perfectly good trash

I use forks and spoons cause I can't throw my hands in the dishwasher and go to bed. It's likely though that nothing in my ol' Kentucky kitchen's utensil drawer is fit to land an appearance at the big William and Kate event coming up. As flatware goes, it's nice and all, but it ain't even distant kin to real silverware, and it's certainly not fit for royal occasions.

A couple of years ago I went through a little plastic ware phase - mostly because I was lazy. But I justified using and tossing a few dozen Dixie pieces cause it saved local H20and stopped the drought in East Africa. Actually, neither is hardly true. And as it turned out, it was a dumb idea.

In the meantime, I got myself some nice, fancy looking plastic spoons and forks and knives for when company came for dinner. They were pretty cool - if you didn't get too close - and if you didn't pick them up - and if your meat wasn't too tough. The pieces was coated with a really shiny silver. But this was quite obviously not real silverware. It was plastic. And every one of my friends who used it knew it was plastic. You can pay a little more for the silver version, but still all you've got is plastic.

While the reusable stuff sat ready and clean but unused, I was eating with the throw-away stuff, using it once, and, well, throwing it away. It never occurred to me that that didn't mean it was broken; that it could still feed me; that I could use it again. It may have been unconventional, but it wasn't like it was against the law or unbiblical to clean the spoon and use it again - just like new. The label told me it was disposable and useless once it got dirty. So I threw away lots of used spoons because that's what we do with used, plastic spoons.

After a while I started associating again with better spoons. In the end it was actually more economical. And I got tired, even weary of throwing away perfectly good trash.


political justification

Zac is a boy with a dog named Baxter.

Baxter and Zac are close to each other.

Zac takes a step and Baxter does too.

Baxter is Zac's closest dog.

Zac is Baxter's closest human.

Baxter and Zac love to play games.

Zac and Baxter sometimes play hard.

Baxter forgets and sometimes bites Zac.

Zac must teach Baxter and bites Baxter back.

Baxter now thinks it's his turn to bite Zac.


matt didn't mean no harm

Matt Paul used to own Sunday night radio in Richmond, Kentucky. If you liked bluegrass music, and I did (do), his show on WCBR was the one to know and never miss. He knew the singers, the pickers, the promoters, the writers, the history and the gossip in the acoustic git-box music world. He had his own local band, he was funny and as far as I knew, he was a great guy.

Matt played "secular" songs early in the show. Then about 8 o'clock or so he'd start slipping "sacred" songs into the rotation. That's when the good-living, God-fearing folks who just got out of church started tuning in. By 8:30, all the drinking, loving and cheating songs were done. It was all about Jesus, Heaven and dying till 10 o'clock. On Sunday, in Central and Eastern Kentucky, just 'cause church was over didn't mean it wasn't still the Lord's day.

Matt did most of his commercials live. His sponsors preferred it. He'd have a note in front of him so he could know what was on sale, but usually he just went with the top of his head. Every spot ended with, "and you be sure now to tell 'em Matt sentcha."

Every once in a while Matt would accidentally offend the sensitive spirits with something PG. He knew who his audience was, so I can't imagine he did it on purpose. But when pretty much everything short of a King James version of the Beatitudes with an old Red-Back Hymnal chaser is a sure sign of slipping, or as our tradition calls it, back-sliding, it's hard not to transgress with an unintentional piece of clever radio every now and then.

"Hardy Brother's over in Irvine is having a whale of a sale!"

Everybody in Irvine knew where the Hardy Brother's Market was. The "Y" is where the three big roads came together. It's also where the brothers kept shop. They sold batteries, lard, seed corn, hard candy, salt blocks, bibbed overalls, pork chops, work socks, butter, Mt. Dew, roastin' ears, chewing tobacco, hair spray and dog food. Pretty much anything a small river town dweller or a farmer would need was somewhere in there, including what had to be the widest selection of pickled stuff this side of the Mississippi.

"Run over to the "Y" in Irvine and say hi to Ray and Pepper Hardy," Matt said one night around 9 o'clock. "The Hardy Brothers are having one whale of a sale." Well that was pushing it. Everybody knew that "whale" was a safe word for something else. And the good church folks who heard it were sure he probably used the real word earlier in the show while they were worshipping and he was playing honky-tonk songs.

"Well folks, it's about springtime! And that means it's time to get the cabbage in the ground. Ray and Pepper over at the Hardy Brother's Market have what you need to get your garden going and growing. While you're there, have Maimee back in the kitchen fix ya one of her famous chuck wagon spreads. And oh yeah, since the weather's gettin' warm, the brothers are putting all their long johns on sale. So run on over and take a look while Pepper's underwear is half off. And you be sure now to tell 'em Matt sentcha."

According the reverend, "He probably didn't mean no harm, but Matt's going to hell."


what did i pray?

I tried to pray while I was driving in to the office this morning, but that blasted driver smiling in my mirror was intent on making our cute little rides the newest Kia couple in town. We were certainly close enough to mate out our own little Spectra. Yesterday it was the hay wagon in front of me that robbed Jesus from my mind. Sometimes God has a hard time keeping my attention.

When I was a kid our family attended a lot of small, independent Baptist and Pentecostal churches. They were usually out in the country, usually way out, and the people there usually worshipped with a lot of loud. They also usually moved a lot when they felt the Spirit, which meant they usually got hot and sweaty. The little buildings usually didn’t have air conditioning, so they’d usually raise the windows and expect God to bless them with a breeze. He usually did.

Along with the air, it wasn’t uncommon for an insect critter or two to find a place in the place. Not thinking like a bug (but willing to try), I’m not sure what the arthropods thought they were buzzing into. But watching them flit and flutter for dear life among what had to look like human pandemonium was a sweet treat for us kids. With a house full of jumpers and spinners and fainters and jerkers in full-on worship, you’d think there was plenty to entertain the young set already. But bring in a fly or a moth, or especially a bee or a wasp, and spectacular things can happen among the saints.

God is big. Huge even. But as large as He is, a thing with wings and a stinger can sap His spirit right out of the most holy place. Let one distracted parishioner take their eyes off Heaven and spot a hornet and God is done for the night – or at least until one of His most faithful declares it an attack from the devil and breaks the sixth commandment on the innocent little guy. Eternal death for one of God’s tiny creations is justified when it momentarily distracts us from Him. (Crying church babies excluded.)

This is when the preacher seizes the opportunity, says God gave him a revelation, and warns us not to open the windows of our souls, even when the inside is hot and uncomfortable, lest the devil (a bug) comes in to distract us.

It’s still hot in the church though, so no one closes the window.

I have set-aside time when I remove the distractions and concentrate on prayer. But I talk to God all the time. I drive and talk, listen to the radio and talk, read and talk, eat and talk, sing and talk, take a shower and talk, watch TV and talk, workout and talk, run and talk, walk and talk. I talk – and I listen. But it’s usually in spurts. Sometimes I have to ask God what I was talking about before I got distracted. I tell Him I’m sorry for wondering off, and apologize if I’m about to say something I’ve already said. I imagine He rolls His eyes; we both smile and resume the visit.


one thousand, 10

My warm-weather average is probably at least four cups of coffee a day. And by cup I mean mega-mug. (The official size of a cup of coffee is around 4 oz. Who ever?!) I never, ever miss a day, and the colder the day the morer the java. I'm guestimating that I sipped down more than 1,500 "servings" of mmm hot caffeinated deliciousness last year. Probably more. I likely did more coffee last year than I did meaningful prayer. Sorry, God and Mormons and Adventists and old-time Nazarenes and whoever else thinks caffeine should be sold in liquor stores.

According to the calendar on the ol' iPhone, I got my hair cut eleven times in 2010 and my teeth cleaned twice. I was scheduled to see the doctor three times, but cancelled once because I wasn't supposed to eat, forgot, woke up and had a biscuit.

Last year I shared songs on stages and platforms in Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia, Tennessee, California, Georgia, Florida, Ohio, Missouri, Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas, Arkansas, Michigan, Virginia and North Carolina. (The acoustics in the little trailer terminal at the Salt Lake City Airport were pretty fun, so I hummed a little in Utah. I'm not counting that one as official though cause it was unadvertised.)

The state capitol building in Kentucky hit the big 1-0-0 back in the summer. The governor officially invited me to officially sing the official state song at the big official b'day party in the official rotunda where bad notes linger and you can harmonize with yourself if you do it quickly. That was a historic, official treat for me.

One of my fave days every year is the one I spend with the thousands of breast cancer survivors who come out to the Celebration of Hope. Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear asked me to host the show again, and I think I said yes before she said would you... Fran Drescher and UK coach John Calipari talked too. I forget what they said.

Tony Greene left us. That was hard. It's still hard.

I sang a handful of jingles, put some BGVs on a few records, did voice-overs for two or three TV commercials, and had a couple of writing sessions with some incredibly humble but still intimidating song-crafter-artists in 2010.

I got to lead-sing on a classic gospel song with one of the classic performers who actually made it a classic gospel song. Then I got to harmony-sing with one of the the coolest, funnest, most tuned-in-to-God groups around. All of that in a matter of hours. Way cool!

I spent a couple of days recording Gaither Homecoming videos. As always, it was like a family reunion where you're content to wave across the room to some and can't wait to catch up with others and load up on hugs and stories knowing you won't again until the next reunion - or funeral. Bill always feeds us good. We laugh a lot and cry almost as much.

I saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show in a movie theater for the very first time - rice, newspapers, flashlights, confetti, toilet paper, toast, cards, hot dogs and all. They confiscated our water pistols at the door.

The Fourth of July fireworks look different from the middle of downtown Lexington where buildings used to be but an open pasture with a pretty fence is now. I learned that the big Halloween zombie walk down Main Street really is big.

I "accidentally" dropped my iPhone 3G repeatedly until it broke. The new iPhone 4 is really neat.

Zac gave me a new smarter-than-I-am camera for my !#th birthday for which I'd have to switch majors to figure out. I gave him a bicycle for his, but returned it and got him another one cause his feet couldn't touch the ground, but returned it too cause although it was shorter and he's an adult, his feet still couldn't touch the ground. It's all good. Kid's bikes don't cost as much.

I flew away to Ft. Lauderdale, New York, Miami, Denver. St. Louis, Chicago, SoCal and Pittsburgh for a few days. Mortgages, car payments, and a vanishing dog sitter forced me to eventually fly back.

After nearly 15 years of dedicated soccer grunt-n-grind, Christian did his senior year thing on the field for the last time back in the fall, making his dad sinfully proud. Even though their last game went down ugly, it was my son who scored his team's only post-season goal. My one man victory lap would've been louder if some bound up parent hadn't swiped my vuvuzela. I was sad when it was over. My little boy is really a man.

Casie is all girl - all very pretty girl. I always thought I'd spend a good part of my daddy years judging, deeming unfit and turning wannabe boyfriends one after another away from her before she even knew they were interested. I knew of no living male who met the well justified qualifications. Still don't. But it looks like she's doing an admirable job, policing things very well. Good girl.

My sweet friend Ty got married and grand-opened her own business called Twirl Boutique. If a guy ever measures up, Casie will wedding shop there.

Since our extra, extra, extra, extra long lunch was perpetually tying up one of their Saturday afternoon tables, the fine chefs at 6 Friends Cafe in Lexington decided they might as well make good use of our hijacking. So me and my friends Amy and Renee got to taste test some deserts and name the best one after Nay Nay and John's new handsome and always smiling baby boy. The "Candy Case" crepe is delicious of course, and forever belongs to him. You're welcome, Lexington.

Right before Christmas, cute-as-a-button baby Zak introduced himself to Mom and Dad as Bishop grandchild #10, via my youngest brother, Chris. His adorability reminds everyone of his uncle Kenny.

The Spoon Bread Festival made history back in the summer when they discovered their most gorgeous little gem ever. Abby, the so far one and only Bishop great-grand was crowned Tiny Miss and then strutted her hot little stuff on the runway at state where bribery is the only possible explanation for her not coming home with a tiera, title and world tour.

Two of the best friends I've ever had in the whole of the world moved away, and I cried for a while. But now Anthony and Greg are settled in Ft. Lauderdale where I've already started my quest to hang in their extra bedroom way past the awkward stage.

In July I played producer for a big Kentucky Lady Legends show on a big stage on the river in Louisville. The weather worked pretty while Patty Loveless, Loretta Lynn and Wynonna Judd turned the crowd into puppets. In the end it was like Thanksgiving. All that work for a two hour meal.

Just before the ladies, I pulled executive producer duties for a one-man play called, "The Kingfish" at Louisville's Actors Theatre. Don't know if I'm more in love with the play or the theatre.

I've recently been treated to a reconnection with an old friend from long ago. Tim makes me feel wealthy. I reluctantly thank Mark Zuckerberg who is really, really wealthy.

Ronnie has been a close friend. Lately he's become a very dear friend. We connect on things like puking at the thought of seafood and an unhealthy passion for meatloaf - but only good meatloaf. I tolerate his fried green tomatoes like a real friend should.

Something I didn't last year that I wish I did was spend more time locked away with my recorder, keyboard and writing stuff. I also wish all that coffee was water.