Of all the things I can say about my father, it would be most accurate to say he loves God. As a child, I watched him saunter for hours throughout an old IOOF (Independent Order of Odd Fellows) cemetery located across the street from our six-room Southern Illinois cottage. In a strange allegory of life in the midst of death, dreams and visions leaped into his heart from cut marble stones, plastic flowers, uneven earth and the wisdom of a thousand lifetimes. It was in this unkempt cemetery that fierce wars were waged in the dimension of the wholly other. It was here that those unseen forces that determine the boundaries of empirical reality raged. It was here that spirit-world and time and space collided. As God spoke to him, he would walk hunkered down with his head low as if any intrusion from our world would destroy him. It was in this holy place that God made him privy to things seldom seen by human eyes. The cemetery was a spiritual playground where the pure imagination of God was revealed to a man whom an historical accident had predestined him to drive tractors on a173-acre farm.
Fred Bishop is the son of a man who worked with his hands, fought with his fists and played with all his might. Hal Bishop was an entrepreneur, a hunter of quail, a tiller of the ground and a miner of coal. He was one of a thousand men like him who lived too hard and died too soon. By nature, Fred Bishop’s proverbial nut did not fall far from the tree. He is quick- tempered, swift to make a fist and impulsive, but there is a quality in the clay pot of Fred Bishop that transports a priceless treasure. The fire of the Holy Spirit burns in his soul. It is undeniable and its heat burns your face. He is a lover of God who knows his lover as few humans ever will. Like Enoch, he is a friend to the Deity and his best times are those in which he enters God’s own stratum. It is within the hunger pangs of a long fast that he somehow seems most centered. It is in these sacred times that God has his full attention and his energy does not have to be shared with the cares of this world.
Frederick, son of Hallan, is a man of unshakable faith, mystic dreams, forged relationships and mentor to many. Within this clay pot lays a genetic predisposition to ramble in speech, embrace fads and do everything to excess. He does not relish discussions concerning theology; his operating concepts are borrowed and he does not think mathematically. Yet his intelligence is shining, his outlook bright and his eyes dance with fire. He is a prophet of God who, like all prophets, knows something of rejection, despair and anguish. He is a friend of God and thus, a friend of friends who sticks by people long after logic necessitates abandonment. At times it seems as if this quality will kill him but on the verge of demise, resurrection occurs for two, not just one. He is a mentor who has poured himself into a thousand vessels and with each pouring lost a bit of him. It is these vessels who validate his life and ministry. Fred Bishop has hundreds of spiritual sons, but most of all, Fred Bishop is a teacher. He is the rare breed of the great player who also becomes a great coach. He teaches the basics. Within him is an artist with the patience to teach the less gifted simply because they desire to learn. He does not evaluate on the basis of performance. He is a teacher who carefully measures each man in accordance with the gifts they have been given. Of all the students he has produced, among his greatest successes was a shiftless teen with no home life that developed into a family man who holds a steady job.
What is the stuff of a legacy? It surely cannot be measured in the sum of one’s possessions, so it must be measured by what one has given away. When dad dies, there will be no universities, television shows or classic theological publications bearing his name. He will not leave a thumbprint on the internet or a significant body of written work to be later published. He honestly could have acquired any or all of those things. It was something he never wanted; when worldly success seemed to be courting him in the late 80’s and early 90’s, he quickly closed the doors to the frustration of some and the delight of many. Success for him has always been measured by the quality of the relationships that comprise his existence, both horizontal and vertical.
His legacy will be the treasure he has stored in the hearts of four generations of men. The treasure he offers is a glimpse of holy fire, the kind Moses saw in a burning bush. Many men have had to take off their shoes because they have known Fred Bishop. His life is the translocation of precious ointment from one clay pot into others. Like a libation, his treasure is freely poured into the hearts of the academician and the illiterate, the Charismatic and the Mennonite and the rich man and Lazarus. If the hearts of men are the banks in which heavens treasures are stored, Fred Bishop may be the richest man on earth.
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop from “Re:member” (2013)