Saturday, June 28, 2008

Blabbin' Grammy

Blabbin' Grammy is not my new nickname for my's the name of her new blog.

Many of you have mentioned that you enjoy reading my grandmother's comments on our blogs. can now go right to the source:

I can honestly say I don't know of any other great-grandmothers with blogs. We are very blessed to live in an age where we can stay connected with family who live so far away!

Friday, June 27, 2008

I'm Back and Talking About Ties

We're back after a long absence from home! We were in Louisville, KY while I took a class on Expository Preaching in the NT. Tonight, I'm working on getting through the massive amount of email that has accumulated in my inbox. If you are one of the unfortunate people who has emailed me apologies.

The following story was in my inbox and I thought I'd publish it before deleting it. It can be found numerous places online, including here.

I will comment on the story, or at least the phenomenon of the disappearing tie, at this Sunday's Church Plant ABC.

Incidentally, I forwarded the story to a lawyer friend. He wrote back and said that he was "privileged to be in a profession that has become a final bastion of the berated neckwear." I responded: "I was told lawyers were required by law to wear ties in order to save mobs valuable time during a lynching."

The necktie, knot what it used to be, still hangs on

NEW YORK (AP) — They were the best of ties. They were the worst of ties.
Skinny little beatnik ties and mod doublewide ties. Suave and sophisticated Frank Sinatra ties and greedy Gordon Gekko power ties. Bar Mitzvah boy clip-on ties and Jerry Garcia trippin' ties.

And, of course, all those closet doors decked with millions of gifted ties.

But now, with another Father's Day upon us, comes word that the necktie — that elongated swatch of silk or polyester or rayon whose donning has long marked a male rite of passage while serving no discernible utility — may be fading into the fashion sunset.

The recent decision by the Men's Dress Furnishings Association — the trade group for America's neckwear makers — to shut down has some folks tied up in knots. A calendar crammed with casual Fridays (and Mondays and Thursdays ...) has exacted its last, grim toll, some said.

In an age where some people show up for job interviews in flip-flops, the imminent death of the tie seems plausible.

It's been a good, long time, after all, since America was a nation of necktie-wearers.

Look back at pictures from the Great Depression and you'll see men who put on ties before taking their place on soup lines. The stands at baseball games were once filled with men in ties — even on weekends. In the years after World War II, when employers created thousands of new office jobs, the sidewalks of downtowns across the country were thronged by men whose necks were cloaked in soldierly stripes and solids.

But before we deliver the eulogy for the necktie, consider this:
Men have been wrapping and winding pieces of cloth around their necks for hundreds of years. It's clear that the tie, once the very symbol of the male establishment, is far from the icon it used to be.

Still, there's small comfort for neckwear makers: At least they're not selling fedoras.

And, given the fickleness of fashion and the fact that some occasions still demand a tie, it's probably too soon to write its epitaph.

"You almost want to say, 'poor necktie,' so abused and underappreciated," says Candace Corlett, president of the consulting firm WSL Strategic Retail.

Predictions of the necktie's demise have been circulating for years. In the mid-1990s, designer Gianni Versace offered his vision of male fashion in a coffee-table book titled "Men Without Ties," a sure sign of where things were headed. A bronzed Adonis dashed across its cover dressed in nothing but a few ties, lashed loosely around his waist.

The burgeoning popularity of casual Fridays turned khakis and open collar-shirts into suitable wear for workplaces previously better suited to suits. The dot-com boom filled thousands of instant offices with laid-back twentysomethings who saw no point in lashing something tight around their necks.

But rumors of the tie's death are roughly equivalent to the longtime predictions that the computer would soon turn society paperless. There's a lot of truth to the prognostication, but somehow it hasn't quite turned out that way.

Clearly, the tie business is nothing like the old days. In the early 1970s, when sales peaked, manufacturers sold between 200 million and 250 million ties a year in the U.S. Today annual sales have dropped to about 50 million, according to Lee Terrill, president of the neckwear division of Phillips-Van Heusen Corp., the nation's largest tie maker.

A Gallup poll last year found just 6% of men wearing neckties to work each day, down from 10% in 2002. More than two-thirds of the men surveyed said they never wear a tie to work, up from 59% five years earlier.

But the necktie still has its defenders and devotees, men who invest the kind of affection in their ties that a golf shirt will probably never know.

"A lot of people call me the Tie Guy," says Bob Smith, the outgoing provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark.
Smith has a collection of more than 400 ties in his closets. They are vital accessories in a job requiring him to deliver many speeches and presentations — more than 700 in the past eight years. Every Smith speech is punctuated with a tie themed to the subject.

A tie with a giraffe on it for a speech about the qualities that make a good supervisor, one who is able to raise his head above the fracas to see the landscape clearly. Another featuring a painting by Charles Rennie Mackintosh of a rose inside a teardrop that he saves for delivering eulogies.

"When I walk into a room, they'll look at my necktie, they'll actually pick it up when I walk in, and say 'Oh, what are you going to talk about today? and I'll say, 'Oh, wait and see.' It actually creates a sense of mystery," Smith says.
Smith's collection, though, pales compared to the more than 1,000 ties owned by Richard Arutunian, a retired Southern California neckwear manufacturer.
Arutunian rejects this talk that the tie has come undone. A tie is singularly irreplaceable, he says, uniquely capable of sending a message about its wearer to women and to his fellow men.

"To me it tells more about the person than even the shoe does," says Arutunian, who long served as official tie historian for the neckwear industry association's predecessor. "Is he trying to impress me? Is he wearing a tie because he has to wear that tie? How is he tying that knot?"

Wearing cloth around the neck stretches back a long way. Some trace the modern tie to the early 1600s when Croatian fighters looped fabric around their necks before battle, captivating the public's imagination.

Hard to believe, but for most of history men were the peacocks of the fashion world, and that included draping their necks in all sorts of status symbols, from waterfall cloths to cravats, says Paula Baxter, who curated an exhibit that closed last year at the New York Public Library on the rakish history of men's wear.

"Even the Puritans. They would wear lace collars," she says.

The era of the male dandy ended in the late 19th century, when the uniformity of the tailored suit took over. In the early 1920s, neckwear makers began cutting cloth on the bias — diagonally, at an angle to the weave — and the modern tie was born. It found a welcome home on the necks of the expanding ranks of white-collar workers.
By the 1960s, 600 companies made ties in the U.S., mostly smaller, regional manufacturers. They banded together in a professional association that lobbied on their behalf.

Those days are long past.

"The number you have dialed is not in service at this time," a recording greeted callers to the New York offices of the Dress Furnishings Association this week. "Please check the area code and number and dial your call again."

Don't bother.

Today there are only about two dozen companies making ties in the U.S., and the business is dominated by huge firms. Many of the ties American men wear are made overseas. It didn't seem to make any sense to keep running an association built for an industry so fundamentally different from what it used to be, says Terrill, the neckwear business executive and a member of the association's board.

"We didn't think anybody would notice," he says, of the decision to close.

Instead, the association's closure has been greeted as confirmation that the tie is done.

The suggestion alarms Terrill, who says that sales have steadied and ties are poised to make a modest comeback.

There are still a few islands of tie-wearers. Lawyers and folks in finance and insurance work in offices where suits and tie remain the badges of professionalism.
"When you wear a tie it still says ... you're dressed for the occasion," says Amy Klaris, a retail strategist at consulting firm Kurt Salmon Associates.

Today, with the economy softening, men need to market themselves and a big part of that is the way they dress. That will send the pendulum swinging, albeit subtly, back to the suit and tie, Terrill says.

In the past 10 or 15 years, as dress codes loosened, men who'd always worn ties "were making a statement. I'm not going to wear a tie because I don't have to wear a tie," Terrill says. "But now so many people don't wear a tie, that it's a statement to wear one."

That sounds like wishful thinking to Corlett, the consultant. She agrees that sales of ties have leveled off, but a comeback is unlikely.

"I think it's about as untrue as women returning to hosiery. Once you free the body of the tie and the hose, yeah, you may go back to it occasionally to make a statement or on dress-up day, but nobody willingly goes back to wearing a tie five days a week," she says.

For those waiting to see if men will once again embrace the constriction that comes with ties, she suggests looking to examples in women's fashion.

"You know," she says, "corsets never came back."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Is reading this blog making you stupid?

That's the question Leonard Pitts, Jr. asks in his most recent column at Jewish World Review. Actually, he doesn't blame this blog in particular. His point is that the vastness of information available is causing us to be less careful readers. We are being forced to trade depths of information (the old days) for quantity of information (not infinite, but pretty close to it).

This is an important issue for a pastor. If you read sermons from several hundred years ago, you find densely worded paragraphs and logical arguments that follow many twists and turns. Today's audience has difficulty following an oral presentation that has three or four main points. People are used to information being transmitted in a few short sound bytes or headlines on a blog.

How should a pastor respond? My own belief is that the pastor should stretch his audience, but do so in a way that ensures that they can succeed. I personally find PowerPoint distracting, but I think most audiences today are used to some media being utilized to communicate information. I've opted recently to use PowerPoint to communicate main points and sub-points during messages to help people follow the flow of an argument. But at the same time, I never (or at least very rarely) use media for "cutesy" things like movie clips or clever clip art. But maybe I should.

(Rambling ahead) This is just one of the many ways I think our paradigms for communication and thought patterns are changing. In meetings, we're all wired, meaning we're in the room with one another but part of us is on the web. Or think about our spatial orientation. Instead of the 4:3 fullscreen orientation on TV screens and computer screens that we have been used to for decades, suddenly everything is a 16:9 ratio. I wonder when this widescreen orientation will transfer to things like books. Are younger kids, who are growing up in a 16:9 widescreen world going to instictively turn 81/2 x 11 paper sideways because they are used to seeing information communicatted in widescreen?

And, as Leonard Pitts, Jr. might ask, are you more stupid for having read this blog? Am I an enabler? Should you have invested this time reading a book instead?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Double Update: R & R and a New Study

Last night, Whitney and I were able to stay at The Mission Oak Inn. Two families graciously agreed to watch our kids. It was a great time of rest and relaxation. When I woke up this morning I had this odd sensation. I remembered what it was like to get a full night's sleep. We would highly recommend this bed and breakfast and have some coupons if anyone is interested in using them. Denny and Jan are incredibly gracious hosts and Denny is an award-winning chef. I'm not really into food, but even I was blown away by what he was able to do.

Also, my study is now almost put together...I am no longer sitting in a folding chair and working behind a card table. Cindy designed some incredible furniture. The majority of it arrived on Monday and my chairs arrived today. Monday night, Kent hung my shelves and put the top on my desks. The guy is amazing...I enjoy seeing true professionals work. Here are a couple of pics...

The office looks great, I think...

But unpacking the closets is still going to take quite a few weeks.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Piper Won't Take Potshots at Fundamentalists...

John Piper has been attacked by ultra-Fundamentalists, but refuses to return the favor. In a recent blog, he lists 20 reasons he won't take potshots at Fundamentalists...

20 Reasons I Don't Take Potshots at Fundamentalists
June 2, 2008
1. They are humble and respectful and courteous and even funny (the ones I've met).

2. They believe in truth.

3. They believe that truth really matters.

4. They believe that the Bible is true, all of it.

5. They know that the Bible calls for some kind of separation from the world.

6. They have backbone and are not prone to compromise principle.

7. They put obedience to Jesus above the approval of man (even though they fall short, like

8. They believe in hell and are loving enough to warn people about it.

9. They believe in heaven and sing about how good it will be to go there.

10. Their "social action" is helping the person next door (like Jesus), which doesn't usually get
written up in the newspaper.

11. They tend to raise law-abiding, chaste children, in spite of the fact that Barna says evangelical kids in general don't have any better track record than non-Christians.

12. They resist trendiness.

13. They don’t think too much is gained by sounding hip.

14. They may not be hip, but they don’t go so far as to drive buggies or insist on typewriters.

15. They still sing hymns.

16. They are not breathless about being accepted in the scholarly guild.

17. They give some contemporary plausibility to New Testament claim that the church is the
“pillar and bulwark of the truth.”

18. They are good for the rest of evangelicals because of all this.

19. My dad was one.

20. Everybody to my left thinks I am one. And there are a lot of people to my left.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Potty Whisperer

The title of the article caught my eye: "Potty Whisperer Toilet-Trains Toddlers in a Day." I have trumpeted my own successes with toilet training in a day with my boys in an earlier blog. I attribute my success to my obsessive compulsive nature and the fact that when I am in the midst of potty-training, I am constantly thinking about it. I think Potty Whisperer adequtely conveys how I feel about my own abilities.

My friend Doug implied on Sunday that he doubts the truthfulness of my blog regarding Noah's potty training. I told him that was fair enough since Doug was working in the nursery and had had to clean up an accident Noah had.

Anyway, I think I have found a back-up career here. Except my potty camp is more terrifying than nurturing.

The article can be found here: or below:

An operator of a so-called “Booty Camp” in suburban Chicago has a claim that will astonish parents of droopy-diapered toddlers everywhere. Give her five hours, she says, and she’ll give you a potty-trained toddler.

Impossible? Not according to TODAY’s Al Roker, who offered an unsolicited testimonial. “I actually took my son to this, and it works,” he said. “One day.”

Sweeney, a registered nurse and the mother of six, told TODAY’s Ann Curry that her system actually works about 98 percent of the time. Based on Nathan H. Azrin’s book “Toilet Training in Less Than a Day,” the woman who is called the “Potty Whisperer” trains parents as much as she teaches the toddlers.

Her No. 1 rule for one-day potty training? “Never ask if they have to go,” she said. “If you ask them if they have to go potty, then you are the one who is in charge of their body. We’re trying to transfer that responsibility over to them. So we just tell them if you have to go potty, go in the potty.”

In a prerecorded piece reported from Sweeney’s home by TODAY’s Natalie Morales, Sweeney said that the responsibility extends to cleaning up messes. “If you guys go pee and poo in your pants, you’re going to have to clean it up,” Sweeney tells her class of small fry.

Age requirementToddlers have to be at least 2½ years old to take the training, because that is when they are able to understand simple commands and to control their own bodies. Some get it in 15 minutes, others take the entire session. Sweeney asks parents or caregivers to set three days after the session aside to reinforce the lessons.

Sweeney also trains special-needs children, but says some of them may take up to two weeks to learn to use the potty. Sweeney remains available as a consultant for the two weeks as part of her $250 fee — money that’s quickly recouped in the savings from not having to buy disposable diapers.

Each child arrives with a parent or primary caregiver, but the grown-ups are sent to the sideline to act as a cheering section while Sweeney does the hard work. She’s tough, and when one little girl throws a tantrum when she’s asked to bring her potty chair into the room, Sweeney works through it calmly but firmly.

“In order to set them up to succeed, just make sure that you’re setting aside that time and make sure you remember that it’s not about you,” Sweeney said. “The child needs to be confident themselves, so once they begin to take responsibility for their body, they’ll be proud of themselves and then continue that behavior. So give them all the tools they need to succeed. Tell them exactly what they need to know.”

Sweeney loads the kids up on salty snacks and sugary drinks, but lest parents be appalled at that, she explains that there is a method to the apparent dietary madness.

“It is only for a short duration. It is not a diet that I recommend,” Sweeney told Curry. “The salty snacks make the kids more thirsty, so they drink more. It also draws water into the bowel and that softens the stool, and it helps prevent the constipation when the kids get nervous and want to start holding. The sugary drinks never quench their thirst, so they end up drinking more, and that gives them more opportunities to go to the bathroom in that short period of time.”

Then it’s a matter of waiting for nature to issue its call and for the children to understand how they are supposed to answer it.

“Tell them if you have to go to the bathroom, walk over to the potty, pull your pants down and go potty in the potty,” Sweeney said. “Tell them that they need to listen to their body and when they need to go, it’s their job to go over there.”

To those who would suggest that her firm insistence and enthusiastic high-fives and praise for success might damage a toddler’s delicate psyche, Sweeney says, “It’s a very caring environment. I’m teaching the kids to be responsible for themselves. I’m certainly setting an expectation up for them so that they can rise to it. I don’t expect anything of any child that they can’t accomplish. We give them all the tools that they need so that they can succeed.”

And succeed they do. Sweeney says she’s graduated nearly 500 kids, including the little girl who had thrown a tantrum in the piece reported by Morales. By the end of the session, she was bragging to everyone present, “I went pee in the potty!”

The words were music more beautiful than Mozart to every parent’s ears.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A cheat sheet for the previous post

Lyrics and explanation:

Finite Simple Group (of Order Two)

There is a very limited audience for this song. I'm afraid you must be part of a club I am excluded from, but I can still appreciate elements of the humor.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Ben looks cooler than me...tensions high after just one day on staff...

Ben was gracious enough to say nice things about me on his new profile description, but still had the audacity to put up a staff picture where he looks cooler than the nerdy senior pastor in a suit.

Check out the updated staff page:

Monday, June 2, 2008

Response to Raffi Shainian

I do not know Raffi, but he was kind enough to leave me a comment to my post on the Evangelical Manifesto. I haven't read his blog enough to be completely familiar with his understanding of Christianity and "Post-Evangelicalism", but I've read enough to know that he also finds the manifesto problematic, but for different reasons. I thought since he was thoughtful enough to leave me a post, I would take the time to briefly respond. Here was his comment:

Raffi Shahinian said...
I had to do it.
Andrew’s call at TSK compelled me.A POST-EVANGELICAL MANIFESTO is now up and awaiting comment, criticism, or, more probably, to be blown out of the water.Grace and Peace,Raffi ShahinianParables of a Prodigal World

I read his Post-Evangelical Manifesto and had the following thoughts.

First: While there may be more truth than is contained in an orthodox doctrinal statement, there is not less.

In other words, I agree with his contention that doctrinal statements are "packed shorthand expressions" but I think I mean something different by that statement than he does. The Post-Evangelical, according to Raffi, views doctrinal statements like a suitcase. The shortened statements convey truth and then should be unpacked: "Post-Evangelicals have come to recognize that these doctrinal statements, once packed, tended to remain packed. And the longer they remained packed, the more the rich, complex and varied truths remaining inside were forgotten."

The problem is that many within movements such as the Emergent church refuse to affirm the basic tenants of the Christian faith, or as they "unpack" them, define them in such a way that is in flat contradiction with the plain meaning of the statement.

I also would take issue with the rest of his contention regarding doctrinal statements. He says that they are packed shorthand expressions for "richly complex historical narratives." This is partly true, but they are also gleaned from propositional theological arguments like many of the epistles or O.T. prophetic literature.

All that to say, the danger in saying that there is more truth than is contained in a doctrinal statement is that you often end up affirming something that is less true than a doctrinal statement.

Second: It is important to note that doctrinal statements are not the product of modernism or the modern Evangelical movement.

In my opinion, the Post-Evangelical Manifesto seems to imply that Evangelicals were the first to sum up great truths of Scripture. But Jesus engages in systematic theology when He sums up the entire law in two commandments: Love God and Love Your Neighbor. Paul uses systematic theology to sum up his entire gospel message in 1 Corinthians 15. He summarizes Christology in Colossians 1. He summarizes Orthodoxy in 1 Timothy 3:16, citing a contemporary creed or confession. If systematic theology and doctrinal statements were used by Paul and Jesus to convey truth, I'm comfortable implementing them as well.

Third: It is important to affirm that there are those who fall "outside" the faith.

The danger of the Emergent church is a reluctance to call any branch of Christianity heresy. This is in complete contradiction to Paul's warning to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 and the warning of Jude and 2 Peter that there are those who will be in the church who will not affirm sound teaching. If there are those who would not affirm simple doctrinal statements, it's important to warn our flock that these men are dangerous to their faith and would seek to shipwreck it.

Fourth: I would disagree with the Post-Evangelical Manifesto's understanding of Christian history.

As a history major, I found this statement highly confusing: "There was a time for the martyrs. There was a time for the Contantinian settlement. There was a time for the Great Trinitarian Debates. There was a time for Christendom. There was a time for the Reformation. There was a time for Liberalism. There was a time for Neo-Orthodoxy. And there was a time for Evangelicalism, as popularly construed."

What has happened here is a strange equating of biblical movements and heretical movements and historical events and individual believers and doctrinal disputes. I'm not even sure how to begin critiquing this. I would simply say that the aspects of these movements that were biblical are still legitimate. For instance, the time of martyrdom has not yet ceased. According to Voice of the Martyrs, there are more people in the last several decades who have given their life for naming the name of Jesus Christ than at any other point in Christianity. Furthermore, there was never a "time" for "Liberalism" or "Neo-Orthodoxy." Christianity's expression is certainly shaped by its culture but its message should never be defined by it.

Again, I wanted to thank Raffi for his comment. I appreciate the desire for authenticity in Christianity and agree that Evangelicalism has fallen a long way from what it has been in the past. I think where we would differ is in how we see recovery from that fall taking place.