bless it forward or die!

I'll bet you get a lot of forwards. Lord knows I do. To be honest, I don't even look at most of them. I have a couple of friends who know how much email I get and only send me the really good stuff, so when I get one from them I know it's going to be really cool.

I don't do like some folks do and blast back a response telling people to lay off the forward button. It's not that big a deal to just delete them. As a matter of fact, if the subject line looks intriguing enough, I sometimes sneak a peek. I usually scroll all the way to the end first, and if it tells me I have to send it on to a dozen of my best friends to receive a great big present from God, or that I'll fall of the edge of the world and stub my big toe if I break the chain, I usually just close it and delete it. I don't like feeling manipulated and I don't think God does either.

Just in case I'm wrong, please pray God understands my ignorance.


god did it

I'll bet you and I agree on a lot and maybe disagree on a lot more. There are a few things you probably don't want to ask me about. Politics, theology, philosophy, relationships, art and music and food and firewood are all important to me depending on the news, my appetite and the weather. The top of the list changes a lot.

Not to spark an argument, but consider this:

While survivors clung to anything that would float and whole families climbed as high as they could only to get trapped in the attic and die; while tens of thousands lost hope, happiness and everything else to a hurricane, some of our most noted Christian voices were saying it was because sin
, homosexuals and abortionists had been given free reign in the city. A few who disagreed countered that it was sin all right, but it was the sin of greed and neglect and the war in Iraq that made God mad enough to take things out on New Orleans.

When we turned our backs on God, it was the unfortunate people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time - in buildings, at work, on planes - who were the nation's scapegoats in September of 2001. That was the word from some of our most famous radio and TV preachers. It was God's punishment. Now just this week a group of Saudi preachers declared that that region's drought should be laid at the feet of the sinners there who do not strictly observe Islam's religious laws. Put those two thoughts together and holler if you have questions.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the folks in Missouri and Iowa and that whole area. My heart hurts for them. The rain and the storms just won't seem to stop. Rivers are beating down the levees. Generations of family farms, homes and businesses are being destroyed. What did middle America do to God? How about the the folks who've been burned out in California? This morning I read that parts of Oklahoma are facing drought conditions. Is this because of sin too?

Such proclamations could be dangerous. I'd hate to see it happen, but if one of those big multi-million dollar international ministry headquarters campuses found itself in the path of a tornado or a flood or a fire or was struck by lightning or felled by an earthquake, some might say that God did it.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

update: 6/29/08
A friend of mine reminded me of Ichthus, the huge Christian music festival that goes on every spring here in central Kentucky. Tens of thousands fill the hills and fields with worship and prayer. God is all over those grounds. His word is preached and taught and sung for days. It seems that almost every year the place gets nearly destroyed by a terrible storm either during the event or right before things get started. This year was no exception.


where did it go?

What day is it? Not sure why, but I've been messed up all week. Yesterday seemed like Wednesday, and I got up this morning all confused when I looked in the closet and noticed four shirts missing. I thought, "It's only Thursday. When did I wear four shirts this week?" I sat in a meeting last night and I think I referred to Tuesday as "yesterday" at least a half-dozen times.

However it happened, now that I realize today is Friday I'm excited that the weekend is here. But I'm sort of a little disappointed. Can a whole day come and go and I can't remember a single thing about it? I guess it's possible. I've left the office before, driven through two towns, a couple of small communities and three dozen traffic lights and couldn't tell you a thing about the trip when I got home. Sorta scary isn't it?


either get out of the way or run for senate

Way back when our family started traveling and singing we had a really good friend who was a truck driver and mechanic. He could fix almost anything that had an engine. One of the tricks he'd learned over the years while spending long hours on the road was to take off one of his shoes while he was driving. He said having only one shoe on bugged him enough to keep him awake.

I don't know why in the world I didn't notice it when I got dressed this morning, but now I'm gonna have to spend the whole day at the office wearing two different kinds of socks. It took two mistakes to get in this situation - when I was doing laundry, and when I put put them on. I don't know which one is bugging me most, the one that comes about six inches above my ankle or the one that nearly reaches my knee. One of them, and I don't know which, is in danger when I get home.

Speaking of dumb stuff that bugs us, isn't there a law that says slow drivers are not allowed in the left lane? Can't you get like twenty-to-life or something for that sort of crime? I'd go farther and say anyone who is driving the speed limit should only be out of the right lane long enough to get around someone who has misread the sign. The presidential candidate who promises to fix this problem will get my vote.

Speaking of politics, here in Kentucky we have a former actor running for U.S. Senate. Sonny Landham has done a little of everything from porn to big time movies and TV with people like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chuck Norris. He mostly played big, beefy roles in films like "Predator" and "Firewalker" and "Poltergeist." I think it's really neat that he worked with Mr. T on "The A Team." How cool! Several years ago I was surrogate speaking for my candidate at a political rally. Sonny and a few others who wanted to be governor were stumping too. After I gave my well-rehearsed, focus-group-tested, always-on-point, rally-the-troops speech Sonny spoke and offered me all kinds of nice words. Said he'd step out of the race and endorse me if I'd run. I thought that was nice. Senator Mitch McConnell is a lot smaller than Sonny, but he's been in DC for a long time. I'm betting he stays.


god in my truck

OK, this is two nights in a row that I've tossed and turned and flipped and flopped and generally endured the dark to dread the day. Caffeine is not the culprit. I made sure to avoid it after lunch yesterday. I'm thinking it's the personal stuff that's on my mind. Things like that don't typically keep me awake all night though. At some point I usually figure I ain't gonna get it fixed by worrying, so I roll over and eventually rest. Last night's thing had as much to do with the dull headache that traveled behind my left eye, down my ear and into my neck. It didn't let up all night long. Then I got out of bed with it this morning. I think it's a pinched nerve. That's what a friend told me anyway.

So this morning I was obviously awake before the alarm went off. I usually build in one snooze cycle to just lay there and think about the day and give the coffee time to finish brewing. I went ahead and rolled out this morning though. No sense in laying there if I wasn't going to enjoy it. Besides, the headache was getting worse and I needed to take something for it or ask God for a miracle. I did both, but thanked God for the relief - and the coffee.

Putting my suit on was a booger this morning. I didn't feel like going to the office. But the bills don't appreciate a good heachache. When I got there, I told a friend that one way to appreciate a good day is to start out with a bad one. When things get better you're grateful and have a new perspective.

On the way in this morning I didn't so much as turn on the radio or answer the phone. My head was hurting too much. So I did what we usually do when we desperately need something done on the inside. I begged to God. It started and went like a lot of my prayers do...

"My head hurts! GOD, please do something about my headache!! The little pills are NOT working!!! I know it's no tragedy or anything like that, but it's painful and it HURTS!!!! Either take the pain or KILL ME!!!!! If you love me you'll HEAL MY HEAD!!!!!! (pause) OK, first, let me back up. Thank you for all the things you HAVE done. I really am grateful, I promise. My nice little home is still standing, my old truck is still running, my kids and parents are healthy, they all still love me, I have lots of great friends, you allow me to write and share, I get to sing, I have a good job, I get to know you, we're able to talk with each other, I'll enjoy Heaven one day. There's that and more that I thank you for. And before I get back to myself, I want to ask you to show your love to everyone who is struggling to recover from the accidents and tragedies and illnesses that have suddenly ravaged their lives. Please give comfort and peace to those who are dealing with deep losses and hurtful experiences and broken relationships. Remind everyone who has been wounded that your grace is sufficient. Be with my children and my parents and my family and my friends and our leaders and even the folks I'm having trouble loving. About that, Lord, please help me to get over the anger I feel sometimes. I realize there is nothing good to come of it. Maybe that's what's keeping me awake at night. Help me reflect your grace in this. It's hard to do, but it's the right thing I know. As a matter of fact God, I ask you to bless and prosper the people I've been resenting. Let me back up some more. I guess I should've started by asking you to forgive me of my sins. My bad - again. I'm glad you know the beginning from the end. That helps. Amen."


please, let him be dead.

Before I say anything, please know that this journal entry is not about the deceased as much as it's about the people who won't let him die.

At the risk of sounding cold and insensitive (reread what I said at the very beginning), does Tim Russert deserve the canonization we've bestowed upon his mostly ordinary life? Other than being very unexpected, why is his death and all of the follow-up such big, big news?

As much as I admired his political savvy and appreciated the way he honored his dad, I don't remember Tim doing anything more than informing me of the positions politicians took. He didn't set policies or do anything that directly affected me that I'm aware of. Is it even appropriate to treat his life's work this way?

I think he'd be embarrassed to know that his passing has taken attention away from floods in the Midwest, fires in the west, war in the Middle East and famine coupled with atrocities in Darfur, not to mention the presidential race he wanted us to know so much about. He was a better man than that.


the longest day

Yesterday was the longest day of the year. I'm glad I got to spend it with my son. We didn't do anything super spectacular. We did go to a movie and we did have too much popcorn. You need to see Get Smart. We both loved it. Movie or not though, I spent another special day with Christian. I'm satisfied.

They tell me the summer solstice used to be a big deal. It's the time when the sun is the highest in the sky, thus the longer(est) day. It's also the official start of summer - depending on who you ask. In some, actually most cultures, the longest day is considered mid-summer. Of course here in the U.S. by the time "Summer day 1" arrives, we've already been wearing white shoes for about a month and a half thanks to Memorial Day.

In about six months the folks down in the southern hemisphere will be enjoying their longest day. Wonder what they'll do with it.


what have we done?

What the *bleep* have we done?!

I recently heard about a man who decided to go to church for the first time in a long time. His family had prayed, fasted and reasoned with him, and they were thrilled when he got over his own prejudices and fears and decided to go. They didn't want to make a big deal of it, or embarrass him when he came in, so they let him pick his own seat in the back and left him alone. They were just beside themselves that he was even there. Then the usher noticed him. Actually, he noticed his hat, and it wasn't in his hands, it was on his head where most folks keep them.

Evidently the man always wore his hat. He was known for wearing his hat. No one could ever remember seeing him without his hat. So when the usher asked him to remove it, the man politely said no. But the usher wouldn't let it go, so he asked him again, and this time he made it a spiritual matter. God would consider it disrespectful and a sin if the man continued to wear his hat in church. But again the man said no. There was nothing left to discuss then. So the usher asked him to leave.

Yep. After years of intense prayers and pleadings, the man who decided to give church another chance had a senseless face-to-face encounter with the church's rule keeper - and over a piece of cloth on his head. Not a song, not a sermon, not even a prayer, all he got was an over zealous man in an usher's coat who took it upon himself to proclaim that wearing a hat in church will send you to Hell. He probably could've found bible for it too.

I got an email from a friend today. She just moved to a new city. It's a small town actually and she's anxious to settle into a new church home. She's found one that she likes, and the people there are showing her love and acceptance. But the pastor is a woman. My friend worries that's a sin. It's also not a Pentecostal church. Her Pentecostal friends tell her that no church is better than a non-Pentecostal one. So now she wonders if she should go to church at all.

What HAVE we done?


my pal

Christian was born on a Sunday, Father's Day Sunday as a matter fact. The doctor was on his way to church when the hospital got hold of him. He came in, assessed the situation, called his wife and told her that he'd meet her there sometime before the sermon. He did too. It was all routine to him. It was a day like no other for me.

Sometimes I catch myself doing the things my dad does. His expressions and mannerisms have been passed down the family line, and I don't even notice it sometimes until it startles me. Dad shakes his head from side to side when he sees someone doing something that isn't smart. So do I. He exhausts that long breath of air through his nose when he's frustrated. Me too. I'm a lot like my dad in a lot of ways, intentional or not.

I look at Christian and sometimes I think I see too much of me. He handles school the way I did. He approaches sports the way I did. He has a lot of my features and a lot of my mannerisms and too much of my attitude. I don't know whether to be proud or try and do something about it. Regardless, he's my son, and I couldn't imagine waking up or laying down without his existence in my world.

He's fifteen as of today. It's hard for me to believe that I've known him that long. We've passed baseballs, footballs and Frisbees. He's embarrassed me on the basketball court and beat the spit out of me on video games too many times. We send MySpace notes and text messages to each other. Sometimes we just sit with the phone to our ears and don't say much. When we're apart it makes us feel closer. Concerts and movies and cruises and roller coaster rides together are all in our past. I'm anxious to see what our future looks like.

Happy birthday Pal!! You're the best I've got. Did I tell you that I love you?



You have to be careful what you say in a forum like this. I'm pretty much left to your mercy when all you see from me is words and letters. Interpretation of my intent is left up to you. I do usually try to consider that it is the reader's mood more so than my own that determines how my thoughts are received. But I can see how it would be easy for someone who's having a bad day to turn a perfectly fun line of text into smart-alack sarcasm. I usually try to tell you if something is intended to be tongue-in-cheek.

Last night a friend mentioned to me that something I wrote here was being discussed on another blog. Then they told me not to read it. They said it would make me mad. So I didn't. I doubt that I would have gotten angry over it though. I most always try to consider that most folks who share their opinions online and from a distance typically only know bits and pieces about whatever it is they're discussing - even though they usually post as though they have all the details from a reliable source. I'm sure they mean no harm. I hope they don't. Their situation is much like mine. I can't read their spirit, just their words.

UPDATE at 8:00 PM

After saying all of that stuff about the easiness of misreading the intent of words online, I read what I wrote and it sounded sorta short. Maybe my reading mood and my writing mood are not synched up. I hope you understand.

I'm grateful for friends who take the time to ask how things are going and show their love. I also appreciate the opportunity to share the things that are on my mind. That's the point of this journal.


fun and games

Word today is that the world's most famous golfer is out for the season. He just barely squeaked out a win at this past weekend's big tournament, and evidently strained something in the process. So the brand that is Tiger Woods is now on a reprieve from the gorgeous greens, lush landscapes, wonderful waters and sparkling sun that meets him at the office every weekend.

I'm not a golfer, but I have lots of friends who are. They tell me that although it sometimes gets competitive on the course, they play 'cause it's fun and relaxing. But, like so many other pastimes and hobbies, what was once a way to escape for a while and enjoy a little exercise and stimulation has turned into an industry. Since so many people were enjoying just doing it, someone somewhere figured out a way to make a profit. Once money becomes an element it's only a matter of time before it evolves into a full-fledged profession with people manipulating the system and a regulating authority because of it.

This week there was a story in the news here in Kentucky about a couple of high school kids who transferred to another district so they'd have a better shot at a college and professional basketball career. No mention as to whether the parent's considered the kid's education. Even more sad, middle and high schools are recruiting like colleges now. It's not uncommon either. It's a constant debate all around the country as parents sell their kids to the highest bidder hoping to breed a star athlete. Reminds me of the thoroughbred horse sales we have here each year.

Kids used to swim and skate for fun. Now it's a professional sport. The object once was getting the bag across the yard without being stopped. A la NFL. Same with baseball and tennis and basketball and soccer and pretty much anything else that requires teamwork or competition. Now that dollars are exchanged, the real sport (competition) is in the front office.

It's just as true in other things. Music, art, dancing, writing, talking and even sex have all become industries. If someone has something to gain and someone is willing to pay, why not charge for it?

I wonder if Tiger or Shaq or whoever is the big baseball star is right now ever wants to go back and just do it for fun.


dad deserved it...

This past week I took a trip back in time. One of the neat, or sometimes not so neat things about performing in front of people for so many years is that some of it was actually captured on video. Thanks to Dean in West Virginia I've been able to relive some great moments of our group on the stage.

A few weeks ago he sent me a copy of one of our group's most proud southern gospel achievements. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s TNN produced and aired a show that featured Southern Gospel Music. Comedians Hicks and Cohagen hosted it, the Harper Agency coordinated the talent and Eddie Crook was the music director. The show was taped inside Studio B in Nashville, the same place they shot Hee Haw.

As a pretty young group we were beyond thrilled when we were asked to be one of the select few artists to be on the show. Then we found out that we were going to be on the very first episode! With the Cathedrals! It was nearly dizzying! It was all happening so fast... There's a really neat Singing News Magazine cover photo of the two groups playing around on the set. There's a story attached to that too. Maybe later.

While watching the video last week it occurred to me what a wonderfully stable and humble man my dad is. During the whole show I was bouncing around and exaggerating way too much, especially for TV. He and Mark stood there with pleasant written all over their faces, smiled and sang.

Last week I got another video from Dean. This one was our group's 1998 set at the National Quartet Convention in Louisville. I just put it in the player and watched it for the first time yesterday. I was actually pleasantly surprised. I usually pick our performances apart like piranha on a feeding frenzy. This time though the singing wasn't bad; our little band had it together; and the songs, mostly written by my brother Mark, were really good. On the other hand, once again I think I made way too much noise.

I don't usually get too emotional when I see things like this. I pay too much attention to the technical stuff to get bogged down with the nostalgia. I almost watch with a cringe because I know I'm probably going to embarrass myself.

This one was different. Before anything else, the thing that captured my attention was my dad's being there. There was something about him on that stage at that event in front of all of those people that struck me as amazingly beautiful. He's never given me a reason to be ashamed, but watching him hold his place and play his part that night made me feel very proud.

He deserved to be on that stage whether anyone else did or not. The thousands of people who had the privilege of hearing his voice, watching his countenance, and seeing his heart every time he took a mic probably don't really know how blessed they were to be in his presence. I got to do it nearly every night for 17 years.

I doubt you'll ever hear his name mentioned when the list of gospel music's pioneers, innovators and great contributors is read, but knowing who Kenneth Bishop is and what he his, what his motivations are and the place that he came from, he is at the very top of mine for things even more noble. When he was younger it never dawned on him that he'd be singing on TV and on stages in front of tens of thousands. Talk to him today and he'll never tell you that he did.



I laughed at Lucy the other day. I love Lucy. In this episode, evidently there weren't supposed to be any pets in the Ricardo apartment. So when Fred and a complaining neighbor came in to find out why they were hearing little barks Lucy tried to hide little Ricky's new puppy in the closet under a hat. You probably know the plot-line. When the puppy yelped Lucy acted like she was singing. When it barked she pretended to sneeze. When the little dog forced the closet door open and escaped it looked like the hat was creeping across the floor. She was finally able to grab the dog and stuff it inside the piano, but she had to act like a terrible player when it started clamoring across the strings. There was no way to hide the little creature that had no clue it needed to be hidden.

It sorta reminded me of a friend who is celebrating his birthday today. He's cute, playful, fun to be around and usually oblivious to all of us explaining his craziness to the peeps in the room who are sitting close enough to witness, but not near enough to understand. That's not a criticism, it's a compliment.

Happy birthday Wade! Please don't grow up.

wv - going and coming

It could be dangerous for me to be sharing with you right now. Maybe a disclaimer saying something like, "Due to a lack of practical or sufficient rest, I shall not be held liable for any stupid or irrational claims or statements." It's not terribly unusual for me to get just a few hours of sleep from time to time, but for some reason I'm taking it a little harder this morning.

I sang in West Virginia last night. Gary Damron always works really hard to put on good programs there. The Coal Field Jamboree is a wonderful old theater in downtown Logan. My family and I sang there several times over the years. I have lots of memories in that place. My job last night was singing a few and serving as emcee. I enjoy that role. It gives me a chance to brag on some of my friends. Among other groups, last night I got to introduce Karen Peck and New River. Of course I had lots of good stuff to say when I brought them on. My favorite thing though about working a night with them in particular, is the conversation we enjoy back stage. I don't think I've ever spent more than a few minutes with Karen and Susan and Ricky and now Devin that we don't end up sharing some the lessons and points that God is teaching us. It usually turns to thanksgiving and worship. It's our little moment before we step into the lights.

Logan is about four hours from Lexington, and the drive is just beautiful, especially on a day like yesterday. Lots of sun, very little road construction, not a single accident to be seen, and a generous supply of peanut M&Ms. I can tolerate those conditions for half a work day. But that was the drive over.

Then I had to drive back. No sun. Still no construction, but two accidents to report. I also did a pretty poor job of rationing my candy on the way into the mountains. My self determination and discipline wouldn't allow me to indulge in another bag. The nine hour (it just seemed like it) drive back wasn't as delightful. Every time I'd see a blue sign advertising a rest area I'd say (yes, actually say out loud to no one but me), "I need to just stop and take a nap." Then I'd say to myself, "No, you'll sleep so much better in your own bed and you won't have to wake up later and drive." At this point I couldn't tell which voice was wearing the halo and which one had horns.

I did end up driving all the way home. I walked in the door around 4:00 this morning. I didn't plan to get up so early today though. The phone calls and text messages started around 7:00, so why not? Might as well get started. I have friends coming in from out of town tonight, and the house hasn't had a good, deep cleaning in at least three weeks. I'll do that today. I don't enjoy doing it, but when it's over I'm always glad I did. Sorta like the drive home last night.


reflect, relive. regret? refuse!

My "retirement" from public ministry has allowed me the new luxury of saying some formerly taboo things out loud. Back when I was living off the music I didn't feel the liberty to let people know that I fell down a lot. My "brand" was the always happy, always sure, always feisty, always got-it-together singer/minister who had enough of God in his life to avoid really human moments.

My wife had to be godly, my marriage had to be perfect, my kids had to be well behaved, my thoughts had to be holy, my clothes had to be modest, and my hair had to be trimmed. My theology had to be conservative/evangelical/Protestant/pro-American, but I couldn't be Pentecostal in Baptist churches or eternally secure in Pentecostal ones, and I had to read from the King James Version. I had to be happy to be singing regardless of where and be graciously grateful for any size honorarium. I had to be super spiritual, keep political opinons to myself, have godly answers for difficult questions, a quick response to every heckle, and a ready song or prayer for every mood. I had to remember everyone's name, wear a "natural" smile and keep my habits under control or hidden.

Really, all I had to do was stay with the script. Otherwise, who would buy my music? Even worse, who'd trust my message if they knew I was a struggling man in a struggling relationship who was really more interested in being adored by his fans than respected by his family? Would my public still love me if they knew I wore ratty shorts and dingy t-shirts and no shoes at all when I wasn't on the stage or the bus? Would it make a difference if they knew I sometimes question whether God was the one who "authorized" only one bible? Would the Baptists burn my recordings and cancel dates if they saw me worshipping with my Catholic friends?

My mistake was claiming something in public I was never able to attain in private. Even during all of those years when I was beating myself up for trying and failing I knew that there was no way I could be the person at home that I was portraying on stage.

At the risk of sounding like even more of a hypocrite's hypocrite, I want you to know that my desire to serve God and share His goodness and grace was always genuine, just not always at the forefront. Not all of my motivation was disingenuous.

Nowadays I am thrilled to be where I am doing the things I'm doing away from all of the industry expectations. There are other days that I reflect, relive, regret and refuse. I reflect on the positive impact I've had on others, and the people who will be in Heaven because God used what He had. In my reflecting I sometimes relive those moments that look so put-on now and that brings feelings of great regret. It's then that I have to refuse the temptation to beat myself up over something that cannot be changed. Besides, grace has probably fixed things that I'm not even aware of.

an honest living, I hope

Since I've worked in both the professional performance and political fields I've noticed quite a few similarities between the two. Like many other gospel singers and most politicians, I've lived a good deal of my adult life in public view. I can't speak for any of the above, but sometimes there is that part of me that wishes I'd never stepped on a stage.

As big a ham as I am sometimes, most days I prefer to avoid the spotlight. Maybe it's because of the scrutiny that's attached. Maybe it's just because I prefer to let others who really want it have it. I've enjoyed the applause and the pats on the back. I've had my picture taken with thousands of "fans" over the years and developed a really stylish autograph that works on just about anything. I've seen my face on TV and recordings and billboards and t-shirts and trading cards and plates and buttons and hats and more.

As much as a southern gospel singer can be famous, I have been. When the really popular peeps in the business know your name, even better, know your number, you sorta figure you're one of them. It's a place that a lot of the aspiring want to be. But if you're going to be, be careful.

Even back when our group was enjoying great success I'd ask myself from time to time if we were selling something that should be given away. Were the folks who managed our datebook really pimps? I'll say here that of the many good people we had business relationships with, the men and women at our booking agency were absolutely the most honest, reliable people of integrity of them all. Even though I brought them up, they are not the subject here.

Maybe there was something underneath everything that I wasn't aware of back then. Maybe our music, our performances and our presence was the product. Maybe it wasn't the message we were selling after all. If that's the case I feel relieved. Maybe everyone else understood it but me. Maybe I'm telling on myself for saying I really believed we were offering sacred, eternal things only to people who could afford it.

I don't question the intent of anyone who ministers professionally. I certainly can't pass final judgement on their motivations. Maybe they've successfully come to grips with making a living using music, performance and personality that just happens to speak to deeply spiritual things - sorta like the free Twinkie that you get only if you buy the other two.

I can't imagine I'm the only person who's asked these sorts of questions or had these kinds of thoughts. Maybe saying it draws attention to the elephant in the room. Maybe ignoring it allows the emperor to keep struttin' his stuff.


my kingdom for a tomato!

I love Mexican food. I'm all about the enchiladas and the tacos and the tamales and the rice and the beans. But as far as I'm concerned, the best part of the fiesta is the salsa. The way they lay that pretty basket of chips and that little dish of tomatoey goodness on the table - you'd think it was free. I've often wondered if I'd get a Spanish ear full if I didn't order anything and just ate the appetizer.

Most days I don't have time to enjoy a nice Mexican lunch. My middle-of-the-day is pretty busy, but from time to time I do have a chance to speed by my favorite Mexican-on-the-run place for the bagged version. Qdoba makes a big ol' burrito that you can get two days out of if you treat it right. It's not a bad investment if you're on a tight budget. Seven bucks for two days - not bad.

Today though we had issues. You're probably aware of the current problems America is having with tomatoes. Word is a few folks have taken ill after eating one, or at least a bite or two of one. This has prompted the folks in Washington to ban them. For our own good we're being protected from tomatoes. I'm sure the poor people who exposed the problem would've appreciated the concern a few weeks ago, and I certainly don't think of them without whispering a prayer. I'm thinking though that the move is as politically motivated as it is authentic concern.

I've got a good idea we were just couple of tomato victims away from a Bush administration critic accusing the White House of just not caring about the plight of everyday fruit and vegetable eaters. It wouldn't surprise me still to hear an angry Democrat on Fox or CNN claiming to have proof of a conspiracy. So, what else could they do but ban tomatoes. It probably saved a few businesses from lawsuits too.

Personally, I'm a tomato junkie. When I was a kid I used trot off to the garden and eat 'em right off the vine. Sometimes they'd be really warm from the summer sun when I'd pick one, wipe it with my t-shirt if I was wearing one and bite into it like an apple. Other kids flagged down the ice cream truck.

You can put a tomato on just about anything and make it better, but some things just aren't right without them. That would be salsa, and today there was none.

What I wouldn't give right now for a plump, juicy, bright red tomato.



It had to be back around 1989 or 1990 the first time I remember meeting Kirk. I'd heard the Cathedral Quartet sing "Step Into the Water" and gillion times, and thought the guy singing tenor was awesome. But I never really paid close attention to who was writing and who was singing back then unless it was somebody named Rambo.

Kirk and Roger are brothers. Debra is Roger's wife. When Kirk left the Cathedrals in 1983 Roger and Debra left the group they were singing with and put together a group called the Talleys. They worked as the opening act for a lot of the Cathedrals shows. This put them in front of lots and lots of people right off the new bat, and these were the most loyal of gospel music fans.

About six years later, after he heard our group perform at an awards show, Glen Payne of the Cathedral Quartet asked the group's booking agent to start scheduling our group, the Bishops, on as many of their dates as possible. The very first one was in Dayton, Ohio at the Memorial Hall. It was a big place with a real neat history in gospel music. All the biggies had sung here, and here we were on the bill with the Cathedrals and their warm-up act. I don't know if it ever occurred to me that we were there to be the warm up to the warm up. It didn't matter though. This was one of our first opportunities to play in the big leagues.

Two very distinct things I remember about that night. George Younce took it upon himself to mentor and teach us young'ns like we were his own children. We sat around his chair backstage and listened to years of wisdom until the building manager said time was up.

I also met Kirk Talley that night. Through his crazy life and mine we've remained dear friends. Only the honestly broken can really recognize others who are there or on the edge. That's why some never get it. They've never been broken honestly. (Ask me what the difference is.)

Today is Kirk's birthday. Twenty years of doing your thing has been good to you and wonderful for us. Happy birthday! I hope all of your surprises are really, really good ones.

when did this happen??

I had to take Christian back home last night. For the record, this is the absolute most difficult part of my life. The drive from my place to his is about an hour. We always enjoy that part of the ride that we get to spend together, but when I drop him off and I pull away from that house where he sleeps and lives and does homework the task becomes trying not to cry.

I usually do things to distract myself. Sometimes the radio does the job. Sometimes I roll down all of the windows. I love the wind in the truck. At least until a bug or a bee decides to join. Then the drive gets really crazy. One of us has to go, and it's my truck. I knew a guy once who was doing the same thing with all the windows down and an owl flew into his car! I think the bird won that one.

It's while I was driving home last night that a couple of things occurred to me. First off, Blake Shelton's version of "Home" is almost identical to Michael Buble's. Second, locusts only work the first shift, crickets take second and third. Third (ok, so more than a couple), we're already at that time of year when it doesn't get completely dark until almost 10:00 at night - at least around here.

I'm gonna lobby my congressman to do something about time. In my opinion this summer is coming and going way too quickly. Didn't we just set our clocks ahead a week or so ago? Didn't we just cover the plants so the frost wouldn't bite? My back is still a little sore from all the leaf raking. It couldn't have been that long ago.

The guy who promises to slow things down gets my vote for president.

Christian's voice is deeper than mine now. He asked to use my razor this past weekend! Casie has been driving for almost four years. She's declaring a major soon. When did this happen?


not today, at least not yet

Yesterday was so inspiring. I woke up early with lots of enthusiasm for getting things done. The day ended up being pretty productive. I'm not doing as well today.

I was supposed to sell all of my unneeded worldly goods in a yard sale today. Some friends across town are having one with all of their neighbors. It's their annual community come-and-get-it-yard-sale-weekend. I was asked to bring my stuff and join them.

So I got up into the attic yesterday and rifled through a couple of dozen boxes. I found all kinds of neat stuff, most of it that I'd forgotten about. I've not really lived here long enough for anything to be a too distant memory, but I did run across a few things that brought back some sweet feelings. It's hard to let things go when your emotions are attached to them. But packing them away in the attic is no way to treat them either. Besides, I need the room and the cash.

So, after spending a couple of hours getting it all down, it occurred to me around one o'clock this morning that if I'm gonna get this stuff cleaned up and properly priced I'm going to have to stay up all night long. The official start time was 6:30 IN THE MORNING! Time was running out. I started asking God for rain. Surely they had a rain date. Maybe a week's worth of delay will give me the time I need. I finally gave up around 2:30 this morning.

No luck on the rain. It was a selfish thought anyway. But I've decided to wait still. My mom and some of my sisters-in-law are going to have a yard sale of their own in a week or two. I'll pack my goods in the truck and make like Mr. Haney then.

Since I begged off on the sale this morning, I decided to try to get in some writing. I've been feeling inspired lately, and that is the best time to put the pen to work. So I took my stuff back down to the lake for a little quiet writing time. Strike two.

While I was down at the dock a neighbor came by to chat. I told him I was working on some songs and came to the water for inspiration. It usually works. The breeze, the ripple of the waves, the ducks and geese, the sun... I didn't feel it today though. I was telling him how lots of song writers can sit in a writing room and know just the right thing to put on the paper. I've done it that way, but I always feel it more natural in a place like this. I'm not sure why I wasn't feeling it today, but I'm not going to push it. The message is too sacred.

Since my son Christian is hanging with me this weekend we're gonna do something fun. We may go to the park to walk. Well, I'll walk while he rides the bike. We'll throw the baseball, maybe shoot some hoops, toss the Frisbee, see a movie later. Who knows...


friday morning this and that

Today's thoughts are a bit hodgepodgy. (not even a word)

Knowing last night that I didn't have to get up super early this morning meant that I could look forward to sleeping in a bit today. Not so though. Like usual, I woke up early. I usually can't get back to sleep when that happens. I've tried, but my busy mind and nervous energy won't let me. It worked out well though. I always feel like I've missed the most creative, productive and energizing part of the day if I sleep past 7:30 or 8:00. Since the pace was a bit slower, I enjoyed coffee and breakfast, the newspaper (online), Chris Brown on the Today Show, and a good couple of hours of song writing.

My favorite place to write is at the lake. Being able to take my pad and pen and recorder down to the water is very refreshing to me. It's about a one minute walk to the dock, and the breeze this morning was fairly brisk, which was good considering it was already nearly 80 degrees by 8:30. I've had a couple of strong ideas bouncing around in my head and in my writer's pad for a few days now. This morning was a great chance to do something with them. One song is coming across a bit angry though, so I'm backing away, but plan to come back to it later with fresh eyes and hopefully more compassion.

I'll get to spend this weekend with my kids. YEA! I'm gonna run pick up Christian later this afternoon, and Casie told me last night she's hoping to come hang out with me tomorrow. I always get excited when I know I'll get to be a daddy in person.

Some friends are participating in their community yard sale tomorrow. They've invited us to bring our stuff and play too. I need to get up into the attic and get all of my unsold left overs from last year back out and ready for the market again. Surely someone has a use for a ceiling fan with a missing blade - or two. I can probably find a few old Bishops albums too. I'm not a yard sale shopping fan, but I'll sell my old stuff to anyone who is.

I'm singing in Frankfort, Kentucky this Sunday morning. A friend of mine who is a former co-worker is the pastor there. Several weeks ago he asked me if I'd come sing a few songs during their Sunday morning worship. It'll be fun.

I've invited all of my MySpace friends to come join us here. The environment is a little less cluttered, and I am able to share a bit more freely in this space. So, welcome MySpacers!!

Told ya it was hodgepodgy. (still not a word)


parkin' and bikin'

My friend Joel Lindsey (see the link to the right) has been enjoying life in California. On his blog/journal he tells us about the sun, the sand, the ocean, the palms, the mountains and the tucked away towns he gets to pass through on his journeys. It really sounds a lot like Kentucky to me, minus the sand and the ocean and the palms. OK, so Joel gets to play everyday in places that I only get to visit. I'm not gonna say no fair 'cause I know how hard he's worked to be where he is. Of course, it's not like he's retired or anything. He's writing and doing business as hard as ever, just in sunny southern California.

Today he wrote about the crazy cost of gas out there. It looks like he's paying about a half a dollar more for a gallon that I am. He also mentioned parking his car and straddling the bike more. That's what I've been doing. I work too far from home to ride my bike, so the truck takes me to the office and back. But when I get home and throw the keys on the counter I don't pick 'em up until the sun has had a chance to set and dawn again. My trips to the market and the post office and most everywhere else are made on the bicycle. I even bike to the park where I do my nightly walk.

I like Joel. He's fun AND classy. He's a remarkable song writer and a dynamic encourager. He's also smart. He's parking the car.

P.S. Scroll on down for my solution to the butt-ugly gas problem.

P.P.S. If someone wants to donate a motorcycle I can park the truck for good.

in the morning...

Early morning is my favorite time to create, especially if I've had good rest the night before. I can tell the difference too. If I've tossed a lot or if I had to get up in the middle of the night (you know why) and my rest has been interrupted I wake up less inclined to write happy or positive thoughts. The songs I work on at those times seem to be less about God and more about me.

When I'm tired or my mood is down I also tend to think angrier thoughts about I'm-holier-than-you-Christians who want to keep God all to themselves.

Waking up refreshed and alive makes me feel as though I have something to contribute, something that might just help someone somewhere with something. With millions of voices and just as many songwriters and journalers, I'm sure my words or ideas won't be the loudest or most clever, or even the most effective, but maybe a thought expressed with a melody or in a writing can be coupled with someone else's or more to form an assurance to the person who needs some love.

I slept well last night. I'm anxious to see what develops.


the wind in my hair

These outrageous gas prices have been good for my health lately. Unless it is absolutely necessary to drive the truck, I've been using bike to get my errands done. I'm actually starting to like it now that my tail bone is getting used to it. I always feel invigorated after a good ride, and I'm doing something about that gosh awful carbon footprint. Of course the dollar savings are pretty sweet too.

As many times as I've driven the roads of Lexington, Kentucky, there is so much I've never noticed before. For one thing, things look much crisper and detailed at fifteen miles an hour. You see more and notice more when you travel slow. Some of it is good. Some of it is not.

You smell things on an open bike that you don't in a closed up truck or car. Charcoal grills and blossoms and dog poop come to mind. And unless all your vehicle is geared down really low and all the windows are down you don't hear the kids in the park or the birds in the trees or the neighbor's on the porch.

It's like all of the senses that have been dulled by the radio and the air conditioning and the cell phone come alive again when you get out in the open spaces. The same old street looks a lot different.

The exercise is good. The quietness is good. The aromas and sounds and sights are marvelous. I think the thing I like most about parking the car and puttin' it on two wheels is the wind in my hair.



You'd have a hard time calling me wealthy. I'm not hungry, but I'm certainly not rolling in the dough either. Several years ago when I was singing for a living our group recorded a live set and I was documented there saying something like, "We feel very wealthy having so many good friends. Just know we may need to trade some of you in on a bus payment one day." (Maybe you had to be there.) But I still feel rich that way.

Several years ago I made a new friend from Brazil. His name is Paulo, and he'd already been around the world a time or two before he settled in Lexington, Kentucky. He's one of the most fun and interesting friends I have.

There's a gigantic old sanitarium in Louisville that is supposedly honest-to-goodness haunted. During the fright season it is opened up for tours. It's a popular attraction and the wait to get in is sometimes three hours or more. This past Halloween Paulo and Zac and Ronnie and I decided to drive over and live a little. I didn't know until then how jumpy Paulo was. All you had to do was say, "Hey Paulo." When he'd say, "What?" You say, "Boo!" He jumped every time. By the time he survived the haunted hospital he was a sloppy bag of nerves.

I don't know how many languages he speaks now since he's always learning new ones. I do know he could probably walk down Main Street Disneyworld and hold an intelligent conversation with just about anyone from anywhere. And as versed as he is in a variety of languages, he's just about as familiar with all of the cultures that go along. I take that back. Actually, he's probably experienced, first-hand, more cultures than he can actually speak the language. That's really saying something. I think he told me once that there is only one continent he has not set foot on and that's just because he didn't think about packing his long underwear.

I like talking to Paulo. His English is good, but he doesn't mess around with peripheral words. He speaks directly and sometimes it's a blast just listening in when he's talking to someone, especially someone who is just meeting him. When Paulo says something really astounding and the other person says, "Oh, shut up..." instead of, "that's amazing," Paulo just shuts up. There's a certain cuteness to the naivetee that sorta reaction generates.

The really neat thing about Paulo is his value of friendship. As much as he travels, and with all of the things he gets to see and experience and taste, he often tells me and his other friends here at home how much he longs to be here where we are and be a part of our conversations. Of course, when we're talking and he's in London or Australia or Saudi Arabia, we're usually talking about him. When he comes home we want to hear about his travels. He wants to know what we've been doing.

Today is Paulo's birthday. Last I heard he was in Brazil visiting his family. I sent him a text message this morning and within a minute or two he replied. I don't know how old he is, but he's experienced a lifetime worth of neat things already. Happy birthday my friend!!