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!