1st decade of the 21st century of the 3rd millennium

Ten years ago I was sitting on the bus behind the big arena in Winston Salem, North Carolina waiting for all the world's computers to crash. When it happened, society as we knew it was scheduled to end. Not that I'd done anything to prepare for the sudden dark ages. Honestly, if I'd really thought something that big was going to happen I'd have been back home in Kentucky where Mark Twain said he wanted to be when the world came to an end because it's always twenty years behind.

About 9,000 people were inside the arena taking in the first couple of acts. It would be our turn in an hour or two, closer to the local countdown to destruction. The contract for this particular show required all of the artists to be on the stage, singing full voice at midnight. I wondered what would happen if all-of-the-sudden the lights went out. The stage was in the round, so we were surrounded by the audience. Would there be enough security there with flash lights to get us all off the stage, through the crowd, to a safe place? What if all the batteries in those flashlights got wind of the plan and stopped working too? With no sound system to give amp to a calm voice of direction, would there be pandemonium and chaos? Was there indeed a plan? Was THAT built into our contract?

So I sat on the bus wondering what might happen and scanning the channels to see how the folks who'd already flipped their calendars were coping. As it turned out, if the lights even flickered nobody noticed.

I don't know what I was expecting. The months and weeks leading up to - or counting down to the new year/decade/century were filled with warnings from some and dismissals from others. Some of the most dire predictions I heard actually came from a few TV preachers who had taken advantage of the occasion by offering anointed survival kits. For a gift to the Lord's work of $75 you and your spouse can live to tell about it. For $50 more your kids can join you. I knew people who took all of the uncertainty very seriously. They stocked up on canned goods, duct tape and supplies. I knew a couple of folks who built shelters and cellars. They weren't taking any chances. I'm not sure what use they have for them now.

I consider myself and all the other pre-two thousanders survivors. Now, celebrating the first ten years of the twenty-first century of the third millennium, I feel like we've come a long, long way. It's hard to imagine what'll pop up in the days and decades ahead. To be honest with you, when I was a kid I thought we'd be wearing tin-foil jumpers and strapping into hover-cars by now. So did Walt Disney.


junked up christmas

Pop in at my place unannounced and it's likely you'll find me looking pretty comfy. Unless I'm expecting company, I usually don't dress for company. Otherwise it's shorts and a t-shirt or sometimes my bath robe and PJs. If I don't figure anyone but me is around to notice, I may let a pair of shoes or a half-read book lay around for a day or two. I may even allow the plates and coffee cups to sit in the sink 'til there are enough to bother with. Still though, I prefer to know if you're coming.

It's Christmas now. So with lots of family and loads of friends popping in and out, the plan is to try and keep me, my place and my things as presentable as possible. Be prepared for the president, I say. I can be and have been, but it's hard to catch me unprepared for guests this time of year. Show up on my doorstep right now and I can legitimately offer you a bite of something, a cup of something or a glass of something and a nice, clean place to enjoy it. Knowing this time was coming, I was able to prepare.

Back when Herod was fuming about this new kid king he'd been hearing about; back when the shepherds were wondering where those voices were coming from, their heads or the sky, and if it had anything to do with the field grass they were smoking, er, sleeping on; back when the inn-keeper was wondering what the commotion in the barn was all about and second guessing if it was smart to send a pregnant woman out there; back when star gazers showed up on the Joseph family door with expensive gifts for a baby who'd already been walking on that sort of thing; back when prophet after priest after pulpiteer predicted he was coming and just this way, it was still like no one expected it when baby Jesus showed up in Bethlehem.

It appears that the world was startled and not a little rattled that God dropped in all-of-the-sudden via a Mary and a manger. They obviously weren't expecting him when and where and how he came. The house was a mess. The place wasn't ready. Everybody was living like there'd be no company, lounging around in their comfort wear. Had they known a king was coming they would've at least tried to tidy the place up a bit; kick the crumbs under the rug; toss the piled up clothes in the spare room; close the door; break out the Febreze; hide the mail; throw the dishes in the washer; put on a suit, brush the teeth, comb the hair... And, this was THE King - cause for a good, thorough scrubbing.

He was a baby and a human, yes. As God though, I'm thinking that Jesus knew well what he was coming into. We could've painted the place up, put on a new outfit and showed up in a Lamborghini, but I'm not convinced he'd be convinced of our success or our cleanliness. He'd know that we don't really live in museums, that we only wear suits when the rules and/or expectations make us. He also knows that sometimes pot holes are unavoidable regardless of the ride. God knows we don't smile all the time.

Sometimes I cheat. When I get short notice that company's coming, instead of cleaning stuff up I hide it. Please, PLEASE don't come to my house expecting a grand tour. Some rooms are off limits. There's junk in there. And God knows it. That's why He came. That's why we have Christmas.


thank you day

Afrikaans - Dankie
Albanian - Faleminderit
Arabic - Sukran
Armenian - shur-nur-ah-gah-lem
Australian - Thoinks, Moite!
Basque Country - Eskerrik asko
Bengali - Dhannyabad
Bulgarian - Blagodaria
Bosnia - Hvala
Burma - Jae Zu Din Pa De
Cameroon - Na som

Canada - Thank You
Cantonese - Do jey
Catalonia - gràcies
Cherokee Nation - Wado
Cherokee (Eastern) - Skee
Chinese (Mandarin) - Xie_Xie
Chinese (Cantonese) Do jeh
Cook Islander - Kia Manuia
Croatia - Hvala
Czech – Dekuji
Danish - tak
Dutch - bedankt
English - Thank you
Esperanto - Dankon
Ewe Togo - Apké na wo
Fijian - Vinaka
Finnish - kiitos
Fon Benin - Kpè nu wé
French - merci
F.Y.R.O.M. - Hvala
Gambia - Abarka
Georgia - madlobt
German - Danke
Greek - Efharisto
Guarani - Aguije
Guinea - Abarka
Gujarathi - Aabar
Hawaiian - Mahalo
Hebrew - Toda
Hindi - Dhanyavaad
Hungarian - Köszönöm
Icelandic - Þakka þér fyrir
Indonesian - Terima kasih

Iran - Moteshakeram
Irish - Go raibh mile maith agat
Italian - Grazie

Japanese - Arigato
Javanese - Matur nuwun
Kannada - Dhan-ya-vaadaa
Korean - Kamsa hamaida
Latvian - Paldies
Lithuanian - Achu
Luganda - Waybale
Malayalam - Nandi
Malaysian - Terima Kasih
Mali - Abarka
Mandinka - Abarka
Maori - Kia Manuia
Nepali - Dhan-ya-vaad
New Zealand - Cheers
Nigeria - Na gode
Norwegian - Takk
Oman - Shakkran
Palauan - soolong
Paraguay - Aguije
Persian/Farsi - Mam'noon
Philippines Tagalog - Salamat
Polish - Dziekuje
Portuguese - Obrigado
Punjabi - Bhala Hove
Qatar - Shakkran
Romanian - Multumesc
Russian - Spasiba
Samoan - Talofa
Saulteaux Indians - Miigwech
Scottish - Cheers
Scot's Gaelic - Tapadh Leibh
Senegal - Abarka
Serbo -Hvala
Slovakia – Dakujem
South Africa - Dankie
Spanish - Gracias
Sundanese - Nuhun
Sunda - Hatur Nuhun
Swahili - Ahsante
Swedish - Tack
Tahitian - Maururu
Tamil - Nandri
Telungu - Manjuthe
Thai - Khob Khun
Tibetan - Thuk Ji Chhe
Turkish - Saðol
U.S. - Thank You
Ukranian - Dyakuyu
Urudu - Shukria
Urdu - Shukria
Uzbekistan - Rahmat
Vietnamese - Kam ouen
Wales/Cymru - Diolch
Xhosa - Nkosi
Yemen - Shakkran
Yiddish - A dank
Yoruba - Modupe
Yugoslavia - Hvala
Zulu - Ngiyabonga


21 years a daddy

When I woke up this morning, twenty-one years ago I wasn't a daddy. By the end of the day though, I was not only a proud parent, but the child of my loin also happened to be the prettiest and most instantly intelligent human on the globe. Amazing how that happened I thought. Of all people, I was immediately able to start bragging that God had allowed me to father the world's most wonderful little girl.

Things haven't changed much since, except that she's even prettier and smarter now. I smile when I think of her. I tear when I miss her. She's always on my mind and constantly in the prayers I whisper. It's been going on that way for 21 years now. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Every day that I see her I get confirmation that my little girl, my Casie is one of my most valuable treasures ever. Happy birthday my baby girl! I love you.


false face

As a kid I don't remember so much Mom taking us to the store to buy costumes. Best I can remember, most Halloweens we just found stuff already in the closets and made something up at home. Scarecrows were always pretty easy. Take a pair of bib overalls, a flannel shirt and some straw and there ya go. Paint a couple of big red dots on the cheeks and a little black on the nose, a hat if we had one... More than once I was a product of last-minute planning and ended up in one of Mom's outfits. I was a pretty little thing, 'cept back then Mom didn't wear makeup which made for a homely looking girl. One year we stuffed a pillow under my "blouse" and I was a pro-life, pre-teen example of what you should do if you get knocked up unexpectedly.

One year me, my brothers and a friend or two decided we wanted to be Kiss. This despite the fact that the visiting preacher at church said they were devil worshippers. I insisted on being Gene Simmons. I thought he was the coolest of the singing satanists, and as much as I didn't want to go to Hell, I did want to be coolest. Somehow we got some white and black face paint, some glitter and made due with the hair we had - spiking it and teasing it and mussing it up as best we could with mousse and gel and hairspray. My brother, Loren, ended up cutting his own hair to better get into character. After Mom delivered her cow she administered his punishment - which couldn't have been much worse than the ribbing he got at school the next day.

Ever once in a while, come Halloween we'd splurge and buy a mask. My mamaw called them false-faces. She seemed sorta fascinated with the concept. The first time we'd see her after trick-or-treat, she'd always ask us what kind of false-face we wore. "Evil Knievel," I said once. As much as I liked being more like the richer kids who could always afford to buy masks and costumes, I liked better the time Mom and I spent together sorting through drawers and closets trying to put together a crazy outfit that I'd wear just that once. They were usually over-the-top fashion disasters, but clowns and drag queens are funner than nuns and teachers. Besides, after a while of walking the neighborhood with a rubber band cutting through my face, no peripheral vision and smelling my own Tootsie Roll breath, I learned it was a whole lot more fun and freeing skipping door to door in a sheet, er, toga and Flip Flops. Besides, false-faces are dishonest.



Gnats have been aplenty around central Kentucky this summer. At first I thought word was swarming around the bug world that my place was the hot new local gnat club, until I heard other folks talking about their own little problem guests. Evidently it's been a good year for gnats - if there is such a thing.

I've always been a generous rodent emancipator. When I was a kid my mom used to tell folks about me herding house-trapped flies and crickets to the door so they could live free in the wide open, instead of swatting or stomping 'em. I don't know what the purpose of such creatures is, but figuring there's probably not a bug heaven, (I don't know that for sure.) why not let them live as long as they can before ending their eternal existence?

When it comes to gnats though, I seem to not care so much. Gnats are annoying. They flit about almost like an apparition. Sometimes you're not even sure you see one, but you still swat at the air, 'cause they're annoying. For some reason I don't have a big heart for gnats. Actually, knowing that an adult gnat usually only lives for about a week anyway, I figure it was just days, maybe hours away from a natural death when it found the sticky paper in the kitchen. If all the other gnats care, they'll come to the paper to pay their last respects - and stick around.


god vs fred

I'm thinking that Fred Phelps and his hate-in-the-name-of-Jesus congregation have never felt the hurt in any of the broken hearts they protest. I'll bet they've never considered comforting a devastated parent or the spouse or child of a military soldier just tragically lost. Chances are they've not once followed the real Jesus example of compassion and weeping with the broken and sad. I'm sure that they never, ever looked into the eyes of Judy Shepard to express sorrow that her 21 year old son had been tortured and killed so violently and so senselessly.

If I give much thought to the wackos at Westboro I get angry. In the stupid/arrogant/psycho & disturbed hall of insanity, the Phelps plaque hangs just around the corner from the Hitler and the Hussein. I'd love to express more heartfelt disgust, but it's very judgmental of me and my language would certainly lean offensive. Too, I have no more appreciation for my own judgementalism than theirs or anyone else's, and I certainly don't wish to lower myself to the Phelps family way.

Matthew Shepard died eleven years ago. Eleven years and six days ago he was alive, but barely, having been beaten into a coma and left for dead in a remote Wyoming field. The two guys who were responsible for luring him into their car, robbing him, pistol-whipping him, torturing him, tying him to a fence and leaving him for dead are locked up now with two consecutive life sentences each. They admitted that they, like Fred Phelps' god, hate fags. So they killed him.

Matthew was gay. But had he been fat or black or Hispanic or female or poor or anything else that would distinguish him from his attackers, could there ever be justification for the savage, heartless brutality he endured? One of his killers said that as they bashed Matthew's head with the butt of their gun over and over again, he was screaming and begging them to stop, pleading for his life. They took his shoes, tied him painfully tight with a sharp, thin rope to a rough prairie fence post, then drove away into a chilly night leaving him in the cold to die. It was said that when he was found eighteen hours later Matthew's face was covered in blood, except for the tracks that were made by his tears.

A lot has been said since Matthew's murder about the need for extra punishment for those whose crime is motivated by their personal prejudices. I'm sorta mixed on the notion. But then again, I've not been a victim - not like Matthew. Although, the more I think about the fear that Matthew must've felt, his futile pleas for mercy, the hopelessness of being bound in the cold, in the wilderness, his terribly long and painful night of suffering and his last few agonizing days struggling to live - all because, only because he was gay - the more justified it seems.

Today, the anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death, would be a good day to consider the need for understanding and compassion among us. If you look at anyone and see less or more because of their skin or their stature or their gender or their ability or their affections or their position or their faith or their failures or their wardrobe or their politics or their car or their talents or their wealth or their success or their past or anything else, it might be good to ask God what He sees.

It's certainly tough to see and like people like Fred Phelps. I'm glad God can.


me and my spider man

I'm not always a patient driver. When I'm in a hurry, which is most of the time, I think everyone else should be too - or at least let me have the road. From time to time I'm not in a rush. Then I get all freaked out when somebody who is starts pushing me up the road. I'm a hypocrite that way. I get antsy at traffic lights. When I'm sitting still and others aren't I start coveting. Seriously, sometimes I wonder if I'm not right on the edge of sinning with it. I want that other guy's green light. Then the worst situation, when I'm the only car at the intersection and my light is perpetually red. Grrrr...

So, yesterday morning I'm sitting at the traffic light just kinda zoned out, kinda noticing the stuff around me, but not really. I look up to count down with the cross walk sign and notice a spider. It's itsy, tiny body is supported by very thin but long, long legs. It looks really weird, even for a spider. I'm figuring it ended up on my car from one of the trees or bushes where I parked. Regardless, unless it finds a safe place in a car cranny and soon, it's seen its last days at or near the Bishop house.

When my signal said go I wondered what the little guy would do. (Sorry so sexist.) Actually, I figured more than I wondered. I figured he'd blow away. He didn't. I don't know what he latched onto in that glass, but as soon as the wind hit that little arachnid he dug in and held on. His eight legs turned into one. I figured at some point, when the wind got too much he'd have to give up and join the breeze. Not so. Three, maybe four traffic lights later he was still there. I was starting to cheer him on. I wondered if there was a spider Olympics somewhere where I could sign him up. This little bug was good.

I had this whole thinking like a spider thing going on in my head. I don't know, but I might have even started voicing it out loud - putting words in his little mouth, thoughts in its little brain. "What the...!" "Where is this thing taking me?!" "Where is my tree?" "What have I done?!" "Dude! Slow down!" "We're stopping, thank God!" "Here we goooblblblblbl" Not knowing what language spiders usually speak, mine was talking good old American English, but with a slight exotic yet mid-western accent. Think Nebraskan moved to Puerto Rico and trying really hard to fit in. Besides, according to my religious upbringing, the whole world is western, Jesus was white, and the Middle Eastern ancients spoke like yet to be born 17th century English kings. (Another blog, maybe.) So I felt I could take a little licence.

Even though we'd just gotten acquainted, me and my spider started bonding. I couldn't control the signals (oh, but if I could...) and the horns, stares and fingers forced me to go with the flow of traffic. But I was becoming a fan. The little bugger needed a break from time to time, so I started hoping for red lights. Then it occurred to me about all of the other spiders on all of the other cars. I know how strong my spider is. He's proven that he can hang on at least up to 35 mph. I don't know about the other guy's spider.

It occurred to me that when my light is red and my spider is resting, the spiders on the cars with the green lights aren't. Just like my little guy, they're holding on with everything in them. Not every spider gets to relax, not all at once. Not all the cars are sitting still, and there's no relaxing when the car is moving.

How narrow and self-indulgent of me to think that my spider was the only spider. How arrogant to think that me and my spider deserved something that other people and their spiders didn't. How weird of me to talk like a spider.


caleb's dream - my review

Back when I started writing and assembling music for my last record one of the writers I spent some time working with was Caleb Collins. Honestly, until I was told by my record company that they wanted him and me to write together, I'd never heard of him. I'm sure that he said the same thing.

If you're gonna do something as personal as writing music together, it's good to know a bit about your co's life and stuff. So, Caleb and I met and learned about each other, our backgrounds and musical likes and our own approaches to creating songs. I found out that he has deep Pentecostal roots. So do I. So we set out to take advantage of it. We ended up with a song called, "It's Never Too Late" and I used it to tie my record together at the end. He and I have collaborated since and have become great friends.

Caleb is more than a great writer. Last Christmas he released a holiday record that just blew me away. Now I'm fascinated with his newest album, Dream. I've not had it long because no one has until just a few days ago. But I've been wearing it out since downloading it to my iPod. (Well, actually my iPhone. But that seems pretentious to some people.)

Musically, I'm a lover of Josh Groban and Idina Menzel. The production on their records is big, orchestrated, current and sophisticated - the kind of stuff you'd hear in a poppish movie score. The music on Dream is just as large, maybe even trendier – but still very tasteful. Voice-wise, when a friend got in my car the other day he thought he was hearing Michael Buble. I would've said Harry Connick, Jr.

Yesterday I told Caleb that I'd love to see the liner notes that go with this project. I know that he either wrote or co-wrote all of the songs. I suspect he played most, if not all of the piano, keys and organ. I know he arranged and orchestrated some of the most remarkable strings and musical licks I've enjoyed in a long time. My sixteen year old son, who is just as fascinated by the texture and emotion of music as I am, was also just as captured by this recording as his dad.

Musically, the record is a wow! The point of the record though is obviously the message. It's a "gospel" collection of songs for Christians mostly it seems. But it's not a typical one. And it's not an obvious one unless you're paying attention. I will say though, I had no problems at all being lured in and getting the point, right from bar one.

It didn't hurt that the first words I heard were, "Hush and let me hold you now, while the rain is falling hard." It was pouring outside and my windshield wipers were barely keeping up. The message though was not only relevant and calming for that moment in the car, but for my place in life too. Like a lot of the songs, the words in track number one are through God's lips. The reassurance meant a lot to me at the time, and still does.

I thought it was neat that the very next song was an acknowledgement of the one before it. No less sophisticated musically, "Healer of My Heart" could play well on southern gospel radio I think. I can hear church praise and worship teams singing it too since it comes from the singer to God. There are a couple of others too that could probably accomplish some SGM radio success if politics doesn’t get involved, especially "Peace That Covers All the Pain."

The rest of the record mostly follows the pattern of God to Caleb (us), then Caleb's (our) response.

With all due respect, (please believe me) I don't think God is nearly as stuffy as we've made Him out to be, especially on Sunday mornings. There are a few songs in this collection that take that idea and run with it, almost to the point of being rebellious. "My Love" and "Sweet Child of Mine" are two of them. They're musically and lyrically fun. Christian, my son, really took a liking to them and hopes to sing them at school and church. A personal favorite is the most poignant "You're Safe Here."

Dream is a very deep experience. If all of these songs are from Caleb's heart and some of the experiences he's had (and maybe still has), he’s had some very heavy things on his mind. As a writer, he and his partners have done a remarkable job of saying just enough to allow me, as the listener, to place myself in the lyrics and the places the songs bring us to. At the same time though, there were a couple of moments I sorta had that sensation of relief you get after reading a suspenseful book and realizing you were only the reader. Good though is the fact that on this record no dilemma or difficult situation is left in a state of hopelessness. In every song, God always comes through.

To anyone who wishes to clap along to happy tunes about the sweet by-and-by or Peter's pearly gates or golden roads or happy reunions, this is not that kind of gospel record. Not even close really. These songs are about a testimony that's still being made here on earth. And as young as Caleb is, there is still a lot of dreaming yet to do. I’m anxious to hear about it.

To get Caleb’s recording Dream click
here or go to www.calebcollins.com.


come now, children.

It really doesn't bother me at all that President Obama is talking to the kids of America today. I have confidence in the conversations I've already had with my own kids and I trust their intellect. They know why I believe what I believe. I have a relationship with them that trumps that of the president. They have more reason to trust me than him. I didn't have to prove it by yelling at a congressman or shouting down another civic minded neighbor who happens to disagree with me or by sporting a crude bumper sticker.

I think it's because of my current government job, or past political jobs, that a lot of my family and many of my friends ask me about things politic. I'm always asked my opinion on current campaigns, debates, bills, policies and laws on the state and national level. "We gonna be able to gamble in Kentucky anytime soon?" "They gonna take Rush Limbaugh off the radio?" "Can you get me out of this ticket?" I always try to answer the fiercely partisan stuff as unpartisan as I can - the way news reporters should but don't always.

My toned down and parsed responses, which are probably a product of my having to speak politically strategic for so many years (don't pick an unnecessary fight), are often met with a little disappointment. Nowadays, it seems conservatives like to see liberal blood - and vice versa. Truth is, in my opinion, most of the stuff we hear over and over again on talk radio and cable news and morning TV is just scripted screaming meant to rile, enrage and scare us mad. And it seems to be working.

Some guy on the radio yesterday asked if Obama had anything more important to do than use up two hours of his kid's school day with liberal indoctrination. I'm betting the caller is a Republican. I'd also wager that he would've been all about Junior and all of his young "liberal" friends sitting in on President Reagan's address to the classrooms back in '88. A wise word or two from a great conservative would be good for the lot of them. I don't remember if the Dems were making issues of the GOP president's talk back then, but if they did, they were just as guilty of paranoia peddling as all these professional talkers nowadays who are trying their best to make our current president the dictator of the next Holocaust.

I'm not about giving President Obama free reign. I have some serious concerns about the structure and strength of the new federal health care plan he's pushing. Most of my questions are about who and what is covered, what it's going to cost, how it'll be paid for and all the trickery in its administration. History proves that the folks in DC are reckless managers without much practical money sense.

I'm concerned that so much of our auto and banking industries are owned by the government. It's always an issue to me when what is supposed to be a privately owned or publicly traded company is in the hands of the same people who are armed and charged with keeping our foreign enemies at bay. And I don't like that the most powerful home-office in the world has so many extreme thinking "czars" with desks only steps from the oval, who have no congressional oversight and answer only to the president.

However, most of the media chatter I'm hearing is hypocritical. If this president goes on vacation he gets beat up by the same people with mics or web sites who supported President Bush's right to get away for a few days. All POTUS' vacay for a while. (Like a president ever is really on vacation anyway??) The talkers who bash Obama for wanting to encourage kids to study hard, stay in school and do their homework are all about sainting Mr. Reagan who did the same thing twenty years ago. (I am a big Reagan fan BTW.)

In war, the objective is to destroy the enemy. Politics isn't much different. Convince the public that everyone who disagrees with your point of view is an evil racist or a bigot or an elitist or a radical extremist or just plain stupid and you're on your way to winning the battle. The White House is not above it. Neither is the House or Senate or the leaders of either party. Neither are the TV/radio talkers and bloggers who know how to play the game. It's their job. They are expected to be loud and take issue with every deed and magnify every flaw of their political opposite.

All of that being said, I'm as grateful as anyone that ours is a country where it's possible to disagree with whoever is in charge of the government for the moment and say so wherever, however we want. I just hate it when the school kids make us grownups look like the juvies.


do hoarders go to heaven?

I'm a hoarder. Saying it out loud sounds kinda dirty. But I am. I keep things that are supposed to be temporary thinking maybe they'll be useful again - maybe. I'm bad enough that one time when a friend obviously made a quick stop at the store to pick up a card on the way to my birthday dinner, and just stuffed it in the envelope without writing on it or signing it, I put my name on it and gave it to another friend a few days later. Why waste a clean card? Had I not been a hoarder that card wouldn't have had the chance to bring cheer to yet another happy birthdayee.

For about the last year and a half I've been using my extra bedroom as a "temporary" storage space. When my very patient former in-laws got tired of going into their attic and stepping around all my stuff, they kindly took it all out and dropped it off at my parent's house. When my parents decided to clean out their garage it was time for me to take possession of the eight or ten boxes of who knows what. So, I carried them all home, took them straight to the back bedroom and told myself I'd go through them on my next free weekend. About a year later, this past weekend, I finally did it.

Evidently I'm a longtime hoarder. Most of this stuff goes back to the 1980s at least. Why in the world would I have kept roller skate toe stoppers? I'm wondering what the significance of the yellow handkerchief is. I'll bet it used to be white. Regardless, why would I hang onto it? Keeping pictures makes sense. My yearbooks and notes from old flames and hard-researched thesis papers and certificates and diplomas and newspaper clippings, my cap and gown and school programs and trophies all make sense. But a little bag of rice?? Was this ever my wallet?

I'd forgotten that I earned a letter jacket in high school. All that work and money to Lee College so I can be a preacher and all I've got now is framed papers behind cracked glass. A silk rose... Wonder whose wedding? Pictures of Kim, Chris, Troy, Robbie, Elizabeth, Danny, Tracy, Sheri and so many other friends from so many years ago looking like I remember most of them the last time I saw them. We promised we'd stay in touch. We even put it in writing in each other's yearbooks. People don't believe me when I tell them I played two parts in "Oklahoma" one night at Madison Central High School. Now I have proof. And here, I'm wearing those famous von Trapp family curtains that Maria made for us. Fun! I was Friedrich, the oldest boy whose voice had changed although mine hadn't really, yet. Tell me I wasn't a good actor.

Hoarders aren't good at tossing things. Although my attic is a mess, the rest of my house is not a piled up depository. As a matter of fact, as much as I'm a hoarder in private, in my line-of-sight space I like things nice and orderly, without clutter. I kept the back bedroom door closed.

After I sorted through the boxes that my in-laws and my parent's had stored for me, I bought new, fresh, plastic ones and re-put the memories inside for safe keeping - again. Until I get up the nerve to take on the attic. They'll be fine.


stringing for amy the pcv

I'm guilty, and I've been feeling it. So, the notes and the threats from my adoring fan(s) hoping to prompt me to do something bloggish haven't been necessary. The encouragement though is always nice, especially since I've been waking up most everyday these last couple of weeks with the urge to sit on the big red couch and start talking. I've actually even started at least a handful of posts and just fizzled out or got distracted before the thought was complete. My drafts folder is loaded with incomplete ramblings and things that were pretty topical for the moment. I've also made lots of notes about things bouncing around my brain. Plenty a thought has crossed my mind - some dreadful, some weird and some sorta meaningful. So, that being said, the next several days I'll prolly hop to and fro and ramble in an effort to catch up.

I tied one on for Amy the other day. The moment she left the US for her two year stint as a Peace Corp Volunteer I wrapped a little string around my ankle and made a firm knot to keep it in place. I see it everyday and it reminds me of my super friend who I miss right now more than I know how to express. It'll be there until Namibia lets us have her back. I get an email from her when she can catch some Net service, and I read them all like an anticipated next chapter. We also get to follow Amy's PCV journey at http://amywickliffeinafrica.blogspot.com/.

Now, I've gotta go blow my nose. Allergies...


maybe i'm a junkie. maybe i'm bored.

Sometimes I get unsettled. I want to do something else, be somewhere else. Sometimes I want to even be someone else. I'm not at all unhappy or even disquieted with my station today. Maybe I'm just bored. I think though, if I had to do some precision explaining, I'd probably admit that I'm not feeling the challenge lately - not stretching enough - not creatively tested.

As much as the not-so-hoggish side of me wants to deny it, I think I'm happiest under the lights. I honestly don't know that it's the attention I get when I'm seen and heard that is so attractive to me as much as it's that I get to play a part. Holding an audience is my passion. And knowing that a person carved out time and resources to stop, sit and listen to what I have to perform is very humbling to me. When they take a seat in front of my stage they are trusting me to at least entertain them, or better still, connect emotionally, even spiritually about deeper things. I love using songs and dances and scripts to communicate. I get giddy knowing there is a stage somewhere with my toe-mark on it.

I've studied and taught the science of presentation, performance and communication. The tricks of pos-v-neg body sides, limb language, facial confidence and expression, dressing for the role, and talking without words has been part of my job description for a lot of years now. I enjoy the science of public perception. But using those theories to make someone else more sellable and attractive doesn't fulfill my own yearning for more selfish (I guess) artistic and freer expression. Artsy people get creatively anxious fairly easily - and often. At least I do.

I'm an artsy person. As much as I was always taught as a kid that, other than spiritual shaking and twirling, all dancing is choreographed in Hell, I like to dance. To me the movement is so much creative art. Even with music that doesn't fully entertain me, I enjoy listening for unexpected harmonics that can make up a curious piece of musical art. Sometimes I hear a gorgeous progression or note movement for the first time and wonder where that little bit of brilliance has been since the dawn of time. Sometimes I get jealous that it wasn't born at the end of my pen. But regardless of its origin, I enjoy its presence and I appreciate it as personal art. People think I'm weird when I tell them that one of my favorite composers was the great Mr. Fred Rogers.

Right now I want to continue doing what I'm doing. My colleagues can't be beat. My tasks are enjoyable and I'm shown sincere appreciation. I get to work on projects that use colors and sounds and other elements that artists enjoy working with. I'm more than happy these days, and very grateful.

I guess the unsettled emotions of today are because right now I'm craving a stage - one with lights and mics and marks and cues and an audience. I'm in need of a fix. Maybe I'm a stage whore or a junkie. Maybe I'm bored.


under the influence...

I enjoy being able to be a part of lively and proper conversation. It seems especially to happen a lot when I share a thought or two on my Facebook and Myspace pages. I've noticed lately that some very hurtful and distasteful words are being thrown around, and too many of them claim to be inspired by and in the name of Jesus. The reckless attitudes and overly loud arguments, supposedly supported by scripture, as far as I can tell, do nothing to edify God, properly explain who He is, and cause no one to want to know Him, but in fact make Him appear pretty heartless and ugly. Who'd want such a God?

Saying, "Jesus didn't sugar coat sin," and calling out other humans as sluts and pedophiles and declaring them evil in the name of Jesus does tremendous disservice to God's original love, and demeans His creation in ways that I'm not sure He appreciates. Who, in the Scripture, did Jesus convince of God's good intentions by beating them and emotionally accosting them? Why would we inflict emotional, even physical pain on ones He chooses to heal? It was Jesus, by the way, who said he'd been sent to love the world and not condemn it. He didn't say so of the "church."

A couple of years ago I did a record that was very purposefully and strategically planned to highlight God's real grace. The record company, the publicist, the producer, the writers and everyone involved understood that this would be a collection of songs about the deepest emotion in God's heart. It has turned out to be a remarkable thing for a lot of people - people who had pretty much written off anything religious because every example of religion they knew was either hypocritical or mean, hateful even.

Woody Wright produced the record (shout out!!), and he wrote several of the songs. My favorite is, "More Than Amazing." It reminds me of the enormity of God's grace. I sing it to myself a lot. There's another Woody song on the project though that, because it's a light and happy arrangement, comes across as fun and not so deep. In fact, it's very introspective and could even be convicting if a receptive ear would notice. I share it here and now hoping that some of my friends who prefer easy and distant judgement will consider a more compassionate approach.


When a brother fell and broke the Lord's command, I was quick to judge and slow to understand. When a sister had a struggle, I said, "You're reaping what you've sown." But then I found some trouble of my own.

Now I'm under the influence of mercy. My perception has been altered by His grace. I see things in a different light. I walk by faith and not by sight. If you notice something different about me. I am under the influence of mercy.

These days I'm more inclined to lend a hand. And try to make a difference when I can. Through the tests and trials I won't grumble or complain. I'll count it joy and I will gladly say.

I am under the influence of mercy. My perception has been altered by His grace. I see things in a different light. I walk by faith and not by sight. If you notice something different about me. I am under the influence of mercy.

I've been given unconditional love. I will never be the same.

I am under the influence of mercy. My perception has been altered by His grace. I see things in a different light. I walk by faith and not by sight. If you notice something different about me. I am under the influence of mercy.

Under The Influence Of Mercy - Woody Wright © 2006 Would He Write Songs, SESAC
(administered by Gaither Copyright Management)

too many rips

It's been a difficult week in Hollywood. The lovers of Ed, Farrah and Michael have been in the streets, on the phone (texting and talking) and glued to their televisions to learn what they can, and relive some of the great memories and moments that were made happier because of the laughs and the scenes and the songs we all enjoyed through these remarkable talents.

Who can not like Ed McMahon? The man sat on Johnny Carson's couch, hung in there all night with Jerry Lewis and delivered schzillion dollar checks courtesy of the sweepstakes people. No good reason not to like Ed.

Farrah was my first crush. She was an angel, and if kids my age had the money, we'd have bought her shampoo just to see what she smelled like. I didn't worship her like some have accused me, but I did sit beneath her poster and pray she'd come to life.

I wasn't allowed to dance as a kid. But gosh, it was hard not to when Michael Jackson was singing. I didn't know much about his story. I knew I LOVED his music. As we both got older I noticed that he started changing in lots of ways - some of them sorta weird. His music only got better though, and I finally gave up the notion that God didn't give us legs just to kneel on. I never quite mastered the moon walk, but my good and godly brother did.

It's sad to see these folks leave us. Some people don't think so though. To me that is even more sad.

john 4 - religer version

So Jesus the condemner was forced to go through Samaria and came to a heathen little town called Sychar. It was near the piece of ground that the cheating liar Jacob had given to his one good son Joseph. As it turns out, Jacob's well was there.

It was about noon, and Jesus was tired, so he sat down for a bit. At some point a local, half-breed woman came to the well to get some water for the day. Jesus said, "Oh man! Of all people... Oh well, a thirsty guy has to drink. Hey slut, give me some water."

The filthy harlot said, "Um, our kinds don't talk to each other, remember? As much as I truly do desire to walk in your shadow and be in your presence and learn from your word and eat from your table and bask in your love, I'm afraid I've been too bad. I'm unworthy. I'm a whore. You're a really righteous, God fearing church goer. Your church might call a committee and have a hearing and remove you from leadership or take your Sunday school class or your choir robe. You don't want them to find out we were talking. I'm not worth it, so, thank you for asking, but for your own sake, no."

Jesus answered, "You're right. What was I thinking? You don't deserve my time or anything else. I'd rather die of thirst than take a drop from the likes of you. You're a dirty human. Besides, what kind of respectable person comes hauling water at noon? You're not only a skank, you're stupid."

Jesus dusted off his feet, and the woman died and went to Hell.




According to the bible, to be a Bishop a person must be, "blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, just, holy, temperate, not a novice or a striker, be of good behavior, a lover of hospitality, apt to teach, not given to wine, not greedy of filthy lucre, patient, not a brawler, not covetous; He must be an effective ruler of his own house with children who are not unruly but are faithful and under his subjection; He must have a good report, be a steward of God, not self-willed or easily angered, a lover of good men, and always remember the lessons he's learned..." I don't think I qualify.

Several years ago Dad, Mark and I were singing at a big outdoor festival over in western Virginia. I try to drink a lot of water before I go on stage, 'cause singers sweat and spit a lot when they're performing. That usually means though that I start feeling the urge too soon before those last couple of long, long tunes. With no backstage accommodations at this particular venue, that meant a quick dash to the public restrooms as soon as our part of the set was over.

There I am facing the wall wondering if twelve ounces will be sufficient next time. A man standing next to me asks, "What makes you think you're qualified to be a Bishop?" As awkward as it was, I was grateful for the kid behind me asking for the autograph. "Hang on little man. I'll sign your CD when..."

The inquisitive man followed me to the sink, waited for me to wash my hands, watched me write my name on another band's CD, then shadowed me out the door. "What makes you think you're qualified to be a Bishop?"

I'd been to seminary. My ministerial credentials required that I study and know the Old, the New, the history, the apologetics and the validity of the Scriptures. I knew what he was talking about, and even if I didn't the attitude on his face told me he did - or thought he did, and where he was going. He started down the list: "Blameless, just, holy, temperate, patient; not covetous, greedy, self-willed or easily angered." That last one, as it turns out, was becoming the biggie at the moment.

I honestly don't think the guy knew a thing about me. I know he didn't. All he knew was that when the emcee brought us to the stage he called us the Bishops. When the man followed me to the bus and kept pushing the point and asking why I felt Bishop qualified, it was like an invisible wall when I finally turned and confessed that I didn't. I don't qualify, not according to the biblical criterion. But my daddy, Mr. Bishop, his blood, verified by his love, says differently.

So, thanks Dad. Happy Father's Day.


sixteen christian candles

Sixteen years minus one day ago it was Father's Day 1993. I remember it, at least most of it, very well. In the very early Sunday morning hours the big blue Bishops touring bus drove past the corporate office in Waco and dead-headed to my little house in Ravenna, Kentucky. That's where Debra and my mom were waiting with suitcases sitting at the door. Before the bus even stopped moving I was out the door, down the walk, onto the porch and into the house. Without even a greeting, I grabbed the bags and the wife and together we made a dash for the hospital. My boy was on his way!

Several weeks before this day the doctor had informed us that our family was going to be blessed with a little man-child. This would round our little home out perfectly since our baby girl, Casie, was already settled in. A girl for every boy in the house seemed fair. Since we'd gotten word that a he-name was necessary, Debra and I went to work trying to decide on what to call him. I'd always liked the name Nicholas, and Debra ended up liking it too. It was settled.

A few months before the big birthday (literally), the Bishops were working on a new record. As was the custom, each member of our group jotted a few lines of thanks and kudos to include in the liner notes. Knowing that the record would not hit the shelves until after my boy was several months into his eating, sleeping and pooping routine, I mentioned what wonderful joy little Nic had brought into my life. I knew his effect even before he was born.

On the day "Nicholas" arrived in the flesh Debra and I changed our minds. Maybe it was because it was Sunday. Maybe it was because I'd recently been reading about Moses and the Hebrew's wilderness adventures and the spies that had been sent to check out the Promised Land and the disappointing report when they returned and all. I became a fan of Joshua and Caleb, two of the twelve undercover agents who'd slipped in and out of the country. They disagreed with the consensus view that the land couldn't be taken. They saw opportunities instead of obstacles. I was inspired by their optimistic view. Besides, to me their names worked well together.

I suggested to Debra that we name our son Joshua Caleb Bishop. She said if we're gonna do Bible, she'd like to use a New and an Old Testament name. I agreed. Within a couple of minutes we decided on the name Christian Caleb Bishop.

BTW, a few years later, after the record with the liner notes was old news, I got a very kind and sympathetic note from a sweet lady who shared with me her story of losing a child. She referred to my mention Nicholas and deduced that since I never spoke of him again that something tragic must have happened. She just wanted to let me know that she understood and knew the pain of our loss. It was a very kind gesture on her part, and I made sure to thank her for it. I didn't explain any further.

When our family was still traveling and singing, I used to tell people that my young and prone-to-break-things-and-lie-about-it son, Christian, was very much like a lot of other Christians I know. And also like them, he should have no doubt that his daddy would love him regardless. It's been going on like that for sixteen years now - and counting. Happy birthday Pal!


217 candles

I love traveling to exotic and exciting places, but I like to living in a comfortable, cozy place. Home to me is like the song that greets the Derby every spring. It's my old Kentucky home, and this month she's toutin' 217 years of independent living.

On June 1, 1792 the fifteenth United States state was born. Up until then we ran through a bit of an identity crisis trying to settle on a proper name. First we were Cane-tuck-ee, then Cantucky, then Kain-tuck-ee, then Kentuckee and finally Kentucky County, part of Virginia since the end of the Revolutionary War. Daniel Boone was one of the first settlers to get here way back when this part of the country was considered western territory. He's still here to this day, buried on a hillside overlooking the state capitol. Before Dan, the original keepers were the Native Americans; the Shawnees and Cherokees.

Mr. Washington was about half way through his first presidential term when mother Virginia allowed her chick to leave the nest. The nation was still saluting its first flag, but that changed when the fifteenth state got a star AND a stripe. Later on, someone got wise and convinced the flag rule makers that it would probably be a good idea to keep the stripes as originally was (thirteen) and reward each new state with just a star. So Kentucky lost its stripe on Old Glory. We were the last state to get one of our own, even if it was just for a while.

I live in a nifty little place. We don't make the big news a lot, and too much of the world thinks chicken buckets, fast horses and banjos are all we're about. But we've got over two hundred candles on our cake, so I'm thinking we have a few things to be proud of. And I'll be very happy to brag.



I'm not addicted to it, but I am truly fascinated by this season's American Idol. Last year I thought little David was the greatest young voice to ever come along. Such control and texture. I still think he's incredible with his voice, I just wish whoever put his last (first) record together didn't.

The '09 version of the show is kinda crazy-cool-weird to me. I've been offering my own running commentary on Twitter and Facebook (be my friend), and I learned very quickly that not everyone agrees. I enjoy the variety of opinions and I appreciate the input, so I hope it continues. I've learned a lot about us in these typed conversations, both in the public postings and the privates.

Music's effect and value, I think, is a matter of taste and fad. Johnny Cash was huge in the sixties, seventies and early eighties. His music was popular and his fans were loud about it. Eventually though his star faded, and just as eventually so did his music. Thirty years later when his story became a movie and stole the tix box it was cool to be a Cash fan again. Johnny's first round of success was about his music and his style. I think the last time was a fad.

I'm guessing back in the day there were a good number of honest but paranoid church folks who thought Johnny was born in Hell. For one thing he was a backslider. He started out singing gospel, but no one bought it. So he cranked up the volume and turned his attention to singing the devil's music in the devil's yard. Who knows, maybe the congregation was right. Johnny certainly had his issues with drugs and stuff, and it more than likely had a lot to do with the distance he'd put between himself and God. He said as much. But I'm betting it wasn't the Christians with the sticks and stones that convinced him to come back to faith.

I was and am a big Johnny Cash fan. I liked his dark persona, his dark clothes and his dark music. A few weeks ago when Adam Lambert took on the Cash classic "Ring of Fire" on American Idol, you better know the stuff and the fan collided. You'd've thought Johnny's grave was falling in. People were screaming. They were passing out. They were breathing into paper bags. How could he?!?!?!

I thought it was awesome.

The genius creativity and delivery and sultriness of the Lambert version of "...Fire" was one of the most alluring and exciting and almost spooky musical things I've heard in quite a while. Right away I was taken past the song he was singing and tuned into what he was doing and how he was doing it. Beyond personal taste, I don't see how anyone who studies and loves the art of melody and music couldn't have been impressed. Another thing that stoked me about the whole drama was Adam's refusal to back down from the traditionalist critics. And personally, I think the man in black would've absolutely loved it - hearing his 1963 song in a new, 2009 way. A lot of his fans may be uptight, but that doesn't mean he was. And you know June would've been all about those royalty checks.

Years ago when my family first started in the music business, our record company was sending our songs to radio stations everywhere and they were getting some air time. There was a good chance that anybody who heard one of them had no idea who we were or what we looked like. One of our first singing trips out of Kentucky took us to a neat little church in Missouri. We pulled up, set our sound, put our one record out to sell, changed our clothes, and walked on the stage. The preacher wanted to know where the lady was. He'd heard her on the radio. He was sure there was a girl in there somewhere. Evidently the church was partial to real singing families with a singing mom, a singing dad and singing kids. Until we pulled into their parking lot that's what they thought we were. Although they liked what they heard on the radio before, we weren't their preference, and no doubt they heard us differently once they knew we were ladyless.

Several years later a promoter in Chicago called our booking agent and scheduled us for an appearance. A couple of weeks later when he received the promotional materials he called back to say there had been a mistake. He wanted a black group, and the song he'd been hearing on the radio gave him the impression that we were black. He told the agent that he enjoyed our sound but he very kindly and graciously expressed that we were just not what his market would pay for. We understood. You can bet that he heard Bishops music differently after that.

What if we didn't know anything about the American Idols? What if we weren't aware of their back stories, their tragedies, or indiscretions? What if we knew nothing about their religious beliefs or where they're from or who they're attracted to or how old they are? What if we didn't know what color their skin was or what their hair or their clothes or their nails look like? What if "American Idol" was a radio show?

Adam has been an Idol lightning rod this season, especially on celebrity and religious web sites. If you follow my Twitter tweets and my Facebook updates you know that I'm a big fan. I'm fascinated by his voice, his control, his pitch, his poise and his placement. To me, the top of his range is incredible. A couple of people have called it screaming, but I know for a fact that they've stood themselves on stages with some of the most popular professional screamers in the biz. So I don't necessarily consider their evaluation as a negative.

I've noticed too that there are a fair number of people who prefer to judge looks instead of talent. Most of them don't like Adam's style. "He looks evil." "Devil worshippers wear black nails and eye liner." "I think he's a bad role model," they say. Regardless of his talent, they've decided he doesn't deserve to be the winner because he'd stick out in their choir.

On the other hand, Danny and Kris actually do fit the robes. I think it's great. Their music started or was cultivated in church. And although they've not made it a point of distinction, they've also not hidden it, especially Danny. I'm proud of them. I'm happy for them. I think they have tremendous talent. But I don't think either of them is the best singer on the show. And I'm not going to cast a dishonest vote just because I like their faith. If the contest is about who is the better Christian, I'm afraid we're not qualified to decide. I'm sure too that if we knew the whole, honest, human and probable sinful side of the eventual winner we'd waste good wood and nails on them.

I've made it a point, when I tweet and Facebook about AI, to offer my thoughts on the performances. It's become routine though when the comments start for the conversation to quickly become a debate on which singer seems most like Jesus. Sometimes the words get ugly. Sometimes the "Christian" commenter comes across as less Christ-like than their unholy target. I also get a lot of private messages. They either express outright anger toward the free-living liberals who'll let any old thing live and prosper, or disgust with the arrogant and righteous who prefer to kill it and bury it before it spreads.

I'm sure that each Idol wannabe is aware that scrutiny and judgement of their personal lives is part of the package. Since the producers have made it more than a talent show by taking us into the homes and worlds of the singers, their pre-Idol life becomes part of the deal. You can bet too when you sign up for the biggest show on television that your "friends" are going to shop around and sell anything they have that has your fingerprint on it, any picture you've posed for (or not), or any film with so much as an appearance by your shadow. Even with my limited brushes with semi-fame, I know the critics, the profiteers and the cynics are aplenty.

So, It doesn't matter to me if Adam loves Eve or Steve. (I've been dying to say that.) If Danny and Kris are believers or atheists, that doesn't raise or lower my critique of their talent. I plan to text my vote for the best performer. If I've committed a sin I trust that Jesus has the remedy. Then again, maybe he and I are rooting for the same guy.


more sensational susan

Now that most of the world, at least the parts with Internet, has heard Susan Boyle do her remarkable thing, the press has done what it does and tried to dig deep enough to find something that would make us feel duped, then hate her. What they found though was more wow.

Evidently, several years ago, an aspiring, single, virgin Susan spent all her savings on a two song recording. She said she didn't have enough money to make a lot of copies, so she gave just a few close friends and neighbors an opportunity to discover her before the rest of us. They obviously dropped the ball, and evidently so did some other deaf talent scouts across the pond. The rejection letters arrived soon after she mailed her demo. Not being mean, but knowing how the entertainment world thinks, they prolly looked at her pub-shot and tossed the tape.

If you want to read about it go here.


i'd read that book

I am a big, big fan of the theater, especially musical theater. I've lived the life of a professional singer. For a lot of years I did my thing in the very controlled environment of the studio, and in some of the most unpredictable stage environments you could imagine. I used to tell people, the real talent of a traveling performer is not as much being able to deliver an effective song, but making it work under just about any conditions. But even so, all I had to do was add my part and blend with the guys. No scripted speaking parts or hitting the mark or singing upside down. (Although there are a few Gospel groups out there who can make some really cool steps.)

I did some musical theater when I was in high school. In Oklahoma I was supposed to have a bit part, and did until the night of the opening. Then the guy playing Judge Andrew Carnes got sick and I was asked to step in and save the show. OK, I exaggerate. But I did memorize the lines and the marks with only about an hour and a half or study time. Then there was The Sound of Music. My original casting was a bit more significant this time. Friedrich was the oldest of the Von Trapp sons, and his part was fairly significant in the musical telling of his family's life. I was dashing in my little sailor scrubs and curtain clothes. I decided to retire from the stage after that. I thought it best to walk away while I was still on top. I've actually been approached about doing some local theater close to home, but I worry about having the time.

There are a slew of actors who've crossed into TV and movies who owe their start to the stage. But it is the legends of the theater, names like Carol Channing and Mary Martin and Patti Lupone that still give me chills to this day.

Another name that could be added to that legend's list is Elaine Page. She's more famous in the old country than she is here. There she is considered the First Lady of British Musical Theatre. Her voice and her interpretations bring her characters alive. She is the model for everyone who wants to do music and the stage right.

Then there is Susan Boyle.

You may be familiar with the TV show America's Got Talent. You may not know that the US version is not the original. That would be Britain's Got Talent. Some familiar faces sit in the English version of the judges chairs. The ever-so-critical Simon Cowell who blurts out painful but honest criticism on American Idol is one of them. Celebrity Apprentice and all around TV show host Piers Morgan is too. Amanda Holden is the pretty one.

About Susan, the frumpy little 47 year old woman from somewhere in Scotland, West Lothian I believe, wants to be a singer. Her hair is sorta unkempt. No performer would wear that dress to the stage. Absent any makeup to speak of, and a walk that looks a bit awkward, it's the perfect scenario for a reality TV show. The producers had to be giddy with this character. She was the perfect goof to make fun of. As a matter of fact, all of the footage of her eating a sandwich and shuffling around and tripping over her words proved that she was there only to be crushed in front of millions of people. And to make it worse, when she was asked who she'd like to emulate, her answer was that remarkable Elaine Page. When she said it some smirked, some rolled their eyes, everyone laughed.

Now, please, please take about 7 minutes and watch this.


In a remarkable and pleasant way, this book doesn't even resemble its cover.



I was born on a Friday 15,706 days ago. I've lived 516 months or 2,243 weeks or 376,944 hours or 22,616,640 minutes or 1,356,998,400 seconds from the moment of my birth to exactly 43 years later. And I still can't hold my breath any longer than 90 seconds. If I were a dog I'd be 185 years old. (using the old conventional wisdom of dog/human years I'd be 301.) I don't know how old I'd be if I was a cat, or an elephant or llama or cock roach. I've always wondered how otter years work.

I was born the Zodiac year of the horse in a small Kentucky town in a rural Catholic hospital. That's back when it was run by nuns in their full nun garb. I don't remember a thing about that day, but I do remember being back there when my little brother was born. Those sisters were bitter. It was a mission work that served lots and lots of families in the hills and hollows of the area. We lived in Richmond, which really wasn't a hill or a hollow, but it was only a half hour or so away and Mom liked the care she got from the sisterhood. So my very first breath was Catholic air.

On that day Lyndon Johnson lived in the White House. He was a Democrat. Ned Breathitt was my governor. He was a Democrat too.

The big international news on the day I was born was about Buddhists in South Vietnam protesting that the new government hadn't set a date for free elections. I'll bet Walter Cronkite didn't break in for that one.

1966 and MCMLXVI are one in the same. A lot happened that year.

Adam West was Batman. Star Trek started. So did Hollywood Squares, The Monkees and Mission Impossible. The Sound of Music was hitting big.

Man of La Mancha owned Broadway and the Tonys.

Frank Sinatra, Paul McCartney, the Mamas and the Papas, Ray Charles and Porter Wagoner racked up at the Grammys. Two days after I was born Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Scofield were crowned queen and king of the Oscars. The blowout movies were A Man For All Seasons and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

My team, the Kentucky Wildcats, faced Texas Western for the NCAA basketball title in College Park, Maryland. UK Coach Adolph Rupp started five white guys. TX Western's Don Haskins started five black guys. The Miners beat the Cats by seven points. Sad for us UK fans, but great for African American athletes since the upset motivated colleges to start more aggressively recruiting racial minorities.

Depending on who you ask, Notre Dame was the school to beat on the football field. Baltimore was the World Series champ, Boston took the NBA, and Green Bay won the Super Bowl. (Vince Lombardi's third straight win!) Kauai King wore the Derby roses.

There were lots of famous people born in 1966. People like Patrick Dempsey, Cindy Crawford, Stephen Baldwin, Darius Rucker (Hootie & the Blowfish), Janet Jackson, Mike Tyson, Matthew Fox, Martina McBride, Halle Berry, Lee Ann Womack, Tim Hardaway, Adam Sandler, Curt Schilling, Troy Aikman, Sinead O'Conner, Kiefer Sutherland and Crazy Legs the Puerto Rican breakdancer.

Walt Disney died. (but Mickey lives!!) George Harrison and Patty Boyd tied the knot. Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali and a Muslim. That evil Daylight Saving Time was instituted. That evil church of Satan was formed. The St. Louis Arch was opened. The National Organization for Women was founded. Ronald Reagan became CA governor. John Lennon says he's more famous than Jesus, then says he's not. The US Dept. of Transportation started up. The Grinch stole Christmas. Kwanzaa kicked off. The FDA said yes to the "Pill". (Not to be confused with the little blue one men take these days. The two do completely different things.) The Pope released Catholics to eat meat... except on Fridays. (I heard that somewhere.)

The US was $328.5 billion in the hole. A nickle would send a letter to any of the 196,560,338 documented peeps in the US. Out of every hundred workers, four and a half were jobless. $23,300 would get you a new house. A gallon of milk (.99) cost more than a gallon of gas (.32). If you had sixty cents you could own a dozen eggs.

In: mini skirts, bell bottoms, haircuts that didn't look like haircuts (men only), black power, Captain Kangaroo, flower children, the Temptations, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Cher (timeless!), astrology, the Vietnam War, anything Batman, LSD (same as anything Batman), the draft, The Beverly Hillbillies, Ouiji boards, hippies, party lines, the space race, Red Skelton, Lucy, Dick Van Dyke, the Smothers Brothers, Yogi Bear and Martin Luther King. Oh yeah, and Jerry Lewis started his Labor Day telethons.

Not yet: Cable TV, cell phones (or cordless for that matter), microwaves, The Internet, computers to get to the Internet, hybrid cars, rap music, cruise control, American Idol, MRIs, face transplants, CDs, FedEx, global warming, about 80 million new people, VHS or DVDs or HD or Tivo or DVR or home satellite dishes, body wash, digital clocks, Hannah Montana, smart cars, those tube things that suck the money holder things at the drive-thru at the bank, GPS, the "Moral Majority", text messaging, Fonzie, JJ Walker, George Foreman grills, karaoke, plastic shopping bags, Google, a black president...


mark 9:38-40

John: Jesus! Jesus! You would've been proud of us. We saw this strange guy using your words to do miracles and round up converts. No worry though, we put a stop to it.

Jesus: Whadya stop him for?

John: He’s not one of us.

Jesus: But he’s not against us.

John: But he’s not one of us. He doesn’t look like us. He doesn’t talk like us. He doesn’t act like us.

Jesus: Is he supposed to?

John: Come on, Jesus. We don’t know anything about him. We don’t even know where he’s from. He might be preaching the wrong stuff. He might be using you just to make money. He might give you a bad rep. We’re already having it hard with the religious police.

Jesus: I’m not led by the legal opinions and hypocrisy of shallow spirits. They don’t get my stuff anyway.

John: We have to set some sort of rules. We can’t just let anybody get up and spout your name.

Jesus: Why not?

John: It’s bad for business. It confuses people. It just looks bad.

Jesus: Whatever made you think this was a business?

John: You know what I mean. He’s not in our group.

Jesus: That’s not for you to decide.

John: There has to be a standard.

Jesus: John, here’s the way I see it. I don’t care what your skin, your hair or your clothes look like. I don’t care how you talk, where you’re from, how important you are or if you’ve got talent. Famous people, common people, people big and small, bold and shy, jailed and free, old and young, I don’t care. I don’t care who you love, as long as you love me. I don’t care if a chauffeur gets you here or you ride the bus. Jeans, shorts, a suit and tie don’t even figure in. Doctors and drop outs fit in just fine. Believe me, in a few years there’ll be a million different pods of people getting together every week sure that they’ve figured all this stuff out. Most of them though will only accept a seat next to a look alike. Every one of them will be wrong about something. But I’m not concerned with their mistakes as long as they believe in me. As a matter of fact, the way I see it, whoever is not against us is for us.



I've been a fan of John Fischer for a long time now. He sings and writes and composes and thinks out loud, all in profound ways. John sends out an email every morning that seems to say the thing I need to hear. Sometimes it tickles, sometimes is pinches. Sometimes it just nudges. If you get the chance, go to www.fischtank.com and sign up for the "Catch of the Day."

This poem was in John's catch today. He's not sure who wrote it, so he doesn't attribute it to anyone in particular. I'll thank him for sharing it.

I was shocked, confused, bewildered
As I entered Heaven's door,
Not by the beauty of it all,
Nor the lights, or its decor.

But it was the folks in Heaven
Who made me sputter and gasp--
The thieves, the liars, the sinners,
The alcoholics, and the trash.

There stood the kid from seventh grade
Who swiped my lunch money twice.
Next to him was my old neighbor
Who never said anything nice.

Herb, who I always thought
Was rotting away in hell,
Was sitting pretty on cloud nine,
Looking incredibly well.

I nudged Jesus, 'What's the deal?
I would love to hear Your take.
How'd all these sinners get up here?
God must've made a mistake.

"And why's everyone so quiet,
So somber - give me a clue."
"Hush, child,' He said, "they're all in shock.
No one thought they'd be seeing you."


a.m. drive time thinking

Ok, this black Audi has been promising to turn for about five miles now.

Yay! Adam Lambert is still alive on Idol!! If I could sing like that... If I could move like that...

I'm surprised that anybody is surprised to learn their political peeps are accepting cash from the bailout beneficiaries.

Note to self: buy more bananas... and apples... and grapes... and toothpaste... and batteries. Ok, I'd better leave myself a voicemail. What else do I need?

I've gotta get back to my workout tonight, but I'm still so stiff and sore from the last one. I will workout. I WILL workout. I WILL WORKOUT. (to myself)


I'm so embarrassed... Did I just scream that out loud?

hummmmmm..... la la la la...... One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight! Schlemiel, Schlimazel, Hasenpfeffer Incorporated... (in my head)

Why were those crazy girls skipping down the street - in the rain? Why were they singing Yiddish? (out loud)

Michael crawling across the Dunder Mifflin floor was hilarious!

Ok, people are staring. Prolly wondering why I'm laughing. That Michael!

Note to self: see if "The Office" tweets.


Did I take my vitamin?

The gym tonight... YOU can do it. You CAN do it. You can DO IT. (to myself)

They're asking WHAT for Jonas Brothers tickets? (to no one in particular)

Poor North Dakota. God, you know their stuff. Please provide for them. Thanks a bunch.

I shoulda done the bathroom thing before I left the house.

Guess I'll find out if I took my vitamin when I get to work.

It looks like the Dems are at liberty to speed across I-64 now. Two years ago it was the Repubs. The bumper stickers give it away. Guess who's governor now.

Oh man! I meant to call Christian before he got to school this morning.

I need a truck load of mulch.

Wish I had a truck.

Did I bring my gym shoes?

Whoa! What's that smell???

Yeah, gym shoes in the back.

Why won't this window go down?

Note to self: pay electric bill.

Note to self: make dentist appointment. aaaagggghhhhh...

I think I want to see Altar Boyz when I get to the city.

His tags are expired.

Does anybody think the university is going to fire Billy G. 'til the big tourney is over?

Did I feed the dog?

Why is every comment on the newspaper's web site so cynical and angry?

Oh man! This is casual day...

Is Greg's party tonight or tomorrow night?

I wish everyone had this Isaacs music. Wish I could sing and write like that.

She shouldn't be texting and driving.

Gotta cut back on some things. Think I'll let the Singing News and Met Home subs expire.

Lord, help Billie get a job. Thanks a bunch.

No. That doesn't smell like gym shoes...

ring... ring... Uh, should I take his call or not? I'm heading into a dead spot. I'll call him later.

Note to self: call Jeff later.

Note to self: text Jeff to let him know you'll call him later.

Ooh. I've not done MySpace in a long time. Bet my stuff is stacked to the cyber ceiling.

Wish I had some Advil.

Wish Starbucks had a key-fob card thingy.

I really, really wish I had time to stop at that rest area.

Which side of the fence is that cow on?

Wonder if anybody's found a way to make my Twitter updates be Facebook and Myspace updates too? That would be so cool.

Note to self: google the twitter thing.

Did I call Owen back?

Was that my exit?


for real

I'm perfect. Except for the unhealthy habits, I'm perfect. Well, there is the mood thing and my tendency to watch too much TV. But other than that, I'm perfect. Oh, and I've told a little white lie or two, and didn't return the too-much-change the cashier gave me. But for the sake of credibility I'm still perfect. I have yet to pay my pledge to Jerry's kids. If you don't count my oft spiritual laziness or that I've been known to wear a pair of socks for two, maybe three days; ignoring the sudden words when I stumped my toe, and disregarding the three minutes I parked in the handicapped spot, forgetting about the despicable thoughts I enjoyed when I saw THAT person and the delicious ones when that one strolled by... If you'll turn your head please, I'd like to "share" with someone. Still, it's important for you to know that I'm perfect.

Several weeks ago I was singing in Arkansas. Not to be a rebel or anything, I usually don't do the coat and tie thing when I perform these days - unless the occasion calls for it of course. This was an occasion. Black suit (slimming) with a white shirt, black belt, shoes, socks and tie. I spent lots of time and worked very hard to put on my performing perfection, and I looked dapper, not so much as piece of lint. No one would've known there was a flaw had I not confessed. It was well hidden, and could've been a secret for my grave, except I admitted it.

For a lot of years, when I depended on the crowds to feed me and my family, I chose my admissions. People don't buy tickets to funerals, interventions, confessions or pity parties. Besides, this was good news music we were putting out there; happy, sin-stopping stuff. If we're singing the Gospel we have to display it properly. We have to put it on and wear it like a model on a runway - perfect body, perfect fit, perfect walk. Who would believe us if we didn't look the perfect part? Our public won't allow us to sell the solution to sin if they think we're vulnerable to it. We're not qualified to point the way to a good and holy life if we don't at least appear to have attained it, and completely. Honestly though, even doctors get sick.

I may disappoint some folks here, and may even lose a few friends, but I wasn't then, and I'm not now the super spiritual man of God I appeared to be. Not that I didn't and don't love, seek and study Him. I do. But I'll confess to you just as I did to the folks in Arkansas: My hair was styled. My suit was pressed. My tie was straight. My shirt was starched. But inside my shiny leather shoe, where you couldn't see it and a professional would be forced to hide it, was a hole. My sock had a hole in it. Had I taken off my shoe you could've seen it, but the whole look would've been ruined. People don't admire and often disregard the better parts when they can see the flaw. And that's too bad, 'cause we have a lot of not-so-perfect people out there singing and preaching it who, for the sake of success, can't admit it. They dare not take off their shoes. Politicians too.

I'm not all bad, but I'll tell you that my list up top is pretty abbreviated. Sometimes I'm selfish. I drink too much coffee and don't always eat right. I cheat on the treadmill when my trainer isn't looking. This past Sunday I cut off an old guy who was moving way too slow. I ran a red light just yesterday and I ate a grape long after I dropped it. You can ask, but I don't plan to get much more personal than that. Except to say that sometimes I lie when people ask me how old I am.


the original

George was a happy man. I'm not sold on the reincarnation thing, but I've heard so many stories about my grandpa and his antics, and everyone I know who knew him well tells me that I must've taken up his mantle. I do feel an especially close kinship to the one grandparent I never knew. There were times in my younger life when I'd do something ridiculously zany, and really should've gotten at least a good scolding out of it, but Dad or someone who had known Grandpa would say, "That's exactly what Happy would do." My grandpa's nick was Happy. That tells you a lot right there. His tombstone even says it: George "Happy" Bishop 1905-1964.

I had the chance to spend a good part of the day with my parents this past Saturday. I always enjoy being with them, and it's even nicer when I have them all to myself. It's fun when the whole family is around, but talk-time with the folks isn't as personal or deep when lots of voices are chiming in. I get to ask questions when it's just me and them, questions I wouldn't ask if others were in the room. We got out the old photo albums and walked backwards for a while.

My dad grew up poor. I found an old picture of the whole Bishop clan when most of them were young. They were standing in front of an old car, all of them looking angry or disinterested, except Happy of course. They weren't dirty, but they weren't dressed for a party either. There were eight mouths to feed when there was no company in the house, and for a meat-and-potatoes family, that meant lots of starch-only meals. Dad told me of walking past the cafeteria when he was a kid and watching the other kids eat. Catching aromas and glimpses was about all he could afford. I get hungry about thirty minutes after breakfast. I don't know how managed.

Although Grandpa Bishop was a hard worker, the need to help make ends meet made it necessary for Dad to drop out of school. Later though, when he met his love, he decided he was going to make a better home for her. He found he had a chance to do something about his lot in life, so he did it. He went to a technical school and learned a trade. Kenneth and Shirley got married, started a family, and created a loving, stable, responsible environment that fostered singing and playing, enouraged ingenuity and prayer.

I wish I'd been able to meet my Grandpa Bishop. To this day I hear from folks who tell me what a character he was. I'm right proud to have inherited his personality. Dad can be funny too, he's just not very loud about it. One thing he is though is consistent. I have lots of traits that I'd gladly trade for some of his gentleness and spirit. I don't want to take it from him though, too many people rely on him. They have been for sixty-five years now, as of today. Happy b'day Dad!