Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Darkness

We must first peer into the darkness, feel strangled and entombed in the hopelessness of living without God, before we are ready to feel the presence of His living light. -Abrahan Joshua Heschel

The darkness, the distance, we sometimes feel from God can offer a much needed balance to our relationship with God. Maybe this distance is self induced, or a divine corrective due to our worship of that which is not God. There are times that we allow good and valuable things to step out of their rightful place in our lives and give them a place of prominence only rightfully reserved for God. So our journey in the wilderness is one that often comes from our own misguided trust in that which is not God.
If God were to immediately pluck us out of these situations we may never have to fully trust in God for direction, because there would be little consequence for us in following our own way. So the stuckness that we often experience is not necessarily divine judgement for our stubbornness or stupidity, but rather Grace working deep within us to bring life from that which would otherwise suffocate the faith within us.

Friday, February 16, 2007

In Search of Me

So have you ever done a search with your name? I did recently, both on a social networking website and through a standard search engine, and found it to be rather interesting. First, there are actually a lot of people with my name, which is kind of scary (what if one becomes famous for serial killing or something) and also a little cool. Since I have never actually met anyone else with my name I’ll have to take this on faith and cast aside the voices in my head that try and tell me this is all a plot against me and there really are no other people with my name. Second, the good news: I’m not the dumbest, ugliest, geekiest, red-neckiness, loneliest, twisted, alcohol consumingiest, of the lot. Third, the sad truth: I’m not the buffest, best looking, smartest, wealthiest, most popular, or artistically talented either.
I even found some guy with my name that died in 1814, whose will was online. Wow, that shows how behind the times I am, I had no idea that the Internet existed before his death that he might post it there. Among the interesting things I was able to learn about this fellow, was the tragedy of him being a slave own (one Fanny and daughter Nancy, whom he left to his wife), that he didn’t seem to like his son Isaac much (whom was left “the bottom that he sits on”), that although he died in Virginia well after the War of Independence he still willed all his money out in pounds, and that he felt it necessary to will his soul to God (as if God required the proper legal documentation). I have no reason to actually believe that I am related to this man in any way since to the best of my knowledge my lineage doesn’t go back that far in the states.
Some British bloke has very selfishly snatched up all the domain names with my name with the various endings such as .net, .org, and .com. The sad thing is they are all the same really lame website, and he isn’t doing anything particularly interesting with them.
In addition to doctors and lawyers, and cops, my favorite find of those that share my name was a photo of an infant, with the caption “Our Little Ladybug.” While I find this somewhat humorous, and I have no problem with parents having daughters play with trucks and son’s with dolls, I think it might be in the kids best interest for someone to give me a slightly more dudish nickname.
Overall, I may never be the best Matthew French at any particular thing, I must still be faithful to doing the best with what I’ve best giving. Maybe that will end up on a website someday, oh wait, now it is (this blog was the 33rd result of over 10 million at the time this post was written, wow). Those Matthew French’s are some insightful people.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Love of My Life

I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus lately. Not that this is unusually or anything, I think about and talk to him a lot. More specifically I’ve been thinking about why it is so hard to talk to others about him. Jesus is so important, such a central part of my life, he is the only thing that is more important to me than my wife, and yet I find it difficult to talk about the one that I am so intimate with. In some ways I can make connections to my marriage, while I am willing to talk about my relationship with my wife with others, 99% of those conversations are about superficial things: Angie and I went here, we watched such and such, we did this. It’s not that I’m sharing about our intimate conversations, or the special moments that I treasure in my heart, or other deeply private things that we share. And that is the sort of relationship that I have with Jesus, and since he and I don’t go to the movies, grab coffee, or go on vacation together (we actually do, but that would be another article and it would be hard to get into the theological depths of that truth in a casual conversation about how Jesus and I ate at Subway together without people thinking I was nuts and making Jesus look that much less appealing to others), so it is hard to share what he means to me.
This really hit home for me a couple weeks ago when while at work I over heard a conversation where people were making fun of Jesus. Now I realize that they were actually making fun of Christians and the silly things that they say about Jesus, but still they were demeaning the most important part of my life. If they had been making fun of my wife I have no doubt that I would have stood up for her. But instead I said nothing, partly because I was not privy to the entire conversation and had no idea the context so I wanted to avoid seeming reactionary, giving further ammunition to some people that had obviously been turned off to Jesus by others that had talked about him in the past.
For me, sharing Jesus isn’t about me being right. It’s not about defending his honor because I don’t think he’s up to. It’s about my deep desire to have others know him and have their lives transformed by him in the same way that he came into my life and turned it upside down by his love. I need to be more confident about this passion and not get hung up on turning others off, when in humility and love I just might be able to introduce others to this Jesus, the love of my life and the one that already knows and cares about them more than anyone they will ever meet in their lives.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Coffee Advice

OK, I have worked professionally in coffee all that long, but as a long time coffee lover I think I’ve been able to take my coffee knowledge and passion to the next level rather quickly. Much how like Ang and I only date for six months or so before we got engaged because we had been friends for so long and knew each other really well already. Anyway.
First off, if you just like to dump a bunch of cream and sugar in your coffee don’t bother reading this post. Save the time and do something else, honest you probably really don’t like coffee you like sugary, creamy things and won’t get much out of this. I do have advice for you though if you’re in that boat, it doesn’t much matter where you get your coffee, you probably prefer a milder brew so just go where it’s cheapest. That may not be totally true, I’m doing some research one how coffee farmers are treated around the world and will post once I learn more about that.
So for my fellow coffee lovers here is my number one piece of advice: go out and get a French press. Seriously, you have to do this. There are relatively inexpensive ($20-50) and will make the best cup of brew that you’ve ever had. I have the top of the line jobber, which is stainless steal and insulated, which means that I can brew it and keep it warm for a while, but if I had to do it over again I’m not sure it’s the one I would get. The glass ones are actually much easier to use because they have lines to direct you how much grounds to put in and then how much water in relation to the grounds. The most important thing is to have your beans ground for a French press, which would be a very coarse grind. Also, be careful about slamming down the last sip of the cup, even with a coarse ground you often get a little sludge in the bottom of the cup. By the way, Starbuck's policy is that they will grind beans that you buy anywhere as long as they aren't flavored. The flavoring process leaves behind stuff in the grinder that would affect other beans natural flavor.
Why is the press such a good method? The oils that are present in coffee give each bean it’s characteristics after roasting. It doesn’t matter how good your electric coffee maker is, the paper filter will retain a lot of these oils. Of coarse there are metal filters, but your looking at big buck there. Also, anything that keeps your coffee hot with a heat source is actually killing your coffee’s real taste anyway. Also, keep your grounds at room temperature regardless of how you’re brewing. Refrigeration or freezing your beans will not prolong their life, it actually will wreck them quicker. This also has to do with the oils in coffee which get messed with big time when get them cold.
If you’re hard-core enough and have the resources to do your own espresso try some different roasts. I’m really loving shots pulled with Italian Roast right now. Depending on who you buy your beans from Italian Roast should actually be a little darker than Espresso Roast, but it has a slight sweetness to it that is different from the caramelly characteristic found with espresso. I have other customers that enjoy some other roasts too, so have fun with it.
If you’re really scared of espresso, but want to check it out, you should try a con panna. It’s an espresso shot with whip cream. I don’t do them a lot, but there are really yummy.

Pastor Guy

So it’s official, I have been accepted back into the ordination process in the United Methodist church and have been recommended to the cabinet to be appointed as a local pastor. This has been a long road to come to this decision, but I think that process has been beneficial and necessary that God might have me where I am. There are no guarantees that I will be appointed to a church this year, but I’m hopeful. Not only am I one of the low people on the totem pole, but we have asked to stay in Rochester, which limits the options.
I know that I am gifted for pastoral ministry and I’m really excited about it, but I also know what a huge responsibility it is and I have a healthy fear of that. I was frustrated with how poorly I communicated to the district ordination committee about how I see my call to pastoral ministry in the United Methodist Church and my call to Gen X being connected. It’s really quite simple, I think the best way to provide spiritual leadership to Gen X’ers is by having a healthy church of people that love Jesus of all ages. There is a lot to be said about gathering multiple generations together in a local church that meets the deepest needs of God’s children and better equips them to honor God with lives of worship.
If I do get appointed to a church it will be this summer at the earliest. There is something kind of cool about having a time of preparation before I take this step, but there is also the practical side of things as well. And that practical side of things says that 30 hours a week at just a little over minimum wages doesn’t pay the bills. I’m in the process of trying to pick up some more hours in addition to the coffee thing.