house that sits so stately on the hill in the middle of their big farm, they keep a quaint but roomy little log cabin that sits just behind the main house all tidied up and ready for a traveler seeking quiet and comfort.

I've had their food. It's country fantastic. I've enjoyed their company. It's neighborly friendly. I've slept in their guest cabin. It's heaven under the downs. I'm anxious to get back to re-live the farm life as soon as I can.

Hop over to www.log-ends.com when you can and plan to visit Log Ends soon after. Tell Steve and Donna I said hello.



If you're out and about much, or if you have a life outside your TV room you've probably met people who either leave an impression or walk away as unfamiliar as they approached. Of the thousands, maybe more, people I've had the joy to meet, only a comparative few really stick out.

There are those who have been very kind to me. They've shown me love and patience and support and concern. They've prayed, given gifts, baked goodies, offered financial help, bought tickets and music, provided transportation and a variety of other gracious things. They have a place of significance in my heart and mind.

There are others who've been at least somewhat of a disappointment. I expected something more and received something less. Even when I don't want to, I tend to remember them for that reason.

In really rare moments you find, get to know, and come to love someone who becomes an extra special friend. They're special because they offered a shoulder or counsel or just patience. They're infinitely special because you know you can trust their loyalty, their advice and their confidence.

That describes Cherri. She and I met when we were both thrown into a room and tasked with making a major multi-million dollar, four year event complete with a parade, fireworks, flyovers, VIPs and dignitaries, bands, choirs and TV reporters all happen in thirty days. The team was bigger than the two of us, but Cherri and I were toward the top of the responsibility ladder. We bonded quickly and learned that we could trust each other. We watched each other's backs and didn't mind when one of us stepped in to make a quiet adjustment to the other's work.

Cherri is a dedicated, hard worker and a tireless organizer. She's comfortable with big tasks, but knows too when it's time to step back and focus on her family and her friends. Her kids think she's the best. I can see why.

My trusted and very special friend Cherri is celebrating her ** b'day today. (We have an understanding.) Although I'm not able to join her at the piano lounge like we did a couple of years ago, I'd say she's enjoying the day just the same. She knows the value of those 24 hours.

Happy birthday my sweet friend!!


ladies and gentlemen...

What a night! It was a once in a lifetime moment. The crowd was wild! All they knew to do was scream, throw flowers and beg for his autograph. People will be talking about it for years to come. Tomorrow's mothers and grandmothers who are today's little girls will talk about the night they actually witnessed it.

It was a magical moment that will go down in history as one of Prestonsburg, Kentucky's proudest. The regular kid from the mountains of eastern Kentucky who made it to the big stage did it here first. My daddy's grandson, the boy who is mine, my own flesh and blood made his professional stage debut last night. How cool!

Christian is a good singer. He can hit a note, hold a note and let go of a note. He can curl, flip it and slide into it whenever it's necessary. He stands there and sings it flat-footed. And last night he did it like a pro. I can retire now.

Way to go Pal!!!!! Woo hoo!!!



Someone said there was a presidential debate last night. I saw a conversation about the next president going on, but I didn't notice a debate.

This was supposed to be Senator McCain's night. The format was his idea. Although he didn't trip and fall or anything while he wondered all over the platform, he didn't seem to excel either. The good news for him is neither did Senator Obama.

One thing I did notice about the people in the room was the lack of hair. Many of the men in most of the TV shots were shiny on top. Something else that seemed noticeably absent was people of color. There were a few, maybe even only two or three, but their representation seemed nearly non-existent I thought.

There was talk of war and oil and stocks and bonds and bail outs and other stuff, but I got sleepy and turned it off. That's really pretty bad when it's something as important as the next leader of our country. But I've worked in politics and I know the strategy. If you're winning, play it safe. Obama did that well. If you're not winning throw a curve-ball and put the other guy on the defensive. It was obvious that McCain wasn't gonna, so I went to bed.



Certain people you just know in a quiet sort of way. It's probably because that particular person is a quiet sort of person. Let me introduce you to Baron. At the moment I met him he struck me as, well, quiet.

Now that I know him better though, quiet and diminutive little Baron has proven himself to have an opinion and the wherewithal to defend it. I can see where people who don't know him well would get the impression that he could be an easy push-over. I'll give it only one good shove though for them to learn otherwise. In the right situation his small frame has a way of growing taller and broader. I think it's kinda neat to watch. Not like the Incredible Hulk or anything. More like a cat arching its back.

Baron is smart. I like chatting with him and learning from him. He's up on culture and his views are always reasoned and educated. He's also a good cook, fun to hang around, and every time I've seen him he has a pleasant smile.

He's a birthday boy today. I'm not sure how old he is, but if he's 25 he looks young for his age. Happy b'day my friend!!


talking veeps

Well that was a nice piece of political tv I thought. The senator from Delaware and the governor from Alaska looking pressed and neat and prepared to say whatever was necessary to keep the faithful faithful and hopefully lure in a straggler or two - as long as the script allowed it. Here's my take.

Their Style: Both candidates played it as safe as possible with their appearance, except for Joe's suit. That was a mistake. The shiny little stripes made him look sorta like a used car salesman. Even though that's his style, a dark-blue solid would've been great. The tie was perfect though. It worked well with his hair. Sarah was looking nice in her dark suit. Not sure about the red heels though. I understand the importance of height and stature in situations like this. But the back-shots didn't work in her favor. She still came across as much smaller than the senator. All-in-all, I think they both looked very nice and presented themselves really well.

Their rhetoric: My favorite line of the night was the first thing we heard from either of the candidates, although I don't think we were supposed to hear it. Governor Palin's mic was on as they walked onto the stage. "Hey, can I call you Joe?" How cool! Lots of words from both candidates. Lots of accusations. Lots of down talk. Lots of bragging. Lots and lots of words. He said, he said, she said, he said. But what he meant was... Neither candidate really messed up, even though Sarah did mix up a couple of names and facts. Joe got tongue-tied a time or two and looked a little trepiditious about swinging at a woman. It's never nice to hit a woman, even when she dares you to.

The issues: No surprises. Governor Palin is a Republican and a conservative. She said what conservative Republicans should say when they're running for office. Low corporate taxes, strong national defense, personal responsibility and drill baby drill (for American oil). Where she went off the GOP reservation; leave the gays alone and reign in the Wall Street big boys. Senator Biden did a great job being a Democrat. Helping the little guy, public health care, talking before shooting and taking on big business. Where he kicked the donkey; giving the oil companies permission to drill on their own property and supporting clean coal technology. I'm not sure if he ran that by his boss' peeps.

The candidates: Biden came armed with facts and experience and know-how. Palin was prepared to be charming and firm and knowledgeable about McCain's history as a maverick within his own political party. Leading up to the event, the fears of some and the hopes of others were that she would talk a lot and say nothing and that he would get angry and wonder off on a tangent. Although he did squint and sneer a bit, the senator held his own well. He knew his stuff, and John McCain's. He didn't strike me though as someone who is as deeply in love with Barack Obama as the rest of his party is. The governor performed very well. She talked soccer and winked and came prepared to play against the other team and the referee - darn it. She was winning the personal connection contest until he referred to the pain of losing his wife and his daughter and almost losing his sons in a tragic traffic accident in 1972. His emotion seemed very honest.

Gwen Ifill: There was lots of speculation about her ability fairly moderate the debate. She's writing a book about Senator Obama that is supposed to be very pro Barack. The talkers on the radio and television were going on and on about it. The loud conservative ones were convinced she'd be one sided and unfair to the governor. I think she proved them wrong.

Who won? If you were a Palinite before the show you're probably even more of one now. I Biden was your man when you turned on the TV I doubt if he isn't now. FOX said Sarah cleaned Joe's clock. CNN didn't think so. Personally, as entertaining as it was, I don't know much more now than I did at 9:00 last night. I think both of them are prepared to be number two.


the iphone speaks

This is something new for me. Technology is not about to pass me by. It's my first post from my phone. Wish me luck.

-- Post From My iPhone

*curious sin

I always loved it when the kids in the Gang would peek through the knot hole in the old plank fence. They just had to know what was on the other side. Actually, I’m not sure it was the hole that got their attention as much as it was the overly loud sign. “DON’T LOOK HERE!!!” it said. Those Little Rascals, they were always good for a few chuckles and a subtle life lesson.

I’da done the same thing. If the sign says not to look that’s as good as an invitation to me. I may wait a bit for the crowd to pass, but I’ll linger, loiter, check text messages or make busy somehow until the coast is clear. Then I’ll wince at the big red “DO NOT…” warning and put my eye to the hole. The risk is usually not worth the payoff, and you’re almost always guaranteed to be disappointed. But fortunately this curious cat has lived – although sometimes with regret.

The carnival barker knows how it works. So does a good marketer. I saw a web link the other day that said “Do not click.” So I clicked. Somebody somewhere knows me and my kind too well. I ended up being intrigued about something I’d never have taken the time to find on purpose. I didn’t buy anything, but now I know there’s such a thing as a toilet water converter kit.

Back to the carnie barker, these guys are good. You don’t see a three headed human-alligator-llama-spider every day, and they know it. They also know we’ll trade our popcorn money for the chance to stare at something that’s one of a kind, even though its face looks remarkably like the human-monkey-whale-goat we saw last year. I think most of those spectacles are doctored up myself, but I don’t go to argue. It was curiosity that got me in there, not prudence. We’re not proud enough to brag about it of course. The whole transaction goes down like a back-alley drug deal. When we’re sure no one will notice we slip him the cash then dash inside to witness one of nature’s crazy mistakes.

So, knowing our nature, what would make God think that the earth’s whole population of two wouldn’t be tempted to climb the only tree in the world with a “Do not climb!” sign on it? Seems to me He was just inviting rebellion. Why, it was akin to entrapment. Surely God knew how wishy-washy His new peeps were.

Maybe if He’d just told them there was a killer tree out there somewhere but didn’t say which, Adam and Eve might never have found it. The odds would’ve been better that way. But God pointed it out. He put a poison label on it and then left them to fight their curiosity and temptations. A whole forest full of trees and we want the one we can’t have.

But maybe the tree wasn’t the problem - or the man or the woman for that matter. It certainly wasn’t God. Maybe it was the snake. He knew where to hang out. He’s smart that way. If you have a weakness, that’s where he lingers. Self control issues? Count on him egging you on. If you’re struggling with something that affects your relationship with God, it’s a pretty safe bet the serpent is involved.

It wasn’t the thought of eating that did the first couple in. Surely curiosity is not a sin. I don’t see it listed anywhere in the Bible. Maybe that’s why God didn’t build a fence around the world’s most dangerous tree. Maybe He doesn’t want the church to either.

To be continued…

*I enjoy sharing a few of my thoughts as a contributing writer at sgmradio.com. As older posts are removed from that site I'll be reposting them here. This writing was seen far and wide over there during the month of September.


the boy can sing

People are always asking me if my kids can sing. Granny Bishop was a good singer. Both Mom and Dad are good singers. Debra, the kid's mom is a good singer. I don't see how Casie and Christian could be anything but good singers - and they are.

Casie was once one of the Gaither Homecoming kids. She starred in a video where she showed her acting, singing and dancing skills; and all of it under tremendous stress and a grueling shoot schedule. It was tough work, but she performed like a talented pretty little trooper.

Christian is a musician and a singer. His drumming skills are awesome (keen timing) and he knows how to present and hold the right note with his voice. Last night he performed with his high school choir and then stepped out to do a full solo. He sang an old Bishops song. I was sooooooooo proud. I met Mom and Dad at the school and we got in the building early enough to get good seats toward the front and in the middle.

I followed along in the little bulletin and got more and more nervous as the big number got closer and closer. When it was finally his turn I grabbed the camera and hoped I was recording something more than his feet. I wasn't about to watch my boy through a lens. The music started, and all of the sudden it was me and Christian. I think everyone else left the room. At least it seemed like it. When it was over I noticed Mom was crying - or had been.

So it wasn't Carnegie Hall. For a moment there though, the Estill County High School auditorium was the most prestigious concert hall in all the world. Christian Bishop delivered a masterpiece and made it that way.



Several years ago I was at a monumental cross-roads in my life. Even though my options were limited, I was having trouble settling on which way to go. There were lots of voices with lots of advice, but the one that offered as much compassion as info was Zachary. I needed space to rest and think. He offered it. I needed a friend with the ability to help me sort my things out. There he was. He was a lifesaver for me. I'd tell him I'm forever in his debt, but he'd draw up a payment plan. He's not perfect, just good.

There are friends you trust and believe in, then there are friends you rely on. I'm very fortunate to have lots of the trust and believe type. Then there is the one I can't imagine not having around to share my good and hard times with. Everyone needs someone they can just be wide open with, someone to keep them on balance and focused. In my life that position is filled by Zachary.

Incidentally, his initials actually spell his nickname. So happy birthday Z.A.C.! I hope to be able to return the favor one day.



I have a really good friend who grew up in Nicaragua, and since he's known of our country, he's wanted to be here. As a youngster, he wondered if the children of the United States knew just how fortunate they were. He imagined they all had beds of their own, that all of the little boys had shiny, new bicycles and the little girls rode ponies. He heard of our great melting pot early on and dreamed himself of what it must be like to live in a world where dreams really do come true. The stories, he said, spoke of our land as though it were a sort of biblical place that flowed with milk and honey.

I don't know that I've ever seen anybody so proud in all of my life, unless it would be me. After waiting so long, doing what was necessary, taking the test and the oath, and reciting the Pledge, my friend is now one of us. He's been here for about a decade now, but just a year or so ago he became a naturalized US citizen. It was a long, tedious and expensive task. But he was determined since arriving here to make this his home. Before coming he'd made up his mind that he would not ask for assistance, and he would not wait for an opportunity. He would make his own and do what he could to support himself now while planning for the future.

There are those who don't take the time to get to know him. Their prejudice will not allow it. He says he understands, but I still take issue. I've never asked him to forget his heritage or his customs. He speaks English quite well, but I still ask him to give me some Spanish from time to time. I was on the edge of tears when he recited,

Juro fidelidad a la bandera
de los Estados Unidos de América,
y a la república que representa
una nación bajo Dios,
indivisible cón libertad
y justicía para todós.

Imagine it now in Polish or German, maybe Italian or Hebrew, or one of the languages your great, great grandparents might have spoken.

got myself some constitution

Remember School House Rock? Growing up in the seventies and eighties, the Saturday morning math, grammar, science and history lessons set to music were the savior some of us needed to pass the next exam. "Conjunction Junction, what's your function? Hooking up words and phrases and clauses..." "I'm just a bill. Yes, I'm only a bill and I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill..." Those were so cool! Thanks to the catchy little tune, I was able to memorize the Preamble to the Constitution. That saved my butt a time or two. The guys back in 1787 probably had no idea they were crafting some of the most memorable lyrics of modern pop culture.

Two hundred and twenty one years ago today a group of men, thirty-nine in all, met in Philadelphia and came to an agreement. That's reason enough to shut down the banks and call it a holiday right there. Get that many Baptists to agree on something... We already had a confederal government. This document though would spell out and set up the working order for a brand new, more centralized way of doing government on a national level. So, sometime that Monday, the US Constitution, minus the twenty-seven amendments we know today, was signed, but not necessarily sealed.

Getting nearly forty guys to come to terms on something so complex took about four months of serious give and take. Now the task was convincing at least nine of the thirteen states to go along. When New Hampshire signed off on June 21st, 1788 the deal was done. Eventually all the states agreed of course, with Rhode Island finally joining the rest of the country in May of 1790. Understand too that they were the only state to decline the invitation to Philly about two and a half years earlier. Since they didn't offer any constitutional input, they weren't sure they even had a dog in this fight.

Something else very interesting: If a state chose not to ratify, they didn't have to belong to the Union. They could be their own little nation in the middle of a nation. Wouldn't that be awkward and all?!

Hindsight being what it is, there were some obvious flaws in the original plan. Thus all the eventual amendments. Initially, slavery was tolerated, even promoted, and according to the original thinkers, some people weren't even considered completely human - just slightly over half a person. As genius as they were, they were not infallible or even without prejudices. But they were men willing to sacrifice and lead. They were forward thinkers who knew that not everyone would appreciate their ideas. That is admirable.

So, today we celebrate the world's oldest federal constitution. Those of us who enjoy the freedoms and liberties that our founding fathers worked to establish, either originally or eventually, should be grateful and humbled. Personally, I think there's more work to be done. I'm certain there will be a variety of ideas and deeply held convictions that will always keep us from a unanimous understanding. But maybe that's not a bad thing. Remember the quote, "If two people always agree on everything, one of them is not necessary."

I hope at the very least we listen while the other guy talks and do our best to keep the conversation intelligent. There's still so much to learn.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Today is also Citizenship Day. It is a day set aside to "recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens.” I have friends who were born somewhere else in the world, but have recently become citizens of the United States. They now vote and get involved in the process of government and community. They can't understand why so many life-long Americans don't. Frankly, neither do I.


thinking of nqc

In 1957 my mom was only nine years old. My dad was thirteen. It was the year that J.D Sumner and a couple of the Blackwood Brothers got together and started the National Quartet Convention. The first couple of years Memphis played host to the then three day event. But over the years it would move around the south, first to Birmingham then Atlanta, back to Memphis and eventually to Nashville. For about the last fifteen years the now week long Southern Gospel Music event has been living in Louisville, Kentucky.

This is NQC week. As close as it is to where I live I've not had a chance to get over and enjoy it. And when I go I do enjoy it. The concerts are always good. I love the variety of music and styles that comes across the stage. I enjoy some more than others, but even the ones that aren't favorites are still appreciated and respected. They deserve at least that much.

My first NQC experience was in Nashville a little over 25 years ago. I didn't know anyone. No one knew me. I mean, I knew who most of the big names and personalities were, and was absolutely mesmerized when I saw them standing in line at the concession stand or walking through the exhibit hall. These were my heroes. They were the people I'd seen on television and heard on the radio and wanted to be like. And here they were right in front of me - and not on a stage. They seemed awfully normal to be such, such stars.

My first trip to the Convention was a fact finding mission. Our group had just made the decision to record for the Eddie Crook Company, and Dave Wilcox, the A&R guy, said we should think about setting up a booth there to let folks know who we were. So, I decided to at least go down to learn a bit about the set up. I don't remember seeing the part time and regional groups that you see in the exhibit hall these days. Maybe they were there, but they didn't get my attention.

My second trip to the big show was with the rest of my group. We knew so little about anything. We'd been told there was a booth contest. The most creative one won something. We rolled into the Municipal Auditorium in downtown Nashville with enough lumber to build a barn (exaggeration). I remember my brother Mark nearly running over Wendy Bagwell with a load of one-by-sixes. It's a wonder he didn't turn it into a neat story to tell. (We got really close to Wendy later in our career.) I walked around that hall the whole week introducing myself to people I recognized as professional singers, knowing they'd never remember me, but hoping they might. Connie Hopper tells me she actually remembers when I walked up to her, stuck my hand out and said, "Hi, I'm Kenny Bishop."

That first year as an artist at the Convention was exciting. We weren't on the big stage, and there were no matinees in those days, except for the morning chapel service that the owner groups sang on. But it didn't matter. We were a part of that first group of artists that would eventually signal tremendous change in the genre. We came into the industry alongside some of today's real success stories. It was a neat little club; the Greenes, the McKameys, the Perrys, Jeff & Sheri Easter, the Martins and several others. We all took our first bows about the same time. Just ahead of us was Gold City, Heavenbound and the Paynes.

Our first opportunity to take a mic in the big room was in 1988 I believe. Maybe '89. What I do remember was how incredibly nervous we were. I was about to hold the mic that Ben Speer had just used. Probably Glen Payne, Glen Allred or an Echo of some sort before that. Every group but the Inspirations had big, full bands back then. So the stage was large, bigger than any we'd ever stood on. How would we fill it? But it was the anxiety leading up to hearing our name that was the worst part. Once we got out there it worked out ok. I don't think we'd ever sung to so many human backsides in all our lives.

Our ten or twelve minutes on America's biggest Gospel music stage seemed to last for hours. I don't think we said a word. We just sang - kinda like in a fog. When the yellow light came on, telling us we had about three minutes to wrap 'er up and move along, I was ready to stop mid-song and take a bow. We finished though and enjoyed much more applause than we were prepared for. Our first appearance on the NQC stage turned out to be a success after all.



On November 21st of 1963 no one had a reason to believe that they'd remember tomorrow so well. If the people in charge of security for President Kennedy knew the next day's headline they'd have probably done some things very differently. December 7, 1941 started out remarkably like the day before, but once it got underway it seemed it would never end, and it didn't really until V-Day three and a half years later. It still hasn't ended for some.

Unless it was a personally significant time, most folks can't tell you much about September 10, 2001. But our memories become very sharp and clear when we recall the next day. Thinking first that a plane had veered off course and into one of the tall World Trade Center buildings in Lower Manhattan, we felt sadness for the unfortunate passengers, crew and occupants. But we didn't feel threatened, not right away, not where most of us lived.

It was my first day on a new job, so once word circulated through the hallways that something big was happening, I joined about a dozen brand new coworkers in a Lexington, Kentucky office building watching the morning move in slow motion on a big screen TV that was usually used for company presentations. Reporters were saying that they knew nothing for sure, not even the size of the plane that accidentally hit the building or how it could've veered so badly off course. Several where I was were on their cell phones checking in on family. Then, when we saw on live television the second plane hit the second building and it dawned on us that the first one was probably just as big and just as deliberate, we were speechless and all of the sudden afraid.

All the speculation and questions and eye witness reporting that was going on on the ground and in the studios and news rooms was only adding to the anxiety. We had a feeling it was our whole nation that was being attacked, but we knew too that the most personal and painful wounds were several hundreds of miles away. Our fear couldn't equal their hurt.

As the morning crept along we learned of two more hijacked planes, one that targeted the Pentagon, and another that was bravely taken over by a group of selfless men and women who refused to live any longer if it meant injuring their country. By the end of the day the skies were completely and eerily silent. People were praying. Our leaders were planning, and the images of what should've been a forgetful day were etched deep enough to never be erased.


pigs and lipstick, boy!

Way back decades ago when this current presidential race thing was first getting started one of our US congressmen here in Kentucky took a few licks on the chin and eventually apologized for referring to Senator Barack Obama as "boy." I know Congressman Davis. He is in no way whatsoever a racist and in fact has little tolerance for anyone who is. The context of his remarks, given during a political rally speech, were not intended to be racist, but were immediately grabbed and distorted by some who wanted to discredit his person (he was running for reelection) for their own political advantage. So, even knowing that he meant nothing even remotely bigoted, he offered his regrets just so he could move on and win the election. And he did.

What? What did he say? Did she just say what I thought she said? Did he mean to say that - that way? Oh no he di-unt!! Semantics and accusations of meaning and taking one word of one sentence of one paragraph of one speech completely out of context seems to be in super abundance during this presidential race. The finger pointing is beginning to come across as childish and whiny to me. Both campaigns are doing it. The political commentators are doing it. The bloggers are doing it. And sadly, people at the water cooler are doing it.

Yesterday Senator Obama said something about a pig and lipstick. The McCain/Palin folks screamed foul. They say Barack was referring to the lady governor. He says he wasn't, it was a reference to trying to dress up the same old way of doing things in Washington. The M/P folks should know that. Their candidate used the same exact phrase several months ago when they thought he'd be running against Hillary. If she was offended I don't remember hearing about it.

It's mostly hypocrisy. A few days ago former president Jimmy Carter was in the middle of an interview when he does exactly what Geoff Davis from Kentucky did. The same people who kicked and screamed and accused the congressman of practically carrying a kkk card did a nervous cough, turned their heads and pretended they didn't hear anything. To be fair, it really ought to be a goose/gander sort of thing.

Parsing words is one of the things about campaigns that frustrates me. We want the candidates to be honest and frank. Yet, they are not allowed to say what they mean in a direct way for fear of being taken completely out of context. It's getting to the point that no one in public service can say anything that might maybe even in the most remote way be possibly considered somewhat or even just a little bit something that could be turned inside-out or vaguely not nice.


leave room for the holy ghost

It seemed pretty normal to me. I remember as a youngster going to church and seeing older men and women who were married to each other sitting on opposite sides of the building. It wasn't like they were fighting or anything. That was just a tradition that started way back when and they didn't see a need to personally change it. Another tradition in our church was having the whole congregation kneel at the altar that stretched across the front of the sanctuary. I remember the first time I went up and took a wrong turn. I was gently directed by an older woman to the men's side. I wasn't offended, but if I'd been paying attention I would've known. It also didn't occur to me when I hugged my nice, lady Sunday School teacher that we just didn't do that sort of thing. And if we did we certainly had to leave room for the holy ghost.

Our church also practiced foot washing. It goes back to Jesus' point when he told his disciples that they should be servants willing to do the most humbling of tasks for their fellow man. Since he did this the same time he served them the cup and the bread, we felt we should follow his example and do the same thing from time to time. So, about three or four times a year we'd schedule a foot-washing service. But we didn't believe in mixed bathing, so the women would go to one room, the men to another and we'd wash away.

Maybe it's because of those experiences that it seemed a little uncomfortable to me to watch Senator John McCain wrap his arms around Governor Sarah Palin the other night - and a few times since then. I've seen Barack and Joe Biden hug and it didn't bother me. And even though it was forced, it didn't seem strange when Senators Obama and Clinton locked in awkward embrace a time or two. Maybe it's because she is a more manly woman.

I was wondering if anyone else had noticed the GOP hugs when I read a piece somewhere yesterday - on AOL I think. The etiquette experts were talking about what is appropriate and what isn't. I forget what they said. Something like an extended arm hug is ok as long as the arms are horizontal and not locked or something like that. Back in the mid-eighties when we had our very first mixed gender ticket Walter hardly ever touched Geraldine. But then again, we weren't that far past Ricky and Lucy sleeping under the same blanket either.

I don't have issues with a presidential candidate and his running mate hugging - as long as Cindy and Mr. Palin are fine with it.


rent - one last time

I'm a RENT junkie. Actually, that's probably not the best way to describe my fascination with the musical-turned-movie-but-never-left-Broadway-until-it-closed-this-past-weekend. But I am a fan, and now I'm sad. One of the most impacting and emotional dramas to know that stage has ended its run. Anyone who didn't get to see it has really missed out.

Back a couple of years or so ago I wrote about the impact this genious piece of theater had had on me. It reminded me of the smallness of my thinking and my own world. It also reminded me of the first words my daughter said to me when we stepped off the subway and she really saw New York City for the first time. "Dad, look at all of the different kinds of people." We made our way to the Nederlander Theater to see the show before we left town. It had an impact on her too.

You'd have to click way on back in this journal to find my earlier thoughts on RENT. So, if you'll indulge me, I'm gonna repeat my original post from December 31, 2005.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
*Five hundred twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes,
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes,
How do we measure, measure a year?

We have some great opportunities ahead of us. A whole new year with fresh months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and even seconds to do something meaningful and life-changing. How exciting is that? But maybe I'm jumping the gun.

I've never seen the Broadway play Rent. But I have seen the movie version, and I really liked it. I loved the music, and the talents of the actors/singers/musicians/dancers left me jealous and inspired. To me the story-line was dark, sort of depressing and mostly presented only one side of some pretty serious issues. But the lessons learned while I looked in on the gritty lives of a group of struggling but determined friends were invaluable. The presentation was very in-your-face, and the way some of the issues are raised and handled may go against your ideas and convictions. But I'd recommend catching it if you think you can see these characters as living real life in a real world. You'll either feel deep compassion for them in their struggles, or as one of my notable Christian friends said, "They brought their problems on themselves. They were just reaping the fruits of their lifestyles."

Distrust for the system, abundant trust in each other, dedication to their beliefs, and unconditional love among friends were the more obvious points I gathered while in the theater. You couldn't miss the obvious bonds that were formed among those who were living a tough, unforgiving inner city life together. Death, disease and disdain from the "normal" world were very real. But the less obvious thought that kept crossing my mind was how all of these characters seemed to value and treasure their time together. It's like they knew their days and opportunities were limited, so they took full advantage of every moment. Thus the song, "Seasons of Love," and the lyrics about all the minutes.

This brings me back to the great opportunities that are ahead of us. Imagine our minutes were the talents Jesus spoke about in Matthew 25. The Master has trusted you with something very valuable. So, this year you and I will have 12 months or 52 weeks or 365 days or 8,760 hours or 525,600 minutes or 31,536,000 seconds to risk ourselves while we show charity and mercy to those who need it most, or we can waste every moment on protecting what we have for one more year. I'd like to be able to look back at this time in 2006 and say I invested and spent my minutes wisely - measured in love.

Seasons of Love
Five hundred twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes,
How do we measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee,
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
In five hundred twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes.
How do we measure a year in the life?
How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love.
Seasons of love.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand journeys to plan.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes.
How do we measure the life of a woman or a man?
In truths that she learned, or in times that he cried,
In bridges he burned, or the way that she died.
It’s time now to sing out tho’ the story never ends.
Let’s celebrate! Remember a year in the life of friends.
Remember the love.
Remember the love.
Remember the love.
Measure the love.
Measure the love.
Seasons of love.
Seasons of love.

*Seasons of Love from Rent by Jonathan Larson


rnc 3

I'll be honest. I didn't watch much of the Republican's convention last night. I did see Senator McCain's acceptance speech, but as much as I tried to tune in early and follow along with the others, I got bored. Maybe it was two back-to-back weeks of convention coverage that finally filled my political tank.

I like John McCain. I like his no nonsense approach that looks the political establishment in the eye and doesn't blink. Of course, that got him beat when he ran against George W. Bush back about eight and a half years ago. But evidently now we see it as an admirable attribute. Maybe folks are starting to realize that someone who appeals to both political senses makes political sense. But I have friends who feel the same way about Barack Obama.

Senator McCain will tell you that he's not a speech giver as much as he's a town-hall mixer. A lot of people were talking about his need to live up to the RNC speeches of the night before, especially the one given by his new running mate. But at this point, if he did anything remarkably different the people who supported him before would wonder where he'd been or if they voted for someone they didn't recognize. And it's not always about scoring. There's an old saying in politics, although it's most generally true when you're comfortably up in the polls, "Sometimes success is just holding your ground." I think he did exactly what he needed to do to fire up his peeps. He stuck to his message 'til the big balloons hit the ground.

Here we goooo.....


rnc 2

I had friends at the Democratic National Convention who called and sent me text messages while they political partied in Denver. It was neat getting their perspective from the actual dance floor. I have friends doing the same thing from Minneapolis this week. They're keeping me in the loop on the goings on with the Republicans there. Both said it was electric and exciting and almost spiritual to be in such a place with so many like minded people. I'd expect it to be. It's like corporate worship or mybe more like a mob. It's hard not to feel something.

I ran into a neighbor yesterday afternoon. She and I were talking about this out-of-the-blue governor from way, way out west who magically appeared as John McCain's VP choice. Neither of us knew enough about her to talk intelligently. My initial reaction of course was hoping that she wasn't picked JUST because she is a she. For her to be viable, there needs to be something substantial to her. She'd have a chance to state her case in a major way on the big stage, but sharing the microphone with some of the most clever political talkers in the world would give her even more to live up to.

I remember once standing backstage in a big auditorium waiting for our singing group to be introduced. What happens just before the announcer calls your name is very important. That person sets the stage and the mood and determines whether your first two or three songs are gonna be heard or wasted. This particular night was a booger. The emcee left a lot of the work to us. Just before he brought us to the stage he told this terribly sad story about something I can't even remember now. I do remember though having to dig our way out of a very depressing hole for the first song or two or three. On the opposite side though is when the person on the stage just before you steals the show and runs off with it.

Rudy Giuliani is one of my political heroes. He knows how to inspire even his enemies. If I thought I had to follow him on the stage I'd be having nightmares. How in the world would you do it? Rudy notwithstanding, I think the speech delivered by the brand-new-to-everyone-but-Alaska candidate for vice president was a home run. She introduced us to her family and her upbringing and her experience. She did the job of the lower ticket candidate by going after the opposition. Joe Biden is going to have to do the same eventually. That's part of the job description. It allows the guys at the top of the ticket to "stay above the fray" and appear more honorable. Part of Senator Biden's problem though is how to hit a woman without looking like a bully (or a sissy).

So, even though the person in charge of her official nomination didn't even know her name, Governor Palin took her only chance at a first impression and ran with it. (The night of her speech, I was on edge up to the moment the announcer pronounced it right. "Ladies and Gentleman, the Governor of Alaska... Sarah Palin.") Mayor Giuliani did his usual thing. So did Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. Then it was left to the people who take over the TV after the speech to tell us what they really said.