Monday, February 12, 2007


We finally moved over to typepad!

To find our Theology on Tap blog, go to

I'll see you there!

Monday, December 11, 2006


The oh so handsome, John Calvin.

Last night's gathering at ABC was by far our most lively. It was great to see everyone and to welcome two new members, Henrik (all the way from northern Germany) and John (who just happens to speak fluent German - how cool is that!?).

Most of our conversation grew out of two questions posed by members of the group. One had to do with the meaning of TULIP (the thorn in the side of most modern day Presbyterians). One of Ashley's patients, when they began discussing their faith, accused her of being a "TULIP." The statement was made with a mocking tone that Ashley found rather insulting. (Not only was that an improper use of the word TULIP but if I were having my teeth cleaned, I'd refrain from making fun of my Dental Hygienist.....not wise! Lucky for said rude patient, Ashley is less petty then myself!) Of course, not knowing what the terms meant (because we don't teach this in our new member classes) she was unable to respond.

So, as your friendly neighborhood Presbyterian pastor, I am here to offer the definition of TULIP (who knew I'd need to actually remember this stuff!?!)

T - Total Depravity
U - Unconditional Election
L - Limited Atonement
I - Irresistible Grace
P - Perseverance of the Saints

In greater detail:
Total Depravity is the view that sinfulness pervades all areas of life or the totality of human existence. Basically you as a human being are utterly sinful.

Unconditional Election is the view that God elects to save some solely on the basis of God's freedom and love and not on the basis of any merit or efforts on the part of humans.

Limited Atonement is a concept with maintains that Christ died only for the elect, who are the only recipients of salvation. (You are either in or out.)

Irresistible Grace is a view that God's grace as it works for the salvation of an individual will accomplish its purpose and will not be thwarted (isn't that a great word!). (Basically, you cannot resist God's grace if you are among the elect.)

Perseverance of the Saints is the belief that God's elect who believe in Jesus Christ are held secure by God's power, despite temptation and sin. Their salvation will not be lost.

Thanks to Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms for those wonderful definitions!

Remember, I said last night that John Calvin stressed the sovereignty of God. If you look at all 5 parts of TULIP you will notice that God is in control and all powerful. It was important to Calvin that we understood that we humans are saved only by the grace of God. Nothing we do can earn our salvation.

So what do you all think? Got any questions? Does TULIP work for you or would you like to argue with this strand of Calvinist theology? It might be an interesting topic for our next Theology on Tap gathering. Let me know. Leave a comment below or e-mail me....

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Killing Frost & First Flurries

We had a killing frost a few nights ago and then only days later the first flurries. The geraniums on my front porch put up a good fight but eventually the cold night air got them…it happens every year.

For some reason, I have spent a great deal of time thinking about winter this year. Maybe it’s because I don’t really like winter and long for the sunny skies of my childhood. Maybe it’s because Mr. Burg keeps the temperature in the house at 63 degrees (that’s cold folks!) in order to save on our gas bill. Maybe it’s because I can no longer garden and I have no winter hobbies.

Whereas it may be all those things, this year, I have been very aware of the cycle of life -both the life of the body and the spiritual life. I sense that in many ways I’m in the springtime of my spiritual life and yet, have this gnawing feeling that there is some death (or a remnant of winter) that must take place first. I’m sure there are things that block my ability to be fully open to God and trust that at some point, those must be removed. Such removal rarely comes without pain. Yet without winter, without time to gather-in, there would be no spring, no rebirth.

It seems my Yoga teacher has had similar ponderings. I’ve been with her for over two years now and adore her. Just one of the many reasons I am devoted is that most mornings she reads us poetry. How often in life do you get to sit quietly as someone lovingly reads poetry? It’s a gift!

About a month ago, she read the poem Many Winters by Nancy Wood. I had asked for a copy and then promptly placed it on the Black Hole of a pile on my desk. In an attempt not to do any real work a few days ago, I was sorting through that pile and came across the poem.

You shall ask
What good are dead leaves
And I will tell you
They nourish the sore earth.
You shall ask
What reason is there for winter
And I will tell you
To bring about new leaves.
You shall ask
Why are the leaves so green
And I will tell you
Because they are rich with life.
You shall ask
Why must summer end
And I will tell you
So that the leaves can die.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Its Meet'n Time

It’s that time again! Time for good beer and even better conversation at the Appalachian Brewing Company. We are meeting this coming Sunday, December 10th at 7:30 PM. We will finish up our series on Personal Resources and Faithfulness. At our last gathering, we discussed vocation (see “A Reason to Get out of Bed” in the November archives). Sunday we will look at Luke 12:22-34. Here are a few things to ponder before our gathering:

1. Do you worry about your money? Your career?
2. Why do you think people worry so much about money?
3. Where do you spend your money? How does your spending reflect your beliefs?
4. Every day brings us requests to support one store and/or boycott another due to some moral issue. How are money and morals connected to each other?
5. Do you think it matters where you spend your money? Why or why not?
6. Have you ever boycotted a business or product because you did not agree with its ideology/philosophy? Why did you do it?

Ah, this should make for lively conversation as we are in the midst of the “spending season.”

On a related note, I’ll be interested to know how many of you went shopping on Black Friday. I’ll confess right up front that Husband and I actually ran to a few places on Black Friday. It was the first time in years and I couldn’t believe the crowds. The parking lots were completely full! Our sanity had obviously left us but we were looking for a few small gifts and wanted to get the purchasing done as soon as possible. We weren’t looking for a 52 inch screen TV or a cool new playstation but alas, we did participate in the American shopping phenomenon known as Black Friday.

Looking forward to seeing you all on Sunday!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

More tap or more theology?

For those of you that want a little more tap with your theology, I have two offerings:

1. Stone's Double Bastard Ale. This beer is not only fun to order ("Make mine a Double Bastard, please!") but it is also close to brewing perfection. If you don't believe me, check out the rating on - a mere 100%. It is related to the other wonderful Stone product, the Arrogant Bastard (another fun one to order) which is Stone's hop happy IPA. Hops make a beer bitter or leave that dry tangy feeling in your mouth. I personally love hops. The Double Bastard is super hoped but instead of making your mouth pucker, the overdose of hops gives the beer a slightly sweet taste with a smooth hoppy finish.

2. Bells Hop Slam. Bells is another brewery that is not afraid of the hops. This one is smooth but plenty hoppy.

Both of these are rich in flavor and contain more alcohol than your usual beer. For those reasons, I'd suggest drinking it slowly and sticking to just one an evening.


For those that want a little more theology with your tap, here is an offering from Rumi:

The wine of divine grace is limitless:
All limits come only from the faults of the cup.
Moonlight floods the whole sky from horizon to horizon;
How much it can fill your room depends on its windows.
Grant a great dignity, my friend, to the cup of your life;
Love has designed it to hold His eternal wine.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Valley of Dry Bones

The combination of warm weather and finding a rose on Thanksgiving drew me outside and into my garden today. I decided it was time to prepare the garden for winter. As I walked out the back door, I commented on what sad work I was about to do. My husband responded, "Yes, but the garden has to die before it can return next Spring." Oh, he is so wise!

It is indeed almost time for my garden to die and my job today was to prepare its passing. This is a complicated task. Some perennials such as ferns must be left alone because their dry leaves serve to protect the delicate roots during the snow and frost. Others want to be clipped back so the plant can begin to store up much needed energy. And others such as the hosta, fall apart at the touch. Where once stood a thick leafy plant is now smooth dirt with no visible sign of life. I am slowly learning what each plant needs, mostly by trial and error.

The saddest sight, however, has to be the impatients. At the first frost these delicate annuals, shrivel and collapse. For years, a lady in my neighborhood has surrounded her home in impatients. At first frost, these beautiful flowers become what I have come to think of as the valley of dry bones - rows and rows of fragile pale green stems hanging lifelessly over pots and sidewalk.

What is amazing about any garden is that next Spring it will be completely different. Each plant that "dies" will come back transformed. I've even seen flowers change color due to a difference in the acidity of the soil. Some will return wild and bushy while others seem to have fit themselves into their space. Part of my joy in gardening is waiting to see what form the plants and flowers will take each year.

Most (if not all) religious traditions remind us that death or losing one's life is part of the faith journey. In Matthew we read that "those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it."

Rumi (in Mathnawi) adds this:

A man started to break up the earth with a spade.
A fool came and shouted at him, "Why are you ruining the soil?"
"You idiot!" the man cried. "Go away and don't bother me!"
Understand the difference between destruction and growth.
How could this soil become a rose garden or wheat field
Before its broken up and made ugly?
How could it become orchards and harvest and leaves
and fruit
Before it is utterly destroyed and torn down?

In preparing the soil, in adding fertilizer, in caring for each plant, I believe I am taking part in some very small way in the death and resurrection of life. It is my hope that as I prepare the earth for winter, I am preparing my own soul as well. I know that I too must be "utterly destroyed" and "lose my life" before I can find my life or become a beautiful rose garden.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Best American Holiday

Here are a few Thanksgiving ponderings I thought I'd share:

1. I love Thanksgiving because it is not a church holiday. Sure the church tells us to be thankful every day of the year, but it has not tied itself to this particular American holiday. I love the fact that I woke up this morning and did not have to prepare for a worship service. I just hung out and waited to eat. Too bad Christmas isn't this relaxing.

2. People are passionate about their turkeys whether they roast, fry, smoke, or grill them. Personally, we like to grill ours but then again, we grill EVERYTHING! I love asking someone how they prepare their turkey....they will usually go on and on about the perfectly balanced seasoning and the precise method used. Don't mess with a person turkey technique!

3. Why don't we eat the Cranberry sauce that comes in a can on days other then Thanksgiving? It's so good! After all, anything that slides out of a can, makes an audible plop on the plate, and retains the exact shape of the can has got to be good!

4. Why do I eat too much every Thanksgiving? I have years and years of experience with eating and that experience has taught me how much is too much and yet, every year at exactly this time of night, my pants are too tight and I'm regretting that second piece of pie. Seems moderation would be a more appropriate response to thankfulness but I have not yet succeeded in such loftiness.

Hope you all enjoyed your non-church, Turkey based, gelatinous Cranberry, gluttonous holiday!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Reason to Get out of Bed

Most of us want to wake up in the morning and have something to look forward to. We want to head to a job we love or at least find interesting and then come home to do other things we enjoy.

Yet, not all of us experience joy in our jobs. Frederick Buechner in his book Wishful Thinking, defines vocation as the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet. A person's vocation can be his/her career or something he/she does outside of a 9 to 5 job.

Those of us gathered around our Theology on Tap table are in our 20s and 30s. We all admitted to wanting to find our vocation. We spent most of our time talking about whether or not we had found that in our jobs. Some of us think we have and some of us are sure we haven't. All of us agreed that we want to believe that what we have to offer (our skills, our energy, our interests) is needed somewhere.

Of course, finding one's vocation is not easy. It may take a great deal of trial and error. It may take several job changes. It may mean finding something outside your job. But we are young and we still have 30 or so years left of labor. I think the search is worth it.....because I want a reason to get out of my warm cozy bed each morning (besides the fact that I need to use the restroom!).

Stupid quote of the night: "So is that Kyle with a C or a K?"

Shawn recommends ABC's cask conditioned Major Hops

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I'll meet you at ABC

Our next Theology on Tap gathering is this coming Sunday, November 5th, at 7:30 PM at the Appalachian Brewing Company. Join us for good conversation and great beer. This week we'll discuss vocation - one of my favorite topics.

Here are a few questions to ponder before our gathering:
1. When have you felt happy, peaceful, energized, or fulfilled?
2. What were you doing at the time and who were you with?
3. Where is the intersection between your gifts and the needs you see in the world?

Now that you have the questions, I expect a very lively conversation!

Despite Chad's recommendation, I'm not going to order the Porter. There are too many other good options.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Autumn Skies

I'm guessing I'm like most people and go through life moving from one task to another. When I get particularly busy, I can develop tunnel vision only noticing that which is right in front of me. Twice in the past two weeks I've been graciously pulled out of such narrow focus.

Both instances had to do with the color of the sky. Just a week ago, I was turning the corner to go down our third floor stairs and I happened to glance up at the typically boring view of the back of my neighbors' homes. It was about 6:00 PM and the sun was hitting the trees behind the tall narrow houses so that they looked as if they were on fire. I yelled down to Chad and he came running with the camera. We both climbed out onto our 3rd floor deck to admire the colors and take pictures. Of course, they don't do justice to the beauty. They don't even come close but they at least serve as a reminder.

And again, just yesterday I was returning from my favorite coffee shop (Coyote Joes near the Capital City mall) and the sky was again lit in golden hues. This time the whole city was golden....even Market Square's steeple.

One of the characters in the movie, American Beauty, says while watching a video of a bag blowing in the wind, "Sometimes there is so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can't take it and my heart is just going to cave in." I know that feeling - when the beauty steals our breath and leaves us utterly powerless. I want such moments to last but the sun sinks over the horizon and the colors change.

I'm thankful for these fleeting moments, however, not only for shocking me out of my task oriented life but for calling me to look more closely for the beauty that surrounds us at every moment.

And on a completely different topic, I recommend the Mocha Monkey at Coyote Joes!