dnc 3

That was a big ol' place where Senator Barack Obama talked last night. History was probably made on at least a few levels I think. I doubt that a candidate has ever accepted his party's nomination for president live in front of so many people. I doubt that so many people have ever had to be so intensely magnetronned, wanded, secured and frisked before - at least here in our country. And of course, for the first time ever, a major political party has nominated an African-American as its candidate. I'm proud of what we've accomplished in that regard. The fireworks were appropriate I think.

I sorta got annoyed at all of the uber-conservatives and talk-too-muches who spent a whole day making an issue of the staging at the stadium. Of all the substantive issues to take on, they snipped at the columns and the flooring the man would stand on. I'm all about discussing platforms, but the one the party adopts matters most to me.

I didn't get to see the doings live. I was occupied with other things and had to watch it later. Not sure why, but it was sort of deflating knowing that I wasn't witnessing things as they were happening. I made it a point to not read the spin or the punditry before I listened for myself. I prefer to be my own filter when it comes to politics. Mainly because I haven't found anyone else who has my eclectic point of political view.

About the speech, I'm always impressed when I hear Barack Obama speak. He is inspiring and motivating. He causes me to think not only about what I think, but why I think what I think. He inspires me to examine some of the things I've said I believe in. I'm not saying I've changed my mind on much of anything, but it's always good to know what your foundation is. I know people who are Republican or Democrat and can't even tell you why, other than that they didn't know there was a choice. "Daddy said we're poor so we must be Democrats." "The preacher said Jesus was a Republican."

Senator Obama said some really good things. At times I nodded and agreed and even applauded his ideas. I loved it when he took that candidate stance with the proper and deliberate trigger words. Then he started quoting Scripture and went into his "preacher cadence." I was imagining the "amens!" and the "that's rights!" from the faithful. But even as the politician I thought he offered something for the millions who live week-to-week fearing a simple illness. Then there are those of us who worry about another military attack. I get conflicted.

It was a big event for sure. In politics everything is choreographed to the smallest detail. The proportion of confetti; the color of the fireworks; the song that immediately follows the strategically delivered last line of the speech; the timing of the family, then the running mate on the stage; the waves and who stands where. I thought it was cute that the whole Obama family wardrobe was color coordinated. Someone was clever.

I get lots of inquiries from folks who want to know my thoughts on politics in general and the presidential race in particular. I'm gonna give the Republicans a chance to talk next week. Then I'll open the floor for questions.


dnc 2

There for a minute I wasn't sure if the video was a tribute or a lead in. Then, when it was over she walked out on that stage like she was really the candidate, strolling from one side to the other, waving to everyone and pointing to a select few. Her trademark pant suit and determination to let the crowd cheer as long as they wanted. The only thing missing was the confetti. I thought it was kinda neat.

I know quite a few folks who don't like her, but you didn't have to to feel that Hillary Clinton fired up the party faithful at the Democratic National Convention in Denver last night. She gave the kind of speech that die hard partisans love to hear. One of my jobs in past political campaigns has been to coach and advise the candidate on delivery, body language and staging. Somebody else was responsible for the message and substance. In my past professional opinion, Hillary did well last night.

I flipped through the channels and spent a few minutes on every network in our local cable lineup that was covering the convention. I wanted to see how each one approached the event. The big three didn't jump in until later in the night, but it was all DNC all the time for all the others that make news their business - and a few others. I don't ever remember BET covering a political convention before. It'll be interesting to see if they spend as much time with the other party next week.

There are so many talkers on TV these days. CNN has their "analysts," Fox News has their "contributors." ABC, CBS and every one of the NBC networks all have their "political experts." The competition among them is as crazy to watch as the official stuff we tuned in for. All of them, especially the two angry ones, are jockeying for bragging rights and camera time with the important peeps. I think CNN won out this time. Their set up is in the middle of the convention floor with a perfect view of the stage and unrestricted access to the VIPs. FOX is about a mile above the Mile High City in the arena rafters. The roles will likely be reversed next week though when they become the official voice of the GOP meeting.

If you want to get the best coverage without all of the over-the-top, non-stop analysis, spin and commentary, turn on CSPAN and enjoy a convention without all of the filters.


dnc 1

I'm not the political junkie I used to be. As a matter of fact, the thing that keeps me interested these days is personally knowing a lot of the players, having friends who work for them, and being aware of the behind the scenes goings on. Of course I'm concerned about national security, social security, the economy, the environment, civil rights, education and health care and stuff. But put 50 dems and 50 repubs in a room together and you'll likely still have at least 80 different ideas on how to fix things. Some of them won't even think anything's broken. And the ideas don't always come down to political ideologies.

Still being interested in how elected officials get their jobs, I'll probably watch a lot of both political conventions these next two weeks.

The scene inside the Pepsi Arena in Denver this week is pretty impressive. They've turned that great big room into one huge stage. How cool! The job for any show promoter these days is to appeal to as many of your senses as possible. Not being there, I'm not sure about how the room feels or smells or tastes, but it looks and sounds good on TV. Kudos to the event creator and crew.

One of the things I always try to remember when I look at political campaigns and their party conventions is that people write speeches and people recite speeches. The person who does the drafting doesn't necessarily have to believe their own words. We as the public don't tend to hold the writers to their own ideas. We scrutinize the talker. We look for that something on their face, in their eyes that tells us whether or not we can take them at the writer's words.

The pundits today are dissecting last nights opening of the Democratic National Convention. Who was sincere? Who wasn't? What was real? What was fake? Was there something wrong with Senator Kennedy's right arm? I mean, he did wave with his left. And Michelle Obama blinked a lot. All the people who are paid to beat up Democrats woke up this morning with plenty to work with. But, the folks who are obligated to to make the country as blue as possible do to. Personally, I felt day one of their convention was nothing gained-nothing lost.


good sports

I usually just pay attention to the opening and closing ceremonies, but this time around I think I saw more of the Olympics than I can ever remember. I've heard more talk about the games among my friends too. There has been a lot of real interest, and it has actually been pretty exciting. The folks in Beijing absolutely blew me and the rest of the world away with the way they hosted the nations. And that opening party!!!

How in the world they did some of that stuff is completely baffling. People were dancing on their heads in mid air without strings or upside down hair. Stuff just appeared out of no where, and not little stuff either. I'm talking five story buildings just popped up out of the earth that just happened to be a stadium floor sized hi-def TV screen. I forget how many billions of dollars I heard they spent on it, but man, it was impressive. Good luck London.

There was the obligatory Chinese deception of course, the computer generated fireworks, and the pretty little girl who pretended to sing during the opening ceremony while the real talent was hidden away. This from the country whose philosophy preaches that there be no social divisions. Then there were the reported underage Chinese gymnasts. I say if a twelve year old can compete against other older athletes and still win gold they probably deserve those medals. Still, playing by the rules is only fair and right. Then again, we send millionaire pro basketball players to an amateur sporting event and run over the competition. Did you know that the US Olympic Committee actually pays athletes for each medal they win? Gold = $25,000. Silver = $15,000. Bronze = $10,000. There are also scholarships and health insurance and other things. Even non-pro sports are big business.

I've watched more athletic events these past few days than I'll usually watch in a year - outside of Kentucky football and basketball. It's hard to find a good water polo match on TV. Unless you keep ESPN on 24/7 you usually don't get to see table tennis and synchronized swimming which I think is the most fascinating thing in the world. There ya have eight ladies literally suspended in water that is remarkably like the kind I sink in - even when I'm holding lungs full of air. They bob up and down, twirl, flip, do somersaults, and swim on their heads in perfectly synchronized form. They float flawlessly and they're NOT ALLOWED TO TOUCH THE BOTTOM OF THE POOL!! It's like magic.

Tyson Gay has been called the fastest man in the world. That's saying something. And since he's from Lexington we were especially excited about his prospects in China. Things didn't go so well though. A series of mishaps and injuries leading up to and during the games sorta left us all disappointed. Elaine Breeden was another Lexingtonian in the Orient for the games. She came home with a silver medal for being on the US women's swimming team that came in second in the 4 by 100 medley relay. She didn't swim in the final, but gosh, being on the team and getting there was no small accomplishment. I'd be awfully proud of her if she were mine.

The big news for most of the US was Michael Phelps. I don't think I've ever screamed and cheered for a swimmer before. The race he barely won was exhausting for me. I didn't breath the whole time he was in the water. I almost drowned on my couch. Then his last race as part of the relay team was just as dangerous. All by myself in the middle of the living room floor I pounded the carpet, gritted my teeth, pulled my hair and closed one eye while they backstroked, breaststroked, butterflied and freestyled to the finish line. It felt like we, er they swam for hours. I had my congressman on hold in case I needed to file a protest or something. Our boys won so I just thanked him for his service and hung up. I was too exhausted to even celebrate when the thing was done. Whew!

I heard today that gym memberships have been up lately. Whoever knows such things tells reporters that it's because of the Olympic games, more specifically Olympic athletes. I'm not gonna pretend I can run, jump, swim, flip, hit, kick, box, lift, balance, dance, throw or endure like a lifelong trained athlete. You'll find me on a milk carton before I make the Wheaties box. But I'm awfully proud of the young men and women who've found their dream and made it their life's goal to pursue excellence. It doesn't come cheap, and the sacrifice is great. That's the part I hope to resemble for myself and encourage in others. I hope that's what it means to be a good sport.


it's not my call

A few weeks ago I saw a video on YouTube. In it a guy named Marjoe, who was a famous traveling preacher back in the 1940s and 1950s, tells his story. Later in his life, after his successful ministry years, he starred in a documentary in which he admits that he was only in the Gospel business to make a nice living. He'd learned the crucial combination of using the right words with the right inflection and the right emotion at the right time to move a crowd and even convince them that God was among them. Evidently he was good at it. He had lots of followers and even his closest staff members had no idea of his real intentions.

Yesterday another great Christian voice confessed that he hasn't been honest with us. For the last couple of years Michael Guglielmucci has been telling the world that he is dying of cancer when in fact he's not. In the middle of his "battle" he wrote a powerful song that has become a source of strength and peace for thousands of others who are fighting things terminal and incurable. Somehow he was even able to force his body to react to the non existent disease and treatments as though he was actually ill. He put himself through a lot of pain for reasons we may never understand.

If there's anything good about these schemes, it's that these guys actually told the Gospel truth when they stood on the stage. God has them figured out. I don't have to. He even had someone mention it in the Bible. (Philippians 1:15-18) The Message is pure and powerful regardless of the mouthpiece. Give that much thought and it'll mess up everything you thought you knew about "knowing them by their fruits." (Matthew 7:20)



I've been jotting down thoughts and journaling my ideas for a long time now. A few of them have made it to print in magazines and newspapers and books, and some others have been published on a variety of web sites and newsletters. Then there are the ones that have never been seen. They don't need to be. If they do ever show up I hope I'm long dead and gone. I won't care if somebody pees on my grave.

Beginning in September I'll be a contributing writer for sgmradio.com. No guarantees it'll have a direct connection with gospel music, but hopefully someone somewhere will find the monthly thoughts useful.


so naive

Like everyone else who'll confess, I'll admit that I'm a person full of faults. No doubt about it, I have my own list of regrettable moments. My comfort though is in knowing that you and I are remarkably alike, and God gets it. Personally I don't know anyone who has all parts of all things together all the time. If I do find myself being really impressed with someone who seems to be right nigh-o-perfect, all I have to do is catch them on HDTV. Truth under bright lights is not always kind.

We all live in the company of the not so perfect. As ugly as my own issues are sometimes, one thing I'm mostly glad about is that God has allowed me the ability to give others the benefit of the doubt. It bites me in the butt sometimes, but I'm still more about trusting and forgiving than holding bitterness. What good would that do?

Several years ago our group was scheduled to sing on a really big concert way up north. We were excited about it. We'd only been traveling for a few years and this would be new territory for us. Exciting! Being our big date for the week, we'd routed our whole weekend tour around it. Then, just a few days before the show, the promoter called to say he was going to have to cancel - not the whole show, just our part. I told him that cancelling the date would keep us from being able to pay bills, so he said he'd send us half of our agreed fee and put us on a future, yet-to-be-named show. I was relieved and told the rest of our guys of his kind way of cancelling. Someone spoke up and said we'd never see the money. I told him to have more faith in people. He told me I was naive. OK, he was right. That sort of thing happens from time to time. You hate it when it does, but you try not make it the determiner of your mood. You'll end up angry all the time if you do.

I've made a few life and business decisions that I regret. Sometimes I've counted on a person's sense of fairness or decency or compassion and learned a lot about their heart in the end. My naivety again. It always stings a little, and the disappointment is emotional, but I hurt mostly for them. If their desire for dollars and the things it brings is more important than knowing they've done the honest and honorable thing, all they have is things, and without honor. That type of greed usually comes back around in a harsh way anyway.

I've often said that I really don't wish to be anyone's example. My life and my thoughts are probably not the model for a person who desires to be more like Christ and not so much like, well, me. But I do want to be like him. I want to think like him and act like him and care like him. I want to, but I'm not so good at it all the time. That's not a good enough reason not to try though. I don't know. Maybe I'm just naive.


old blue

Ever had to leave your car with a repair shop or garage for a few days? Even though the temporary replacement is nice enough, there's a special feeling of ownership, maybe even kinship, when you slide back into the driver's seat of your old familiar traveling companion and clutch the wheel that's yours again. It's like having an old friend back from a long trip. It just feels good.

Say you've never gotten that attached to a motor and wheels? OK. No big deal. But I have, and I like the feeling I get when I put my own tush on my own upholstery. The new stuff is nice. The familiar stuff is comforting.

For a good part of my adult life I've been getting around in a blue 1993 Ford Ranger 4x4 pickup truck. It's been a reliable and favorite way of mine to get from here to there for years now. From time to time I'd opt for a more comfortable ride and park it, thinking I'll keep it just in case I need to haul a load of something around. I've even given a little thought to trading it in for something newer, more stylish and less embarrassing. But the thoughts of looking out the window and not being able to see my faithful little ride sorta makes me sad. We've been through a lot, me and that old truck.

When life went crazy for me back in 2001 Old Blue and I would often set out to just ride around and go no where in particular. We weren't sure where we'd end up. Sometimes we'd find ourselves in the middle of nothing but wide open space. I'd just shut her down and let her rest while we listened to nature's noise and the little pops and pings from under her hood.

I can't tell you the times I've closed up the windows and spilled my anger to the poor girl. She had to be relieved when I'd roll 'em back down and scream at the wind. Old Blue has been a friend indeed. She's witnessed the birth of so many of my songs, was the first to hear the good ones and the only one to hear the rest. She's listened in on private phone conversations, endured long traveling show rehearsals, bad jokes and all, and accepted with grace her role as catcher of splattered ketchup, stale fries and my favorite peanut M&Ms. She knows more about me than anyone I can think of, some stuff too embarrassing to mention. If she wanted to take me down she could. I've always trusted her though, especially when she's carried Casie and Christian, the most precious cargo in the world.

I've pushed her too. But she never, ever let me down. When the snow was falling and others were sitting still, Blue and I were still moving. As much as I'm sure she wanted to protest, she always got me where I needed to be and back. Even on those long cross country singing trips. No doubt the bigger, newer, prettier and more modern machines had to wonder how an old gal like this could keep up, especially after all those miles. She did it though like a trooper.

Several years ago I went to school to pick up my daughter. She'd been learning to write her name and decided to surprise me with her autograph. You have to squint to see it now, but just on the inside of the passenger door is the faded signature of a grade school kid who scribbled "Casie" as best she could strapped to a seat in stop-and-go traffic. Just to the right of it is a nick and a crack in the vinyl door covering. That's where her pre-school brother banged out a permanent place in the old truck's history with his new plastic hammer that wasn't supposed to have the wherewithal to do that sort of damage. Little personality marks and tributes to trips small and large make this great old ride more of a friend than anything else. And she never complained.

I've been spending a lot of time on the road these last few weeks. A trip to southern Illinois this past Sunday night, then what was supposed to be a quick drive down to east Tennessee yesterday have added more miles and a little unexpected drama to mine and Old Blue's relationship. I hate to say it, but I'm afraid I may have enjoyed my last adventure with my four-wheeled mistress.

It's not like she hasn't seen this sort of terrain before. I kept her on the main roads, and didn't push her too hard, but evidently this time around it was more than she could take. About half way up one of east Tennessee's beautiful, but steep mountain roads she gave a final grunt and slipped into perpetual neutral. Me being the selfish human in this relationship, I was most concerned with getting myself, and her I guess, out of other people's way. I was grateful when a handful of the locals jumped in behind her and pushed us on up the hill to a wide spot on the edge of the road.

I've spent the last several days mulling my choices. Truthfully, I really don't have any. Just to get her towed back home would cost nearly a thousand dollars. A new transmission will get her moving, but again I have to consider the cost. So, right now she's sitting at a friend's place in east Tennessee waiting for me to let her go. I've had a few inquiries on Craig's List. It doesn't seem an appropriate way to end a relationship, but today's climate leaves me little choice. I have pictures. I will always remember. I hope the person who drives her next will treat her with the dignity and respect she deserves. I'll miss my Old Blue.



Dude! I'm feeling groggy. Honestly, dude...

I had a doctor's appointment yesterday. It was a six month follow-up from a previous visit. As it turned out, I was having one of my major headaches on Monday, and it lasted all through the night, so I took it to the doctor with me yesterday. After playing twenty questions he decided to prescribe something to help me relax. Not a mood manipulator, but a muscle relaxer. The nature of the headaches, origin and all, made it necessary.

The doctor made it very clear how many of the tiny pills I needed to take, so I followed his directions precisely. Things were good last night. Really good. I slept well and I woke up not feeling a thing - not a thing - I don't feel anything - good or bad - just nothing.

I have meetings at the office today. I need to be lucent and ready to speak up. I'm a little worried about how I'll come across. Heck, right now I'm a little concerned about getting there. Good thing is, if I don't make it, I don't think I'll feel the impact.


the patience of dad

Gosh! I love being a daddy. When I got home from my two weeks of traveling last week I was all giddy about a whole week of having my son Christian around. I don't get that very often, so it was a real treat and joy for me.

Not a slam on anyone who doesn't have or want children, but I can't fathom even in a tiny way the possibility of this earth without the presence of Christian and Casie Bishop in it. They're nearly grown up now, and sometimes a day or two will go by before we get to spend any meaningful time together, either in person or on the phone (emails, MySpace messages and texting doesn't count - although we do a lot of it). But I still cherish my moments in their presence.

I have some friends who are not good with kids, the younger ones at least. Sometimes they get down right pissy about it. One of them doesn't' hesitate to speak up and say something to the parents or the server if a small child is making noises in a restaurant. Another one mimics the sounds they make. If the kids screams, he screams. I know another guy who will ask to be seated somewhere else if the host tries to seat him next to a family with kids. He's also been known to walk out of a movie theater and ask for his money back if there are a lot of kids in it. One time we went to see a movie that was made for kids. I don't know who else he thought would be in the theater. He got so annoyed when the little ones laughed at the funny parts. I told him he needed to wait for the DVD the next time. He'll enjoy it better and so will everyone else.

It's sorta funny to me, because my kid-psyched friends notice things that I just don't. What they see as annoying I see as precious. They don't have the history of pride and fulfillment that a child offers a parent. They've never enjoyed the love or the bond of a child like I have, so I don't judge their insensitivity. I just figure it's a sorta sad lacking of the child experience and the joy that's attached.

Several weeks ago I was stuck in slow moving traffic through down town Lexington. I got to a major intersection and it was my turn to go. But cross traffic filled the lanes and I couldn't move. Some teenage girl pulled her car into the middle of the intersection and stopped. She had no choice of course. Traffic wasn't moving for her either. But she should not have pulled into the intersection anyway. It was likely she'd be blocking traffic if she did. She should've considered that I thought. So, I decided to teach her a lesson.

As I sat there, I decided that as soon as I got the green light I would lay on my horn and show her just how dumb she was and how mad I was. Then, about the time the light changed she turned to look at me and for a split second I thought it was Casie. The resemblance was remarkable. And I couldn't do it. I couldn't make this girl feel bad about being stuck in traffic. I couldn't act like a mad fool now. She wasn't my daughter, but she belonged to someone. I imagined my little girl in the same situation and hoped that if it ever happened to her someone would be considerate and give her a break.

Being a parent causes you to think about such things. You have more patience with kids and even their parents (most of the time). You choose to let kids be kids and not be so whiny and nit-picky. With so many big and heavy things to bog us down, why in the world let the noise of a child be a sore spot?

So, thank you Casie and thank you Christian for teaching me the patience of a parent.


jimmy swaggart

I've noticed that Jimmy Swaggart is back on TV in a big way. When I was growing up he was a big influence in our home. My parents bought his records, subscribed to his magazines, gave to his ministry, watched his TV shows, listened to him on the radio and put a lot of stock in his biblical teachings. I went to one of his crusades once when he was in Louisville back in the mid 1980s. Tens of thousands filled the same building the National Quartet Convention is held in today. He was a real celebrity preacher, and he wasn't compromising his strict message to be popular either. That was something he was very proud of - and being traditional Pentecostals so were we, his devoted followers.

Other than his later confessions, the only time I really remember the spiritual people closest to me having an issue with Jimmy Swaggart was when he mentioned during one of his television programs that God had appeared to him and told him that he was the ONLY man in the entire world who was preaching the real gospel. All the other preachers were simply wrong and misleading people into Hell. That presented a real issue for us. That meant we had to denounce everyone else including our own pastor and all of the great evangelists and missionaries we thought God had called. You can see our reasons for hesitation and concern. We didn't dwell on it long, certainly didn't take it too seriously, and Jimmy Swaggart remained an influencer in our Christian lives.

A lot of us were devastated in the late eighties when Brother Swaggart confessed that he had been hiring prostitutes. We were shell-shocked by it all. But we knew that God's ability to restore was just as potent as His ability to save. We also believed that big time, celebrity preachers deserved it as much as the most inconspicuous believer. Still do. I remember my dad saying that he was glad that Granny Bishop was not alive to be so disappointed. She had such tremendous trust in Jimmy's biblical wisdom and teaching.

It has been substantially noted and it's very well known that Rev. Swaggart was a tremendously jealous man when it came to the "ministry." He did not see fellow preachers as joint fighters for the Cause, especially the Pentecostal ones. To him, they were competition, and they had to be eliminated. He was quick to find and exploit their "sins." If he could discount their authenticity and erode their base of financial support, he would be left as the sole "full-gospel" TV preacher. The market would be his alone. He attacked everyone from Mother Teresa to Jim Bakker. He successfully exposed and destroyed most anyone who got in his way and declared himself the worthy judge, jury and jailer until the day his own stuff caught up with him.

He tried to keep things going. His denomination asked him to step aside and take some time to just focus on his own relationship with God without all of the pressures of public ministry. But to follow those suggestions would jeopardize the massive business and brand he'd developed and the huge campus he'd built down in Louisiana. So he made the decision to reject their plan of restoration and set out on his own. Not long after that he was found in the company of another prostitute, told all of us that it was none of our business, then pretty much disappeared, from our view anyway.

A few weeks ago I turned on the television and saw that familiar face again. He was still in his church sitting at the piano and singing just like I remembered from so long ago. It was sort of nostalgic. Nothing had changed. I could put on a thirty year old Jimmy Swaggart record and hear identical piano licks with that steady rhythm guitar and mellow mix of BGVs and organ. The ministry staff, who are mostly family, were sitting in the honored seats on the platform, away from the congregation. Although the choir is a lot smaller, they were wearing the robes I remember from years ago. The audience shots back then showed a lot more people, but the congregation is more sparse now, so they keep them tighter these days. The show starts with a long product pitch, has a cut in commercial somewhere in the middle and ends with another pitch and a plea for financial support. Not much has changed.

Another thing that hasn't seemed to change is the angry sense of pride and arrogance in their presentation. The whole Swaggart family is still as convinced as ever that they are God's one and only chosen vessel of truth. I've made it a point to watch and listen these past several weeks since I came across their Sunday morning TV show. They've railed with tremendous disrespect and pithiness against President Bush, the guys running for the office now, the Pope, African-Americans, Baptists, Methodists, Charismatics, Christian TV, a guy who converted a bar into a church, every denomination that has a name, and anyone who doesn't do ministry under the banner of or see things exactly like a Swaggart. And the tone is whiny and just hateful.

These days Jimmy Swaggart is known more as modern evangelical Christianity's most famous hypocrite than anything else. That's sad, because I really do believe that his ministry began with the goal of honoring God and loving people. Nowadays I don't think he's doing either.