Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Date With Jesus

I know Jesus is with me always. It's okay if I don't feel Him near – I believe He is. Distractions separate us. Life gets in the way. The enemy tried to make Him invisible.

And I know there are other people having a date with Jesus at the same time as me and that's okay because He doesn't leave me to go be with someone else. He is everywhere, all the time, intimately present so that He and I can have a conversation any time. He is completely present in the moment, waiting for me to speak, wanting to hear what I have to say, interested in me, laughing at my jokes, being serious when I am serious, never trying to lighten the mood because He's uncomfortable with my raw emotions – He's had them too. He gets it. Jesus is the perfect date.

He asks me out (I don't have to beg). He opens the doors for me, not in an awkward oh-let-me-get-that-for-you kind of way, but in perfect rhythm with my pace. He tells me I look nice today and He says He likes being with me.

I tell Him I like being with Him too.

He asks me how I'm felling and He listens intently as I tell Him. He offers comfort and He rephrases my awkward sentences to say completely what I really feel, what I really mean. But He never holds this skill over me (like I'm stupid).

He is polite to the waiter, saying encouraging things to make the waiter's job enjoyable. Not trite or forced or flattering. Just honest. He sends His compliments to the chef. He doesn't belch. He doesn't speak too loud. He doesn't embarrass me in anyway.

And He uses a napkin.

He never swears or participates or starts gossip. He smiles at my jokes and laughs if He thinks they are really funny, but not that fake plastic laugh – you know the one I mean – the one that is forced to keep me talking and liking Him. He is completely confident in His Being. He doesn't need to show off.

And we aren't rushed. The conversation is a perfect blend of back and forth peppered with un-rushed silence. He insists I order dessert and never mentions the cost or alludes to my weight. I order cheesecake. He orders chocolate cake because he doesn't want to embarrass me by ordering the same thing or not ordering at all – which would be humiliating.

But then, He loves chocolate.

During dessert, He excuses Himself and says He will just be a minute. He needs to talk to someone in the kitchen. He somehow allows me to see inside the kitchen in my mind as I sit enjoying espresso and biscotti. (Yes, that is two desserts.) He finds a woman washing dishes and speaks softly to her. She is crying. She grabs Him and hugs Him and I am so happy to share this moment with them. The sous chefs and cooks and waiters are watching and smiling. I don't know what it's all about, but I don't have to. I'm caught up in the moment of Jesus sharing His love with others.

He shakes hands all around and gives a few hugs, all in perfect timing and discretion.

Back at the table, the check is paid and we take a stroll to the park. We don't really walk in step, but it's comfortable. He doesn't walk ahead of me, or behind me, not even an inch or two. I don't have to try to catch up. I don't have to try and figure out which path He's taking.

And even though I speak softly He can hear me. He can hear every word I say. I don't have to repeat myself. And He understands the manner in which I speak those words and understands even better than I understand what I am saying myself.

At the park we sit on the grassy hill overlooking the huge lake. A gentle breeze is blowing and the temperature is perfect. We don't need a blanket because the grass is soft. There are no ants or bugs or bees except for an occasional one that flies far away. The birds are singing; competing for attention, but taking turns in a musical antiphonal psalm.

And I am comfortable looking at Him, not embarrassed or afraid or intimidated by His gaze. I don't look away when He smiles at me. I just keep sharing my thoughts and enjoying the day.

I look off past the tree to the right and the other side of the lake. A boat moves quietly in the water. The thick trees create a sort of foundation for the hills and mountains beyond.

It's quiet. A silence falls between us, comfortable, like time standing still.

He's not thinking up a reason to end the day. He's not thinking up jokes or clever things to say to fill the silence. He's waiting. He's comfortable with the silence too.

And then I am suddenly convicted in the realization that I have been doing almost all the talking and the entire date has been about me.

The conviction sinks deep into my heart like a hand holding it down, uncomfortable. I want it to stop.

“I'm sorry,” I whisper.

He is looking at the mountains to save me humiliation. Somehow I know that He knows what is bouncing around in my brain. I squeeze my eyes shut. I repent in my mind of my selfishness. The heaviness instantly leaves my heart. Cool air brushes over it and I feel even more at peace than when our date began.

“What would you like to know?” He asks.

No questions come to mind. The awe growing in me opens my view. “Everything,” I say. “I want to know everything but I don't know how to ask it.”

“There are no wrong questions.”

I'm searching. I find that I don't know the questions I need to ask, until I find the answers.

So I learn about Him, little by little. He only tells me what I can handle. Some things wash over me and I pray that I will meet those things again when I am able to place them deep in my heart.

But for now, Jesus is my Counselor, He holds my tongue in check and speaks to me of things I should say and do.

The enemy wants me back, but Jesus holds on tight, fighting for me, comforting me and when I'm hurt or wounded, when I'm out of the battle, He fights for me.

Jesus is my Friend, my Comfort, my God, my LORD, my Only True Love, and I want to understand Him more, see Him clearer, know of His works in other people's lives, know more of His works in my life.

Jesus fills the hole in my heart, if I just sit quiet and let Him. Jesus is my Soul Mate. Jesus is my Joy, my Music, my Special Secret Song, my Confidant, my Brother, my Husband, my BFF, my IM Buddy, my Teacher …

Jesus is My Everything.

Friday, July 15, 2016

glimpses

(by Rachel H.T. Mendell)

the clear song of an unknown bird in the distance

a playfully pink dawn

a small bat gathering early morning mosquitoes

the dancing cream swirl of a heart in my morning coffee

the simple act of love from an obedient child

a butterfly alighting next to me

the whispered Word of Direction behind me

a baby smile

musical laughter in the distance

the praise song sung unaccompanied in the hallway

the homeless man welcomed into church

the painting that pulls at my heart with a sudden understanding

two praying women hidden in a corner

the flash of meaning during Bible study

the sound of the sinner releasing control

an overflowing food pantry

the strong silence of a man in prayer

the firm hand shake held just a bit longer

an unexpected hug

one talking one listening both fully engaged

a thank you card

the slobbery gift of a well used squeaky toy

a delicate text, “I love you”

a prayer burden for a long-forgotten friend

the light touch of a kitten

cutting open the perfect avocado

an apology

the bowed head of a penitent teen

being forgiven

the gentle evening breeze in the quiet of a chaotic day

a violently red sunset

a pleasant dream of my heavenly room

glimpses of Him all around me all the time never the same

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Thank You, Too Small

Dave playing with grandson Liam on the floor
To the best dad a mom could ask for:

You're always there when I need you (especially on migraine days); you took care of the kids when I was sick, tired, in the hospital, in pain, or fed up (following in Gramma Bruemmer's footsteps of “going down the road to let the bears eat me”). You forgive and forget. You let me be me: painting the walls that odd color of green, getting up at 4 am to write crazy stories, doing “healthy” experiments with your food. You have been supporting this family financially since the beginning; you eat the cooking “mistakes” and saying they taste great (especially that fudge that seemed to grow back every time you took a piece); you dig garden beds for me; fix my car; rescue me when I get myself in trouble (which is at least once a week and twice on Saturdays); you always picked up the slack when I was off saving the world; the children still have you on speed-dial and you are always ALWAYS ready to help (they trust you with everything and you are the go-to guy – because mom would probably yell at them if she found out what happened …); you changed that first dirty diaper in the hospital like you had been doing it all your life and chaos does not bother you; you pried my dead-white fingers from the bathroom sink and told me the company Christmas party would be fun; you joke with the kids and get me to laugh when I'm too serious; and I know you pray for us all the time; you sacrificed a lot for us – more than any of the kids know – more than I even know. I couldn't ask for better and I don't deserve you, David C. Mendell.

Thank You, God, for telling me he was the one – even though I didn't believe you at the time – You were right.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Missing You

by Rachel HT Mendell
 
I miss its 20-foot saguaros twisting to the sky, their ancient beauty waiting a lifetime to bloom, the prickly pear offering flowers in the spring, the tiny desert daisies

I miss the clean streets, the stone buildings graced with Mayan etchings, the cool cement, the stucco low-lying homes, the aroma of many hidden pools, the hot breeze carrying the sharp smell of the creosote bush, the waving palo verde branches, the old broken cottonwoods, the random dry washes with stones of many colors, the grapefruit and lemon groves

I miss the multi-colored people, Spanish announcements over the grocery intercom, festivals of every nation, music, food, art, restaurants from every corner of the world, inexpensive produce of every kind from everywhere

I miss cowboys and Apache and Hopi and Navaho and horses and steer and mule deer and peccary and coyote and scorpions and 5-inch cockroaches and 10-inch ground beetles and 5-pound toads in August and deafening cicadas in July

I miss dust storms, the low moan building far away, the quiet howl closing in, the rising brown cloud, the accelerating wind, the whoosh of dust and dirt and leaves, the vast power of rusty sand hitting the windows, seeping through the cracks in the walls blocking out the sun, the calming rain that follows chaos, rare and sweet making mud and blooms

I miss the vast culture, so much richness it cannot all be experienced in a lifetime, every sunrise uniquely exciting, every sunset a brilliant work of art to calm before retiring

I miss the Phoenix outback, great for target practice, fishing, hiking, quiet, dry, dangerous, filled with hidden life – if you know where to look – stark mountains, secret springs puddling into tiny oasis with tiny ecosystems between rock and boulder

I miss Squaw Peak hiking, Anasazi ruins exploring, camping at the foot of the Superstition Mountains, exploring an old turquoise mine, going back in time, watching sunset on South Mountain, Scottsdale shopping, pool swimming, Central Avenue Cruising, eating at Hansa House, Great Wall, Grants, Farrell's, Red Lobster, Macayo, Jordan's Kontiki, Jack in the Box, Big Boy and Baskin Robbins, the symphony, the plays in the park, drumming groups at Encanto, bands marching, new buildings growing, new people arriving, new things to see and do and think about every day

I want to go back and experience it again, to relive good times and sad, to learn all the new in the ever changing desert, the ever growing city, the ancient tomes rediscovered

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Sharing

by Rachel HT Mendell

Sharing

Hit a wall

a tan sand wall

I know I must walk through

and I do

and the forbidden words flow from my mouth from somewhere beyond my brain, a new place

and they sit transfixed

which I would be doing if I were listening

but I'm not

and I am done – or He's done

and one says, “Wow. That was something!”

and I think, yes, it was, and a wonder that it came out of me

and I don't apologize, but thank them for listening

and now I know how it feels

Friday, June 17, 2016

No Going Back

photo by Nina Fussing
by Rachel HT Mendell

There is a glass wall I am looking through

I see people that I perceive as ignorant, innocent, naive

from time to time a crack opens in that thick window and I can feel the breeze from the other side, sweet, refreshing, cool on a hot day


and then it happens

the break appears again, but bigger, crackling, wind blowing

now I see those people on the other side as wise, strong, determined, beautiful, inspiring

Now I want to be like them


so I try

by myself

the opening seals up in silence

I feel pain and stress and anxiety, they won't love me if I can't do this

I don't want the crack closed up

I don't want to have a cold, dead heart


I cry out

and go where I needed to be all along

I read The Sacred

I go to The Secret Place again and again, staying longer and longer

And then I know, suddenly, quietly, gently

The clear veil rends top to bottom and I feel my heart swell as the wind floods in from the other side, cold, brisk, strong

Ripping down the barrier as it opens wide, trees whipping about, the roar fills my ears and mind and soul

and I step through

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Last Lesson

(by Rachel H.T. Mendell)

Today was the last piano lesson with my last student.

I knew our time was coming to a close, but I wasn't prepared for the abrupt end.

“Will this be our last lesson, or shall we have one next week?”

“Next week, I think.”

Then two songs into our session he changed his mind. “I think this will be our last lesson.”

“Oh! Okay,” I said, surprised.

So, as he played through the pieces he felt he was ready with (I gave him a lot of music to work on), I found the next page in his notebook. I notated reminders of skills and practice techniques. I didn't need to do that, the notebook was already full of notes, but I felt I had to give him something. This was our last lesson. What do you do for that kind of event?

“Remember, if you have a piece you need help with, like if you are getting ready for playing for church or something, just call.”

“Okay.”

A few months ago he had talked about his upcoming college experience and that he would not have time for lessons. So I told him I would give him a crash course in some of the “required classics” that I worked on with my teachers. He said he was up for the challenge.

I dug through my most challenging music to find some things he had not tried: a little Bartok, a little Grieg, a little more Bach, Chopin Preludes and Waltzes (his choice), Brahms Rhapsody in G Minor, Mozart Minuet from Divertimento No. 1, K. 113, Johann Strauss Blue Danube Waltz, Beethoven Sonate Pathetique Op. 13, and finally Rachmaninoff Prelude in C Sharp Minor Op. 3, No. 2 (that's the one where you have to play two staves simultaneously - crazy hard).

It felt good to be throwing more music at him. I knew he could handle it and a few of the pieces stuck – he loved the Beethoven and Mozart. But this student had surprised me over and over. He didn't start lessons until he was 14 and by the middle of his second year with me, he told me he wanted to try Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.

That's when I had a sudden flash-back.

I started lessons when I was 6. We moved to Arizona when I was 9 (so my dad could get a better job) and we had to leave the piano behind. The old piano my parents finally bought when I was 11 was an ancient upright with the C# sticking in the muggy August weather. The piano turner complained with every tuning, replacing strings and noting the ancient hammer felts.

After a year of lesson books and hymns, I asked my teacher if I could learn the Moonlight Sonata. She gave me Fur Elise, which was a pale second to me, but I learned it. Once the work on the Sonata finally began (my mom had purchased the music for me), my teacher informed me that she had taken me as far as she could and I needed a new teacher.

My dad found Diane Wilson.

Mrs. Wilson threw all sorts of music at me. I was given challenging exercises, scales and chords to memorize, and classics – lots of classics. When regional and state competitions came up at school, she helped me decide what piece to dive into. Only once did I not get a top score and that was on a Mozart I absolutely hated. I had memorized it as was expected, but I froze on the third page. The judge brought the book over so I could continue. How humiliating. But I made up for it the next year – Mrs. Wilson always encouraged me to come back strong after failure.

And she challenged me again: Debussy's Clair de Lune, Chopin Waltzes (lots and lots), Bartok, Beethoven, all of Bach's 2-part Inventions as well as some of this 3-part then on to the Well-Tempered Clavier (actually 4-part Inventions, but no one ever admits to that), Scott Joplin, Rachmaninoff, Liszt, a little jazz, a little 12-tone row. My favorite was the two-piano arrangement of Funeral March of the Marionettes – and for this one I was allowed to play on her grand piano. Her living room was completely filled with piano – hardly even room for the window.

The old upright was now officially a frustration to me.

“If you learn to play every hymn in the hymnal, we'll buy you a new piano,” my mom challenged me. I was up for that! And it didn't take long – about a month and a half.

Mrs. Wilson challenged me each week with crazy hard music that competition judges consistently said was too difficult for me. But they gave me high marks anyway. I looked forward to the day when I was good enough to have my lessons on the grand piano instead of the studio piano.

She made me believe I could play anything I wanted. All it took was practice and time.

All too soon the relationship was ended – abruptly. My mom said she was going off to England with a violinist from the Phoenix Symphony. I was heart broken. No teacher matched the tenacity, the straightforwardness, the encouragement.

And I didn't get to say good-bye. It was a phone call to my mom and my mom relaying the message.

So, this good-bye from my last student was sweet closure for me. We knew it was coming to an end. We were cramming together for an exam: me searching for music, him trying to grab as many notes as he could with the time we had left. Even for our last lesson there were a few notations in the Chopin we were able to cover.

Ask any music teacher: a very small percentage of students make it to the classics. Very Few appreciate a challenge. With this last student I was able to finally pass on a bit of what my favorite teacher gave to me.

And all this in three short years.

I do regret the last lesson a bit. I had so much more to teach him.

But I know my Mrs. Wilson felt the same and that may be why we never had a last lesson.

And that's okay.

I feel a strange sort of completeness. I got my teacher hug and told him to keep in touch and I'd try to make it to his graduation party. I offered my consulting any time if he needed help with a piece he was working up for an event or one he just wanted to learn.

Then he played “Memories” one last time for me.

And it was the best it has ever been.