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Posted on Jun 2, 2015 in Andy blogs, Korea, Travel |

Which Books Do I Bring to Korea?


As many local friends have known for while now, we’re in the midst of a great purge.

For me, the trouble hasn’t been winnowing my wardrobe down to the essential kit that will do me well in Seoul. It hasn’t been painful to slash my tie collection by 85%. What’s been the most gut-wrenching, heroic, grit-your-teeth-and-bear-it act of my Great Purge?

Getting my international library down to just a handful of volumes.

How to cut a library by 85%

So, what did I do?

First, I separated the books that I valued. Books I knew I would want in my library for years to come. Books that I figured I would read at some point in my life, or which I would certainly want to pass along to my sons some day.

These included lots of Bible commentaries, theological texts, and books of spiritual guidance: sort of the tools of the pastoral trade, which I still consider my life’s calling. Others were works of classic literature. Still others were business and productivity titles.

These books went to my parents’ house in Ohio.

Second, I had a huge library liquidation sale in my living room. For a week, folks came over and paid whatever they wanted for whichever books they desired. I think I pocketed about $500 from this. That probably didn’t even come close to covering the cost of the books that I’ve bought second-hand alone—much less the retail price purchases.

But that’s okay. Cash money, baby.

The elect few

All along, though, I pulled aside books that were worthy of at least a nomination for Korea. I shoved them into a box and guarded them from the library raiders with my life. Bit by bit, I pulled out ones that I decided were less worthy than the others.

Ultimately, I ended up with these. Some 38 books.

It’s like those Facebook challenges that go around every so often. If you were stuck on a desert island, which 10 books would you bring, and why? Since I’m on a peninsula instead of an island, I get 38 instead of 10.

So, what did I end up with?


Immediately relevant titles

Wolterstorff is a theological stud muffin in the Reformed tradition. I’m now teaching at a Christian school. I plan to get inspired over the summer.

The other three here are titles that our agency, the Network of International Christian Schools, is having us read in preparation for our experience in Korea. From what we’ve read so far, these are really helpful both in terms of thinking about our challenge to raise our kids overseas, and in my work with ‘third culture kids’ at the school.

(Third Culture Kids, Mentoring Millenials, PB/Chop Suey, Educating for Life)


PhD dissertation books

I’ve been accepted to do a PhD in theology at Trinity College, Bristol, England, on something related to love and the divine in the Augustinian phenomenology of the French philosopher Jean-Luc Marion. Here’s the stack of his works I’ve been traipsing through.

The great thing about my new gig in Korea is: SUMMERS OFF!

I anticipate that this means time to write my dissertation, and occasional trips to England to work with my supervisor.


The best theological and cultural series ever?

If you put a Big Mac or a rotten turnip inside a book cover with the label “the church and postmodern culture,” I’d buy it. James KA Smith, you are the man for assembling this series. I plan to buy whichever new books are out in this series before leaving for Korea, and read them on the plane.

This was a no-brainer for me.

(Here’s Smith’s first book in the series. Start there, and then get the rest.)


Kevin Vanhoozer is my boyfriend.

That’s what Ellie used to say about me. I have newer KJV titles to get caught up on, but I’ve read every word of these two on the bottom, and loved them. There’s an anthology up above too, which will be pertinent to my dissertation research. Then, Augustine’s Confessions, which may play a big part in my PhD work as well.

(First Theology, Drama of Doctrine, Nothing Greater)


Then there’s other books that I’ll want/need for PhD stuff. I loved this book on Derrida by Smith. I’m afraid I’ll have to understand Heidegger to understand phenomenology and Marion. And check out those side-by-side images of Derrida and Saint Paul top right. Nice.


Love and marriage, love and marriage …

Tripp’s and Keller’s books on marriage are probably the best out there from a practical Christian perspective. I plan to keep reading both for years.

Then I’ve got books on romance by Alain de Botton and Roland Barthes which, paired with Jean-Luc Marion’s The Erotic Phenomenon, are a group of philosophical books that I plan to use to help me think about romantic love from various perspectives. Interestingly, de Botton is a popular British secularist, Barthes was a gay French literary critic, and Marion is a devout Roman Catholic French philosopher.

My ambition is to take my studies of Song of Songs, which I preached on last summer, and write a book about romance and sexuality. I’m sure that won’t make Ellie feel awkward at all.

And there is a book or two coming with me to Korea in this general category I won’t be telling you about on the Internet.

(Essays in Love, Meaning of Marriage, What Did You Expect?, A Lover’s Discourse)



Practical spirituality: public and interior

I decided to leave the Eugene Peterson books I’ve already read (and loved) in Ohio and bring with me two titles that I haven’t read. EP is simply the best pastor of pastors (or plain old people) in print.

Zack Eswine’s book is really helpful for pastors beaten up in ministry. I’ll be going through it more and more in the coming months as I reflect on a good but tough last couple years.

Hunter’s and Forster’s books are about public theology: how to change the world without being too Constantinian about it. Wouldn’t leave the continent without them.

Rosaria Butterfield. What can I say? I would vote for her for dog catcher or president or anything she wanted my vote for. She has a new book coming out soon and I’ll devour it the day it is released.

(Long Obedience, Unpredictable Plant, Secret Thoughts, To Change the World, Joy for the World, Sensing Jesus)



“All you have is a bunch of facts.”

So said my friend Stephen of the books I was offering at my library liquidation sale. Well, I have graduate degrees in divinity and in European history, so, yeah, I have a lot of “facts.” (Although I would contest the notion that one can divide literature neatly into factual and imaginative.) As I said before, I’m keeping lots of my literature in Ohio.

But I’m going to bring one book of poetry. This one. If I love it, I’ll buy another by Collins.


Method or Madness?

I actually didn’t set out with a list of criteria that helped me decide what stays and what goes. And I think this is where it gets interesting. When I’ve done my posts about “10 books I’d take to a dessert island,” I found that I was picking books in a show-offy sort of way. I picked things from a couple distinct categories: best business book; best theology book; best history book; best biography; best novel.

What happened when it wasn’t an exercise, a drill, or a show-off post, but rather the real thing? What happens when it’s actually time to pick the 40 books you’ll pay to bring to the other side of the planet with you? When you know that every square inch of book is one square inch that can’t be used for your kids’ toys or your wife’s curling iron?

Read whatever you want

Well, you bring what you really want.

I didn’t categorize. I just grabbed my favorite books, and the books I felt compelled to read. There’s no biography in my stack. No novel. No business book. No productivity book. No history book!

All that’s here are books I want with me. Really want with me. This stack isn’t meant to impress anyone. It’s built purely on my desire to have just these titles with me, no matter what anyone might think.

And that reminds me of the big lesson in Alan Jacobs’s fantastic little book (which didn’t make my stack!), The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction:

“Read what gives you delight—at least most of the time—and do so without shame. … Don’t waste time and mental energy in comparing yourself to others whether to your shame or gratification, since we are all wayfarers. … We should affirm the great value of reading just for the fun of it. … In my experience, Christians are strangely reluctant to take this advice. We tend to be earnest people, always striving for self-improvement, and can be suspicious of mere recreation. But God doesn’t just create, he takes delight in his creation, and expects us to delight in it too. … Reading for the sheer delight of it—reading at whim—is therefore one of the most important kinds of reading there is. … For heaven’s sake, don’t turn reading into the intellectual equivalent of eating organic greens, or (shifting the metaphor slightly) some fearfully disciplined appointment with an elliptical trainer of the mind in which you count words or pages the way some people fix their attention on the “calories burned” readout—some assiduous and taxing exercise that allows you to look back on your conquest of Middlemarch with grim satisfaction. How depressing. This kind of thing is not reading at all, but what C. S. Lewis once called ‘cosmical and ethical hygiene.’ … So, the books are waiting. Of this you may be confident: they’ll be ready when the whim strikes you. ”







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Posted on May 29, 2015 in Andy blogs, Podcast, Podcast Episodes, Travel |

Cordial in Korea Episode 002 | North American Farewell Tour, Leg 1

Episode 002 of Cordial in Korea chronicles Leg 1 of what we’ve elected to call our North American Farewell Tour.

We explored Cincinnati for the first time, and we did it in style: on our bicycles.



We toured Mount Adams, with the Cincinnati Art Museum, Eden Park, and the (ahem) Bow Tie Cafe.

We galavanted around Over-the-Rhine, where we enjoyed the famous Findlay Market, the renowned and historic Tucker’s Restaurant, and a few hip clothes places and coffee joints.



Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 10.45.26 AM

Our raison d’être was Ellie’s birthday present: a trip to her favorite band Over the Rhine’s own property, “Nowhere Else,” for a concert. Bootlegs from the concert are scattered throughout episode 002.







Our trip concluded with Memorial Day at my parents’ house near Akron, where we said farewell to friends and family.

We also rode our bicycles for the last time in North America, and got to tour the historic Tallmadge Church in the middle of Tallmadge Circle. Episode 002 includes some oral history from long-time members (and long-time lovers) we bumped into inside the church.



Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 10.48.13 AM

Thanks to for the trance-inducing intro theme music.

Keep your eyes peeled at for news about the live record they’ll be releasing from these weekend concerts at Nowhere Else.

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Posted on May 8, 2015 in Andy blogs, Bow Ties, Bowties, Videos |

*Magic Bow Ties*

Here we are, in the middle of spring, with summer bearing down on some of us quickly. The excitement of our spring wardrobe transition has worn off. Tweed and houndstooth are a long ways in the rear view mirror. Seersucker and madras are close at hand.

Weddings are planned for the peak season, and bow ties are shipped off to happy grooms and groomsmen.

What do we do now?

That’s kind of what we asked ourselves a few weeks back.

The answer: we play.

Introducing *Magic Bow Ties*

The Church Belles, especially Ellie and Carlee, got their creative juices flowing, and came up with several fantastic four-paneled bow ties. Combining patterns and colors like the pros they are–and Carlee no doubt using her expertise with the color wheel gained from her art school days–they did the real magic: designing your bow ties.

I couldn’t help but have a little fun myself.

Dust off a not-so-new-to-us idea (four-paneled bow ties), apply some fresh creative chutzpah, and sprinkle on some pixie dust, and you’ve got *Magic Bow Ties*.

Challenge to Mathematicians

I suppose I could find out the answer if I tried harder. But–if any of you are inclined to calculate the number of possible ways these *Magic Bow Ties* can be worn, you’ll get a grateful shout out from us. (There are four panels. Up to three of them are visible from the front at a given time: the flap end of the bow, the loop end of the bow, and the knot.)

History’s Magicians

If you haven’t noticed, we give our bow ties men’s names. Sometimes they’re named after friends, public personalities, or even loyal customers. This time, we figured we’d name the *Magic Bow Ties* after some famous, or should-be-famous, magicians throughout history.



It looks like Harry Houdini, perhaps the most famous magician, was a bow tie wearer–and that he liked the diamond-point look on occasion. It looks as though Houdini was always photographed in black or gray clothes and bow tie, or else pretty well stripped down, trying to escape from something or other. So it’s hard to imagine him donning this:

But then again, we do believe in magic, right? Behold, the Houdini *Magic Bow Tie*.

Then there are scary things like this:


Yikes. Mr Blackstone, you are a great magician, indeed. But you would look a little less frightening without the demons and with the bow tie we’ve named after you:

TCC-Group-1Check out the whole batch of *Magic Bow Ties* here.

Order your favorite, and try wearing it every day, a different way, until you’ve run out of magic.

Normally, like I said, we give our bow ties men’s names. But I’ll tell you what–the next *Magic Bow Tie* the Belles create will be named after this belle, Marlene Dietrich. Not bad at all, Marlene. Not bad at all.




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Posted on Apr 27, 2015 in Andy blogs, Neck Ties, Personal Style, Travel |

VIDEO: Andy Slashes his Neck Tie Collection in Half


Today, I present you with big news, and a serious challenge that comes along with it. Oh–and a video that I think you’ll enjoy.

In Case You Didn’t Know

I suppose we haven’t officially told you, our beloved Cordials, the news. In July, Andy, Ellie, and their three boys will be moving to Seoul, South Korea!

Andy will be a chaplain and teacher at Yongsan International School. The Church Belles will still be banging out bow ties here in Carolina, while Ellie oversees The Cordial Churchman from Korea.

We’re excited.

Serious Challenges

We are in the process of purging a dozen years of accumulated stuff. For me, that means whittling down my wardrobe to what the ladies might call a “capsule wardrobe.” This is where you separate the men from the boys.

Boys say “But I might wear this some day!”

Men say “Let’s be honest. I’m never, or almost never, going to wear this.”

For my trousers, shirts, jackets, and shoes, this process was fairly easy. Either stuff fits, or it doesn’t. Either it’s worn out or it’s still looking sharp. Either it’s worth paying to move to Korea, or it isn’t.

But with my neck tie collection, this was harder. For one thing, these things don’t wear out, or size out, or style out like other elements of my wardrobe. And so Ockham’s Razor is applied based on one simple principle: do I wear this?

Buy these!

I’ll be unloading the neck ties that didn’t make the cut. I’ll post links soon, and you can buy them!


This was  my first time shooting and editing a video. I know it’s kind of rough–especially in terms of audio quality. But I think it’s pretty dang good for my first go at this. Yes?

Would you enjoy more videos like this? Stuff about our move? Stuff about bow ties, pocket squares, style, etc.? Let us know.

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Posted on Mar 11, 2015 in Andy blogs, Bow Ties, Bowties, Personal Style, Pocket Squares |

How to Pick a Bow Tie and Pocket Square Combo


People frequently ask us “what goes with what?”

But there are many times when it’s clear that customers know how to pair things up. This is one of those times.


The Dehnolm silk paisley bow tie with the Cobalt Blue Dot chambray pocket square, both available at

Today, Erica packed up and shipped this combination. As you can tell, this customer has a great eye.

But what are they seeing? You know a good combo when you see it, but how do you see it before you see it? How do you pick a pair of pieces out that you’re confident will work?

Here are three basic things to keep in mind when you decide to try and pair two patterns together:

1. Complementary Colors.

You don’t have to be an art student to see that there are 3 distinct shades of blue here. There are 2 on the bow tie. Plus a purple, which might actually be blue–who knows. But at minimum, there’s a dark and a light blue. Then you’ve got the pocket square, which is medium-blue. It’s right in between the dark and light blue of the bow tie.

What does this mean? It means that the square and bow don’t “match.” Matching is not the goal. Complementary is the goal.

Sometimes it really is as simple as “Hey, look! Blue. And this is blue too! I’ll take them both.”

2. Vary the Scale.



This is where people usually get gun shy. It feels harder to say “this pattern will go great with that one!” than it is to say “Hey, look! Blue! And more blue!”

But don’t get intimidated. Here’s the deal with patterns.

Keep the scale different. If you have dots that are really close to each other, don’t pair them with a striped pattern where the stripes are equally close to each other.

If the dots are spread wide, don’t reach for wide-spred stripes.

If you’ve got a somewhat busy, medium-scale paisley like this bow tie, don’t pair it with a super-busy pattern of any sort.

Keep it simple, like with this chambray pocket square: solid blue, tiny white dots.

3. Own it.


When Ellie recorded her full-length album with Nashville producer/singer-songwriter Andrew Osenga, he gave us a principle that has stuck with us. He said, if you’re playing an instrument or singing, and you hit a wrong note that seems out of place, just keep hitting it over and over again. Own it. Then it looks like you know what you’re doing. Like you meant it. Pretty soon, everybody will be like “yeah, man. Yeah.”

Then go back and practice your scales.

Same with picking out your clothes. Keep a few guiding tips in mind (color and scale), and then just go for it. If you feel like maybe you hit the wrong note, just keep hitting it. Own it. In other words, try something out, and wear it all day with gusto. “Pulling something off” is all about confidence–even when it’s technically “wrong.”

Then try something different next time—or not.

Do you think this fella pictured here cares about my “rule” about scale? He’s got stripes (shirt) and check (bow tie) in almost exactly the same scale. But he owns it. If you look at his blog, it’s pretty sure he’s in the “break the rules” phase rather than the “what are the rules?” phase.

If you like this combo …


You can grab the Denholm silk paisley bow tie here.

And the Cobalt Blue Dot chambray pocket square here.




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Posted on Mar 4, 2015 in Andy blogs, Bow Ties, Bowties, contest, Personal Style | 1 comment

Stylish Kids Saying Awesome Things



Kids say the darnedest things.

When we were first married, we assumed that having kids who say hilarious things was the main point of having kids. It was a motivation to procreate. And it continues to be a consolation on days when rooms are a wreck and spaghetti sauce is splattered on new khakis.

Turns out your kids say awesome things too. We had a feeling they would.

Without further ado, it’s time to sit back and enjoy some darnedest-ness from your kids’ mouths. Each of the following children have won themselves a boys’ bow tie on the strength of their answers to the question:

If you were to win a bow tie, what’s one awesome thing you would do while wearing it?”

Winner Number 1.

“I’d pogo stick over the Grand Canyon in a chicken suit doing a triple back flip while singing the national anthem backwards. … I probably can’t do that, but I can ride my scooter with one hand and eat a sandwich with the other.”

-Aleks, age 10, Rock Hill, SC

Alecks, you win! Deacon (age 9) thinks your answer was, hands down, the best in the whole bunch. How did you end up with such superb coordination? Have you heard of Evel Knievel? I bet he would try your bow-tied pogo stick Grand Canyon chicken suit triple back flip national anthem stunt. In any event, you are super cool. You also live in a great town. Maybe we can go on a bow-tied, sandwiched scooter ride sometime. Thanks for entering, and enjoy your bow tie!

Winner Number 2.

“This is a picture of our 3 year old son, Charlie, and his friend Caroline. They were playing dress up at school and Caroline asked him to marry her. She brought him the coat and tie and he said ‘No Caroline! I have to wear a bow tie when I get married!’ We live in the mountains of western North Carolina.” – Katy Seymour, Sylva, NC


Charlie! You win! We’d like to send you a bow tie that you can put in your preschool’s dress-up box, so that all the 3-year-olds who decide to get hitched during preschool have the opportunity to rock a bow tie. Hey–funny story. You’re a 3-year-old, and you already know it’s best to wear a bow tie when you get married. But the owners of this bow tie company didn’t even know bow ties were so important at weddings when they got married back in 2002.

Oh–another thing: I, too, had a clip on long neck tie instead of a bow tie when I got married. I wish you had been there to set me straight. Your bride, by the way, is beautiful. Tell Caroline that she’s awesome. Oh–one other thing: I didn’t get married in preschool, but I did have a very serious girlfriend, another 3-year-old named Kelly Kessler. We planned to marry, but we must have ended up in different classes for Kindergarten, because I ended up marrying someone else (Ellie) instead. Have a great rest of the school year, and a happy marriage!

Winner Number 3.

 “Trip (10) likes to wear bow ties and has a goal of learning to tie his own this this year.”

– Dick Carter, Jr., Topeka, Kansas


Trip! You win! Technically, you didn’t say one of the darnedest things. But we want to reward your sense of style and your ambition to learn to tie a freestyle bow tie. You get a big-boy, grown-up bow tie that you can learn to tie yourself. Then you can show all your friends how to tie them like mature young gentlemen do.

I also want to compliment you on your casual use of the bow tie in this photo. This is proof that shorts and bow ties go together just fine. In fact, there’s a really tall college student who comes to our church who wears shorts and a bow tie every day. EVERY DAY. Impressive, huh?

(Say, what’s the statue behind you? At first I thought it was Iwo Jima. Then I though maybe it was Mary with Jesus. Now I have no clue at all.)

In any event, congratulations, Trip! Here’s to many years of happy bow tie self-tying! Cheers!

Winner Number 4.

Attentive readers will have noticed that we couldn’t stop at 3 winners like we planned.

 “I would go on a date with Mommy.”

– Asher, age 3, Clover, SC

Dear Asher,

Guess whose heart you melted with your answer. Yep, my wife’s. She’s a mom. Of a 3-year-old. We know it’s not super-duper fancy, but with you bow tie, we’re going to send you a gift card for Chick Fil A. Put on that bow tie, have your mommy put on a fancy dress, and take her out for a date courtesy of The Cordial Churchman.

Kids: even better than saying the darnedest things is saying nice things about your beautiful mammas and taking them out on dates. Daddies: you should take your kiddos’ mammas out on dates, too. Then they’ll want to take their mammas on dates, and everybody’s happy. Brian–you must have done a good job of this, cause it’s rubbed off on Asher!

Winner Number 5.

“If I won a bow tie, I’d go back in time with my friend Braylon and we would go bowling with Abraham Lincoln in the White House.” – Lincoln age 8, Spring Lake NC

PS–He would like the navy corduroy one bc he’s “never seen a bumpy bow tie.”

Dear Lincoln, you have a time machine? Can I go with you? I love bowling and I think Honest Abe has impeccable style.

(Did you know that the top hat, like Abe wore, supposedly first appeared in 1797 on the streets of London. A story goes that an English hatter, a Mr. Hetherington, literally caused a riot on the street and was fined a tidy sum of £500 for disturbing the peace for wearing a hat that he invented. Well, it turns out that is a myth. Sadly.)

Congratulations, Lincoln. You win! You’ll get your bumpy navy corduroy bow tie!

Thanks for entering!

And congratulations to all our winners and contestants. You a quality young men with great imaginations and superb style.




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