4/11/2011

hi, god

thoughts from the couch of kenny bishop |

Hi, God.

I should probably apologize and ask forgiveness before I do anything else. I’ve not noticed you like I should. I’m sorry. I’ve probably missed the point of a million pretty things and a thousand precious moments along the way. And I’m quite confident I’ve enjoyed a lot of goodies at your bidding without even considering how kind you are. I really am sorry – and thanks.

I wonder sometimes what kind of an influence I am. I wonder what my coworkers and my friends and especially my kids and the others I love think about you because of me. As much as I want to represent and mimic you and your approach to things, I think I do it wrong a lot. I probably owe them all an apology for being such a mishmashed example sometimes, and one to you for misrepresenting your heart. Saying out loud that I’m a Christian probably carries a whole lot more responsibility than I’ve been giving it.

I've been meaning to thank you for the cheaper car insurance. Better coverage too! Thanks!!

I’ve been a bad Republican. I don’t know if that requires a confession or not. But I mention it just in case. I’m having trouble figuring out the wealthy/needy equation. People with lots and people with little living so close to each other… I get mixed up on whose side Jesus is on. I do think though that some of your people are kinda getting distracted - making hay for horses that ain’t hungry. Not that I'd be a better Democrat. I don’t know for sure what a Tea Partier is. I'll beg your indulgence on that one.

I felt really bad the other day at church. The guy sitting about three seats down was bouncing his leg like a pogo stick. I think he was nervous. But the whole row shook and it got on my nerves. I could’a been a better worshipper, but I was being jostled. No doubt, the sermon was spot on, but I was distracted. I probably shouldn’t have, but I stared at him till he stopped – for a while. I think I made him more uncomfortable. I hope he comes back this Sunday. I'll do better. Nudge him if you will.

I said the word fool back on April first. Mom always said we shouldn’t. Wanted you to know.

Speaking of bad words, I cursed the gas prices this week. Well, it really wasn’t a curse word. But it was one I wouldn’t want Mom to hear passing my lips. I don’t know what the point was anyway. It’s not like numbers have souls. I certainly didn’t mean it as a curse on the people who rob, er’ decide what we pay. I don’t want anyone to go to hell. I don’t think anyone heard me, but when the pump stopped and the total jumped out on me like that chainsaw guy at the end of the haunted forest, I just blurted it out. I really am sorry.

I’ve had a lot of meals lately without thanking you for the bounty. So I thank you now with incredible and sincere appreciation.

I plan to wake up tomorrow. Thanks in advance for the fun, and my apologies for the mess.

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4/04/2011

god or not

thoughts from the couch of kenny bishop |

"I prefer to help people of my own accord following God's individual direction rather than forced charity through the government. Those who invoke religious motives when attempting to justify the immoral redsitrabution [sic] of wealth are using the lazyiest [sic] possible argument [sic]"

I found this quote the other day on Leland's Facebook page. It was his response to a liberal friend who was trying to appeal to his religious convictions. One of them was talking, I think, about God's charity; the other about God's government.

I've been debating in my own head these same conflicting and frustrating arguments for a while now. I’ve moved a great deal from where I was, but I'm still not solidly settled on a position. There are reasons that I agree and disagree with Leland.

I can't not admit that I'm a hypocrite when it comes to personal denial. I've enjoyed nice vacations knowing there is a kid somewhere who could make a year's worth of necessities out of my week of extravagance. A mom who works the hard soil with bare feet would wince at my shoe stash. A lot of nice coats hang in my warm closet on cold, cold nights.

I've earned most of what I have. In the morning, when the alarm goes off, I get out of bed, feeling it or not, and get myself to the place that pays me to be productive. I work for my stuff, and I feel I deserve my stuff. But I also feel compelled to give as generously as I can to help meet the needs of others. I think that's the point my friend Leland was making, and it makes great sense.

There seems to be something missing though in Leland’s spirit. I absolutely do not question his commitment or relationship with God. I don’t qualify to even sit on that jury. I want to ask though, in the Scripture, which was more evidently important to Jesus Christ, caring for the poor and making sure that the hungry get to eat even a little, or protecting the wealthy and ensuring that they always have more than enough? Where did Jesus stand on political power? What was his position on keeping the government under control or in the control of the right people? Jesus Christ didn’t seem too interested in patriotic motivation or conditional compassion.

There is also the issue of the long range premise of Leland’s words. There are lots of very conservative Christians in the United States who are working incredibly hard to make sure that their idea of the teachings of the Holy Bible is the law of the land. Lawmakers who promote “family values” admit they are influenced by Judeo-Christian ideas. But if religion is no good reason for a government to be morally compassionate, then is religion a good reason for a government to be morally judicious?

"I prefer to live my life of my own accord, following God's individual direction, rather than forced morality through the government. Those who invoke religious motives when attempting to legislate moral 'family values' are using the laziest possible argument."

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3/27/2011

sacrificial couch

thoughts from the couch of kenny bishop |

There's a burning couch in the middle of Euclid Avenue. That either means they couldn't find the cigarette, or the University of Kentucky basketball team did something incredibly big.

Our team is now one of only four still in the running for a national, big tourney title. Two more wins and the Wildcats will be the only Div. I team this year able to brag about winning their very last game. Nearly every kid studying at UK right now was in the single digit years of their life the last time that happened. So if anything is worthy of a good, old-fashioned, public couch burnin', this probably is.

Basketball is a near religious experience in Kentucky. During the season, wins (gratefulness) and losses (faith) make for perfect sermons. God is UK. Satan is the versus. Visiting evangelists are made aware. Church services are subject to game times from October to April. Like the crusaders, we conquer and rename cities, e.g. Catlanta, Big Blue Newark Nation, Blue Jersey, and whatever Houston ends up falling to. Restaurants are louder when we're winning. The people smile more. Benevolence increases. Jesus is thanked. And evidently, when we win the big, big games, we sacrifice furniture.

I try to be a live-and-let-live kinda guy, so I didn't give the flaming furniture a lot of scrutiny. If I'd been the parent who paid for it I might have, but otherwise I didn't think much about it. Except to wonder how the conversation went that led up to the moment of combustion.

TV Announcer Jim Nantz: "And that will do it. The Wildcats, going back to an old Kentucky home, the Final Four!

College student #1: "Yes! Yes!! YES BABY!!! We're going to Houston, baby!! Woo hoo!!! Oh my gosh!! Can you believe it?! We're going to the Final Four! We're going to Houstoooonnnn!!!"

Chest bump. High five. Chest bump. Tight hug. Awkward stare. Chest bump.

College student #2: "Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! We gotta celebrate, man! We gotta par-tay!!"

College student #1: "Oh my gosh, man! Everybody's going to the street! We gotta go!"

College student #2: "This is crazy, man! We-are-gon-na-par-tay!!"

College student #1: "Hey, man! Let's do something off the hook! Get the other end."

College student #2: "What?"

College student #1: "Get the other end, man!"

College student #2: "Why?"

College student #1: "We're gonna burn it, man! Woo hoo!!"

College student #2: "What?

College student #1: "Seriously, dude. Get the other end."

College student #2: "Dude. You sure? This is Kendall's couch."

College student #1: "Kendall shoulda been here to protect it."

College student #2: "Woo hoo!! We're going to Houston, man! We're gonna par-tay!!"

Local news announcer: "Worshippers took to the streets in Lexington tonight, celebrating the Kentucky Wildcats' first NCAA Final Four appearance in thirteen years. A couch was burned in honor of the occasion. No word yet on whether it was a virgin."

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3/13/2011

for japan...

thoughts from the couch of kenny bishop |

“The splendor of a King, clothed in majesty; Let all the earth rejoice, all the earth rejoice. He wraps himself in light, and darkness tries to hide. It trembles at his voice, trembles at his voice.”

These were some of the lyrics that called us to worship this past Sunday morning. We sang it, but it didn't mean much to me. I mouthed, “How great is our God! Sing with me, how great is our God! And all will see how great, how great is our God!” I wondered if I could convince a dazed and devastated Japanese to sing such a thing right now.

It was too easy - singing about the earth rejoicing and trembling and all. Is that what it was doing last Friday when it shook and rolled and killed tens of thousands of my fellow humans in and around Sendai? It was no trouble at all to turn to my pew buddies and share the Peace of Christ knowing that the calamity and turmoil in the headlines is 7,338 miles that way. In my safe place, where the air and water is clean and a meal within the hour is not if, but what, I had a hard time not feeling guilty.

I don’t think I personally know anyone who so much as lost a light bulb in Japan. Still, I wince and get a knot in my belly when I see cars and boats and all the deeply personal and sentimental pieces of people’s lives scattered among the splinters that used to be houses, and know that rodents will find some of those bodies before the recoverers do. I’ve cried or wept or sighed every single time I’ve seen a picture or a video or heard an interview – all from strangers, but still very moving.

When I was a kid I once had a Sunday school teacher who told the class that we should never question why God does what He does. I always wondered why God let drunk drivers and drug dealers and robbers do bad things and keep on living. I thought that was her point. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me then that God did earthquakes and tornadoes and blizzards and stuff. Then I got older and learned that attorneys and insurance companies (and show promoters) hold God accountable for destruction beyond man’s control.

Maybe if all the bad people in the world lived where the tsunami hit, I’d feel bad but not so bad. At least it would all seem more reasonable and give God a better image (at least among the conservatives). At least I’d feel like the evil-doers got their comeuppance – and the good, hard working, honest people were spared. But that didn’t happen.

In spite of my Sunday school teacher’s warnings, I question God about a lot of things. Sometimes it’s about the curious, like why the circle of life needs chiggers. Sometimes I ask Him why He doesn’t stop the selfish, mean people in their greed and violence. I often question His apparent lack of interest when kids and innocent people get sick and don’t survive. I always wonder why He’d let His nature, HIS nature, do angry deeds.

In Japan, when the planet stopped shaking and the ocean flowed back, the overwhelming majority of us looked on at the ugly mess from far away. A lot of us prayed, but found our meditations sprinkled with little fits of futility. Probably because we’re Christians with no answers, and that’s hard. The only thing left is for us to believe as best we can for those who can’t. So for the beautiful, precious, incredible people of Japan I sing, even in my misgivings, in honor of you.

“And age to age He stands. And time is in His hands. Beginning and the end. Beginning and the End. The Godhead, three in one. Father, Spirit, Son. The Lion and the Lamb. The Lion and the Lamb”.

Very pretty words and music by Chris Tomlin.

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1/29/2011

perfectly good trash

thoughts from the couch of kenny bishop |

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.

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1/22/2011

political justification

thoughts from the couch of kenny bishop |

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.

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1/15/2011

matt didn't mean no harm

thoughts from the couch of kenny bishop |

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."

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