well that just hurts...

Living is getting more expensive by the day, literally. A lot of people I know have cancelled their vacation plans this year. They're hanging around the house instead, hoping to still be able to to put gas in the tank and get to work everyday. What was a nuisance has become a very serious and compelling problem for a lot of folks. The cost of getting us anywhere and getting anything to us is simply out of control.

One of our local talk radio stations that usually gives away concert tickets and movie passes as contest prizes is now giving away free gas. Car makers have found a fresh gimmick by promising to keep the price of a gallon within reason for a few years if you'll buy one of their models. A really smart airline sorta hid in the bushes and waited it out while most of the others raised their fares. Now the holdout is advertising the lowest ticket prices without all of the added fees and they're filling their planes while the others scratch their heads and wonder what happened.

Businesses are finding ways to cope with the record high gas and fuel prices. Most of them are looking for ways to survive. In the meantime, the companies that supply the pumps are snickering and thriving.

A week or so ago I saw the top guy with Exxon Mobil talking to Matt Lauer on TV. His basic response to every question was something like, "I know the public doesn't like it, but it's not an optional purchase. They have to have it." (loose quote) That just struck me as arrogant and demeaning. We learned later that the exec makes about $12.5 million a year. He can probably afford his company's gas - if he pays for it at all.

I understand there are several factors that contribute to where we are with fuel prices these days. The big oil companies can't control every step from searching to drilling to brokering to transporting to refining to transporting again... But I refuse to believe they are powerless. There has to be something they can do to show some sort of support for all of the hard working folks who are finding it a day-to-day task to just keep up - forget getting ahead.

For one thing, maybe take a look at the top salaries in the business and at least make it look like the people there are willing to sorta sacrifice like the rest of us are forced to. Overall the dollar impact would be nearly nonexistent at the pump, but the act would show us something of a heart in those immaculate board rooms. Next, how about taking a look at those hefty profit figures. I'm certainly not against any business making a profit. They should do well and prosper, but not while our most vulnerable are getting hungrier, losing their homes, limping and dying.

We have to buy gas. Some folks can change their habits. Public transportation is an option for a few. Carpooling is another. But for most there's no way to avoid pulling into a pump and swallowing hard.

I'll say here, I am very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very leery of the government taking any kind of control of the oil industry, or even regulating it with a heavy hand. So, since the top guys at the top companies told our federal lawmakers, under oath, that it was as simple as supply and demand, let's put their excuse for ungodly prices into practice for something more reasonable.

Since a complete boycott is not practical, a partial one can be. Instead of calling for a day to avoid the pumps altogether, which means the day before or the day after sets record gas sales, we should choose a company to stay away from and wait for them to feel the pressure to bring their prices within reason. When/if they respond we start buying their gas again and choose another company to boycott until they respond. When the folks at company "A" sees everyone patronizing company "B" they will hopefully do something to compete - bringing their gas prices down.

It'll take great organization and lots of discipline to do it right, but how long can we afford to do nothing?

P.S. The good folks who work the counter at the stations don't decide how much you pay for gas. Be kind to them.


thinking about yesterday

Today feels like Monday. I woke up Sunday morning thinking it was Saturday. By the time I realized I was tricked I'd already missed church. I felt bad about that.

I spent most of the daylight hours this past weekend working on landscaping my yard. There are lots of big trees surrounding the place, but closer to the ground things have been pretty much neglected for a few years now. So, since most folks look at where they are stepping, my project this spring has been to make things around the outside of the house look a little nicer.

This was my weekend to have my son Christian with me. He helped me stack stones and dump dirt and dig holes and trim bushes. He's expensive though. About 45 minutes of accumulated work cost me $20. That's not much for a professional, but he's not licenced. He was handy though and we enjoyed chatting while we worked.

Saturday and Sunday was picture-perfect weather. The plan was to get all of the yard work done those two days and enjoy family, friends and the pool on Monday. When I woke up that morning though the weather guy on TV said probably not. "What more do you want?!" He asked. "You had two good days of perfect weather. Don't push it!" He was right. I felt greedy for asking, especially after seeing the terrible destruction left from the tornadoes in the mid west. I've been praying for the victims there.

Even with the clouds and the threat of rain, yesterday was a wonderful day. We had some of our closest friends come hang with us, and my kids, who happen to be the two most important people in my life were there. Casie brought her boyfriend Cody. We talked and grilled and ate and visited.

It was a good day yesterday. I've spent most of this day so far thinking about it.



When I was a kid, growing up in central Kentucky, the only flag I ever saw waving over our simple, middle-class neighborhood was the one in front of the Congleton's house down the street. Mr. Congleton was a veteran, and he treated those Stars and Stripes and the tall pole that displayed them like they were two of his children. Of course in 1976 it seemed everyone had red, white and blue fever. That bicentennial year was a wonderful, patriotic time I thought.

I don't remember, then, seeing all of the garden flags that you see on houses around the neighborhood these days. Get online or go to pretty much any local store and you can find a nice 3'x5' flag or a smaller garden banner that'll tell all of your neighbors and passersby what your hobbies are, your favorite animal or bug, where the party is or any variety of neat things about you and your family. I don't remember seeing them around our neighborhood when I was a kid though.

Today is a good flag day. I am proud on days like this one to get Old Glory out of storage and hang her out in the breeze. As a matter of fact, I have two of them - one in the front of my house and a smaller one at the back patio entrance since that's where most of my family and friends and guests come in when they visit.

I'm a proud American. You can be a Democrat OR a Republican and be very patriotic. You can even be registered as neither of the above and still have a tremendous love for your country. Even those who never cast a vote can be proud Americans, although I think they'd feel much more invested if they spoke up on election day. But the mold that determines a person's dedication to their country is really pretty loose.

Your skin doesn't have to be a certain color to feel the specialness of these United States. In my opinion the Pledge of Allegiance is even more emotional and meaningful among all of this country's regional and even foreign accents. I've learned that life experience and being in tune globally usually makes you more aware of your own fortune, but you can be any age and still recognize the specialness of living in this very proseprous land.

I don't question a person's patriotism. Just like their faith, they may express it differently than I do. Their traditions and mine may not be anything alike. And although I know plenty of well-meaning, dedicated Christians who feel you can only be a real American patriot if you're a King James only, southern gospel loving, fundamentalist conservative, I know quite a few loyal lovers of this land who could prove them wrong.

And that is why we remember those who fought and gave. Have a thoughtful Memorial Day.



I don't remember why I started calling my friend David by the name Doc. As a matter of fact, I think I'm the only person in the world who calls him that. He's a school teacher and an administrator and a caterer and a pianist and a pageant trainer and a show promoter and more. He does a lot. As a matter of fact, he's one of those people who makes the nearly impossible happen anyway. I used to tell him, if he'd been around when Jesus was born he would've gotten them into a suite. But none of the things he does requires him to be a Doc. At least not right now.

I've heard it said that you know a person is a prophet if their prophecies actually come true. I certainly don't claim to be one, but an unintentional word about the future is on its way to becoming a reality. For several summers now my friend has been living in Boston, going to school, on his way to earning his PhD. He's nearly finished now and when he is I will be a prophet. More importantly, he will be a doctor.

Other than my kids, I don't know of anyone I am more proud of. When he had opportunities in the past to move on to bigger, better and more lucrative things, Doc decided to stay close to his family and friends who needed him. He put his dreams on hold to serve others. When he senses I'm down he calls. On special days we always chat. He's been that way since I've known him.

The first time I met David, our family was singing in Baxley, Georgia. We pulled up to the church and this bouncy and extravagant guy met us at the door and welcomed us in like we were family who'd been gone too long. We hit it off right then, and Doc has been as good a friend as anyone could ever, ever ask for since.

Today is his birthday, and I miss him. He's several hours away and we don't get to see each other as often as we'd like. I think I'll call him now.

Happy birthday Doc!!


american idol showed itself

This is a day late, but did anyone else catch the gaffe at the end of American Idol's Tuesday night show? Maybe it's happened before and I just wasn't paying close enough attention, but I always assumed that when they showed the clips of each night's performance at the end of the show it was actual clips of that night's live performances. Even if that has been the case all season long, it wasn't so this past Tuesday night.

I have a DVR that allows me to pause, rewind and record TV. I've gotten used to having it and sometimes I find myself wanting to rewind a scene when I'm at the movie theater or watching TV at a friend's house. It's a pretty cool luxury, and it came in handy this week as I rewound, fast-forwarded and rewound again and again to make sure I was seeing and hearing things correctly.

The little David sang his three songs and did them well. I've been super impressed by his talent all season. At the end of the show when they played back his live performances and closed the clip with his ending of "Imagine" I noticed that he did a little trill thing and didn't go straight to the last note. In his actual live performance he did go straight to the note. I thought it was uncharacteristic of his style, so it stuck out to me. That's why I noticed the difference in the play back.

Did anyone else notice it? Have you noticed other inaccuracies or technical gaffes during AI this season?


aaggghhh cnn!!

Yesterday was primary election day here in Kentucky. Most of the rest of the country has already spoken, and, for the most part, the people have decided that either John McCain or Barack Obama will be our next president. You never know though. Hillary Clinton won big in the Bluegrass State, and the never-stop-jabbering mouth pieces at CNN have been giving us lots of grief for it.

Yesterday was also Oregon's primary election day. Well, sorta. Out there you mail your ballot in or drop it off with the clerk. Yesterday was the deadline. Senator Obama won that race, and according to CNN's expert talkers, it is because the people in Oregon are smarter, wealthier and more open minded than the backwoods hicks in Kentucky. Not only do the folks at CNN believe it, they repeated it over and over and over again all night last night and again this morning.

I work at the state capitol. The CNN Express bus has been parked out in front of this beautiful building for a week now. They've been doing live reports and using our capitol dome as the backdrop. They've had plenty of time to get acquainted with some of the fine people who live and work in this artsy, educated town. But they didn't bother to get to know anyone while they were here.

Instead, on election day the CNN crew loaded up and travelled at least three hours into one of the most remote and impoverished areas of our state to ask those folks who they voted for or why they didn't vote at all. So, instead of seeing one of our many well spoken and pleasantly presented citizens on national television explaining why they intelligently decided to cast their vote the way they did, we saw a well intentioned but very stereotypical mountain lady telling a camera that "a woman's place is in the home and I ain't about to vote for no black man."

The people who live in rural Kentucky are good, decent people. They shouldn't be ignored and we shouldn't pretend they don't exist. Their voice is as important as anyone else's. But the portrait of Kentucky that CNN is trying to paint is simply not accurate. When there were tens of thousands of reasonable, articulate people to talk to about something as important as the presidential election, they went out of their way to find and air footage of their version of a hillbilly. Then the reporter went on to describe Kentucky as an uneducated, poor, backwoods, bigoted state. When it was tossed back to the studio the "experts" there continued their insults. I was offended.

I've been around politics and the media long enough to understand that the news agencies tell you what they want you to know. They often have information or facts that may change the texture or direction of a story. But if it doesn't serve their purpose or advance their agenda you'll never see or hear it.

CNN decided they wanted to make Senator Obama's supporters look more capable than Senator Clinton's. To make their point they took advantage of a whole state full of good people and made all of us look ignorant and racist. If that's the way they want to do business we're forced to wonder what else they've distorted along the way.


who doesn't love dottie?

...After the memorial service, I had a chance to hang out with some friends who I hadn't seen in a while - and a few new ones. It's always fun to sit around and catch up on everybody's life and drama. So many of us are scattered across the country, it was inevitable that someone would mention that we only gather like this for a funeral.

Everyone had a Dottie story or two or three or more to tell. Sitting there listening, I think it dawned on all of us at different points that even though we all thought we were Dottie's best friend, she was just good at making everyone feel that way. Dottie loved everyone - without exception.

Proof: As I sat in the choir loft with the rest of the Homecoming singers, I looked across the congregation that had filled the big Christ Church auditorium for Dottie's goodbye party. The variety of people in those pews was about as diverse as you'd ever see in a place like this.

Just about every kind of Christian theology and understanding of biblical thought you could imagine must've been represented there - not just in the seats, but on the platform.

Most of the congregation was white, but African-Americans and Asians and Central-Americans and several others were scattered throughout the room as well. Big time celebrities shared pews with everyday Janes and Joes. I saw some very conservative Pentecostals and Baptists sitting among the gay men and women who came to show love to their friend one last time. Bluejeans and suits with ties and pretty dresses and t-shirts and priestly collars were everywhere.

No one seemed to be offended that the other was there. These were people who loved the person and the music of Dottie Rambo. Every single one of them was attracted to her songs of Home and the way to get there. And because she didn't see the need to make the message or its audience exclusive, it made for a very eclectic congregation of very unlikely worshippers on this day.

The hands that went up into the air off and on all afternoon were attached to hearts that just wanted to honor God - without a label or a designation or a notion. That's the way Dottie saw it, and preached it. And that's why we were all there.

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Larry Ferguson and Ronnie Meadows and Chris Barnes are still in various places of recovery. I don't know if very many minutes go by that I don't think of these guys and their families. So, when I think of them I pray for them. Their issues will not end when their bodies are whole. They will have other difficulties to face in the weeks and months to come.



Some people just come across as rock solid and sure. They are confident, reliable and steady. I have a few friends like that, but the one that seems to exhibit the really admirable traits most is Greg. (Although a really good guy, this is a different Greg than the one I mentioned about a month ago.)

I like to watch people. Their reactions (or over reactions), their sense of what's appropriate or expected, their ability to make the best of an awkward moment, all of those things reveal a lot about their inner confidence and fortitude. Greg is the type of quiet that doesn't make a lot of noise, but you don't forget he's in the room. I like that.

A couple of years ago several of us took a trip to San Francisco. Greg was there, and it was then that I first noticed his skill of making his point without belaboring it. He's fun to be around and makes for very pleasant conversation.

He's celebrating his birthday today, and if I know him well enough he won't make a big deal out of it. Nonetheless, happy birthday Greg!!


mom & miss dottie

Most everyone I know loves their mother. I do. A lot of folks have heard me talk about her strength and love and faith and patience and will. She probably has no idea how much she's taught me about dealing properly with life's sudden moments. I've heard it said that a person's character is most honestly revealed in the most intense times of trial and disappointment. Shirley Bishop has proven over and over and over again that she is a lady of remarkable integrity and stamina. I hope it followed the gene pool.

The weather has been gloomy in central Kentucky today. The rain has been constant and the mood has been low. Except for spending most of the morning and part of the afternoon with Mom and Dad, I've felt sad today. The weather is only partly responsible. Like a lot of others, I got the call early this morning that one of my life's heroes was unexpectedly taken home. When I wasn't distracted with enjoyable conversation with my parents my mind was consumed by the loss of my friend Dottie Rambo.

I became an admirer when I was very young. Watching the Singing Rambos on television and sitting for hours listening to those Heartwarming Records with the rich, flip-flopping harmonies of the dad, mom and daughter trio are beautiful memories for me. Granny Bishop especially enjoyed their songs. Dottie wrote nearly all of them. Early on her hair was piled high on her head. She smiled when she sang. I often smiled back without even meaning to. Sometimes she spoke her lyrics to emphasize the message more than than the melody. Dottie might be offended when I use the word magic to recall her ability to communicate, but that is a more than accurate way to describe the way she penetrated my senses. When someone asks if I prefer writing or singing, I usually tell them that I believe songs live longer than singers. Dottie has proven this now hundreds and hundreds of times over.

When I was a youngster I had no idea Dottie was a Kentucky girl. It wouldn't have mattered anyway. My sense of pride in my home state has developed with my knowledge of it. Now that I know, and now that it matters, I can't think of anyone else who writes, sings, performs or serves that I'd be any more proud to share my state's heritage with. Along with a million others I'll miss her. But only for a while.


mark & stan

I don't know how long a woman should wait before having her next child, but my momma didn't waste any time. Eleven months and four days after my older brother Mark was born I became Bishop boy number two.

For twenty-seven days every year Mark and I are twins. Between April 8th, my birthday, and May 4th, his birthday we are the same age. When we were younger that seemed like a big deal. As of today, he's officially one year older than me.

I'm so proud of my older brother. He's faced a lot of tough stuff and had to make some tough decisions, but he's done well for himself and succeeded. He's a tremendously talented song writer and singer and communicator. He used to make fun of me when we were younger saying that singing was for sissies. He's no sissy, but he sure is a good singer.

Happy birthday brother!!

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Someone else special is celebrating his birthday today. Stan is an incredibly close friend. Most folks know him for his skill and abilities on the piano. Nowadays he travels around with Mark Lowry showing the world his gift of musical magnificence.

He lives in Atlanta, but a couple of years ago Stan was able to celebrate his birthday here in Kentucky - at the Kentucky Derby no less. What a way to enjoy your special day. I was thrilled to be able to host him.

A lot of people know him as a talented artist. I know him as an incredibly close friend who I count it an honor to have in my life.

Happy birthday my friend Stan!!



In my capacity as a manager or an executive I've tried to abide by a hard and fast rule when it comes to hiring. I never hire anyone I cannot fire. That means I don't hire family or friends or relatives of friends or friends of relatives, or friends or relatives of my boss. This limits the field some, and it may mean the best person for the job won't get it because of their connections, but the consequences could be ugly otherwise.

So what do you do when you hire someone and they become like one of your best friends? Several years ago when I was looking for an assistant I scheduled an interview with an intelligent and attractive young lady from Louisville. We met, talked and clicked. Her skills were exactly what we needed. She was able to learn quickly what she didn't already know. She was willing to work the ungodly hours that were required and she was just super pleasant to be around. So Katherine got the job.

I've heard it said, and I've repeated it several times, that the best, most lasting friendships are the ones formed in the trenches. The work Kat and I were doing was sometimes like trench warfare. Ours is a soldier's bond.

I don't know if anyone ever called her Kat before, but that was the name I gave her and before long most everyone else was using it too. Our offices were close enough to the other that usually all I had to do was call her name and she was ready to take on a task.

I don't interview people for the position of friend. Those relationships just happen. You click with some people. You don't with others. The ones who become close friends were meant to be. The others are good acquaintances.

Kat and I have both moved on to other things now. She's successful and planning to marry this summer. I'm as happy for her as any big brother would be. I couldn't hire her today. She's too good a friend, and way too much like family.

Today is her birthday. It is also Derby Day which is a big deal here in Kentucky. It's a day fit for royalty which fits my former assistant very well. Happy birthday Kat!! Lotsoluv!!