The Ballad of Mitch Randall

(Sung to the tune of “John Henry”)

When Mitch Randall was a little baby,
sitting on his father’s knee.
He tied a ribbon on his finger,
and he held it in the air.
Said, this bow tie’s gonna be the death of me, Lord, Lord
This bow tie’s gonna be the death of me.

When Mitch Randall was just a little boy,
his parents noticed that he was an unusual child.
When other kids would want cookies and milk,
all Mitch wanted was a piece of silk.

He’d tie that silk to anything he could reach,
the table leg,
the chair leg,
the dog’s leg,
his father’s leg.

Nice neat bows,
straight,
even on both sides.

And then one day,

He was standing in front of the mirror,
seeing what he could see.
He tied that piece of ribbon right around his neck, and said,
this is the look for me, Lord, Lord.
This is the look for me.

So, he started wearing a bow tie to church.
Everybody thought it was cute.
Then he wore it to school.
That was not so cute.
When he started wearing it with his baseball uniform,
everybody thought it was just a little weird.

When the other kids started to tease him
His dad decided to have a talk.
He said, son,
that may be the look down in Texas, Austin, that is,
but this is Oklahoma, 1975.
It’s just not that progressive a state.
But here’s what I want you to remember:

Don’t let them make fun of your bow tie,
You gotta be who you gotta be.
So, when you wear a bow tie round your neck,
You gotta wear it with your head held high, Lord, Lord.
Wear it with your head held high.

Then he went off to college.
As it was for many young people,
college was a place for experimenting,
pushing the envelope,
things you wouldn’t necessarily tell your parents about,
getting wild…

Striped bow ties,
plaids,
polka dots,
paisleys,
there were parts of town where you could slip a man five bucks
and he’d give you a floral pattern tie.

Seminary was tough, though,
cause this was fort worth,
where they wore their hair short,
And their ties long.
He felt alone,
nobody understood.
But then one day,
in a course on religion and the state,
he learned about the Baptist Joint Committee,
with men like James Dunn and Brent Walker,
who wore their bow ties in the service of the Lord.

And, hallelujah, Mitch had found his calling!

When he saw the men with the bow ties,
He said, you know I got to go,
Down to Washington DC, to fight for liberty,
I gotta be on the BJC, Lord, Lord.
I gotta be on the BJC.

Then he came to NorthHaven.
Growing up had been tough in northeastern Oklahoma,
but Norman was different.
There were liberals,
hippies,
Democrats,
people who wouldn’t look twice at a man with a bow tie.

And the people of NorthHaven admired his skill.
Even on both sides,
nice dimple in the center.
Straight, not crooked,
good-looking ties.

Everything was good, until…

In one day, walked Bryan Partridge,
With a smile on his face.
The bow tie that we saw, was completely without flaw.
And the challenge had been thrown down, Lord, Lord.
The challenge had been thrown down.

Yes, my friends, it was the beginning of the end.
The old ways were dying,
passing away before a new generation.
The age of the clip-on had come.

And Mitch Randall said to Bryan Partridge,
I don’t care if my tie is a wreck.
Before I put that clip-on on my shirt,
I’ll die with a bow tie round my neck, Lord, Lord.
I’ll die with a bow tie round my neck.

They decided to have a contest.
Whoever could put on the most ties in an hour
would be the NorthHaven champion.
It was old-school vs. the young upstart.

And so, Mitch Randall, he started tying.
His fingers went round and round.
But he couldn’t make it last,
cause the clip-on was so fast.
It left poor Mitch on the ground, Lord, Lord.
It left poor Mitch on the ground.

He couldn’t keep up the pace
With those small, delicate ties.
He needed something bigger, easier to grasp.
So, he reached for the secret weapon,
The Barnum and Bailey special.

But when he wrapped that clown tie around his neck,
Disaster struck.

Then his tie got caught in the shredder,
and it pulled his head straight down.
And the next thing that we knew,
it looked like he was through.
We’d have to plant poor Mitch in the ground, Lord, Lord.
We’d have to plant poor Mitch in the ground.

Nobody knew what to do.
One person screamed.
Another person laughed.
(One of those was Cheryl, another was Kim. I’ll let you decide which was which.)
And then Sheri walked into the room.
she muttered something about boys and their foolishness,
and cut that bow tie clean in half with a pair of scissors.

Then Mitch Randall said to Bryan Partridge,
Lord knows, I’ve been a fool.
Well, before I die with a bow tie round my neck,
I’m gonna get me clip-on too, Lord, Lord.
I’m gonna get me clip-on too.

Friends in the Darkness

I’m sitting in the USO at the Portland airport with some time to write the prayer for the week. The week of 9/11 is always a time of reflection for me. In past years, I’ve generally thought about the cost to military families, compared to a country that mostly feels inconvenienced at the airport. This year, I thought instead about the wonderful friends I made during two deployments. Although I do wish that the conflict had never happened, those friends are gifts from God that I will always cherish.

This week’s prayer:

Thank you for
the precious ones
who walk through
the valleys with us,
surrounding us
with your love,
and reminding us
that your grace can
redeem every moment.

Amen

Benediction for 22 Shenanigans

22 Shenanigans is an organization dedicated to reducing the number of suicides among veterans. Here is the benediction from the sermon I preached at an event they held on Labor Day weekend.

Go now, follow where Christ calls you
and proclaim the message God gives you.

Don’t be distracted by the concerns of the world,
but stay focused on the hope that is within you.

May the Father be your strength and confidence;
May Christ Jesus give you courage for his mission;
And may the Spirit speak when your words fail.

Amen

A Prayer of Thanks for Friends

Thank you for the gift of friends,
those who are near,
and those who are far;
those still with us,
and those who await us
in the life to come.

Kind words remind us
that there is no distance,
neither time, nor space,
neither this life, nor the next,
that cannot be crossed.

For nothing can separate us
from the love of God,
and by that same love,
we are connected to each other.

Amen

Let Me Be Known

Lord,

Let me be known,

not by what I hate,
but by whom I love;

not by whom I exclude,
but by whom I include;

not by my enemies,
but by my friends;

for an enemy truly loved
is but a friend to be.

Amen