Fall reading days offer professor types an opportunity to change gears for a bit. This year I’ve benefitted from a retreat with my support group of brothers in ministry that has been going on for 29 years, a day of hiking with my lovely wife, and a few more days to focus on writing lessons and recording videos for Nurturing Faith Journal and Bible Studies.

Today I finally got around to something else that has long been on the to-do list: before making a run to Goodwill, I went through my neckties and culled out a bunch of them, especially those approaching four or five inches wide. The fashion gods decree every now and then that men’s neckties should be narrow, broad, or somewhere in between. Most of the wide ones were also really old, so I decided not to save them for the next time the style police decide it’s time for a new look. Not that I make much of an effort to follow the latest trend — especially since the current “cool” look for men features suits that are about two sizes too small, and on guys about a third of my age.

A few of my favorite ties were redeemed a few weeks ago when Susan surprised me with eight or ten ties that she had taken apart, trimmed down, and put back together, and I was immensely grateful for that — but what about the rest?

Collecting neckties is an occupational hazard for male preachers, or at least it used to be, before Rick Warren started wearing Hawaiian shirts and other megachurch pastors followed with a sport coat worn over a T-shirt and jeans. I’ve been preaching now for 45 years, and most of the churches that invite me to speak are the sort that still expect the preacher to wear a suit.

At Campbell, chemistry or English professors may wear polos, but in the Divinity School, coats and ties are de rigueur. That’s a lot of years and a lot of ties. I’ve pared them down before, but the inventory kept growing until today, when I pulled out 65 ties to give away — and I still have 50 or more, not counting two dozen bowties.

I kept a few for sentimental reasons that I probably won’t wear again, mainly some of the teddy bear ties I collected to honor my daughter Bethany. I’m also holding on to the oldest tie I own, which probably predates my birth: when I was a young boy and wanted to wear a tie to church like my daddy did, my mother cut down one of his old ties so I could wear it. It was probably six inches wide at one time, featuring a football player in a leather helmet with a stadium in the background. It would probably fall apart if I tried to tie it now, but it’ll stay in my closet nonetheless.

No matter the size, there really are ties that bind.

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