About Melodius Monk

I'm 30 years old, and I grew up at the Community of Jesus. My parents moved from Ohio to live at the Community two years before I was born, so with the exception of a few years at college, I’ve lived in the Community my whole life. I became a Novice Brother in 2003, and made my profession as a brother in 2005. Currently I have a pretty varied life as a brother. In addition to daily responsibilities in our liturgies, I cook, sing, play trumpet, and am responsible for various cleaning and maintenance needs in the church building (my favorite jobs is changing the light bulbs at 45 feet!) I also arrange transportation for brothers to various appointments, work on repairing musical instruments, clean the barn, give tours of the church, make the weekly food menu for the Friary, and help out with various other needs as they arise around the Community. Growing up, I was not particularly interested in the religious life, but I met Jesus at an inter-varsity fellowship meeting my second year in college, and that re-directed my life drastically. I feel very fortunate to have found my life’s calling, and the hope for more wholeness is what keeps me on my monastic journey on difficult days.

Abundant life

By Melodius Monk

Ever ask yourself the question, is this all life has to offer? Coming off the “holiday” season (you know the one that was supposed to make you feel peace and joy?) or the start of the New Year (when I realize that all of the grand resolutions I vowed to fix in my world may either be impossible, or not part of God’s timing)—perhaps this is a time when this question surfaces! It’s like when you work really hard planning a dinner party: the dinner happens—ends—and I’m left feeling disappointed. The party was fun, really fun in fact and enjoyed by all, but two days later I’m sad it’s over and start to wonder how long it will be until the next enjoyable moment in life. Instead of savoring the fun evening, I start to think if only I had prepared a little better for the party, maybe the feeling of satisfaction would have lasted a whole week instead of two days. Maybe next time I can buy better wine, or not invite so and so, or have the bruschetta just a little crisper, or add one more desert (even though we already had four, but I didn’t know my friend was off sugar)!

My guess is I’m not alone in this waste of time search for the ever elusive “more” in life.  In her story-filled book, Sister Bridget Haase answers my questioning with a swift and simple belief.  She writes, “You do not need to seek abundant life anywhere else. It is right here, right now, under our feet, and in the air we breathe. This is all there is to life and it is quite enough.”

This often inexhaustible search for more in life can manifest itself in small and large ways. God has planted within each of us exactly what we need for a full and abundant life. In her book Generous Faith, Sr. Bridget teaches us that this type of faith “compels us to mine, with integrity, fortitude, and abundance, the faith within each of us.” She continues; “We, too, are created to savor and enjoy every moment of life. Unfortunately we do just the opposite. When we shower, we plan the day’s schedule rather than simply feel the rush of water on our shoulders. When we smell a gardenia, we draw up future plans for a garden rather than just let the fragrance bless us. When we sit by a stream in a local park, we wish we were at a popular mountain resort, far away from our daily routine and duty, rather than hear the gurgling gift of flowing water. When we see flowering lilac bushes in the spring, do we begin a summer countdown or linger over the beauty of lilacs? When watermelon juice runs down our chin, do we wonder if mangoes would have tasted better?”

Though I believe Sr. Bridget’s words to be true, I need regular reminders that God makes no mistakes, and that in Jesus I will be given precisely what I need each day for a full and abundantly rich life.

"Roses" by Leonid Afremov

“Roses” by Leonid Afremov

Stepping out of the shadows

By Melodius Monk

“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.” This is a most suggestive beatitude. If we had been writing it, we would have said, “Blessed is he who never has sinned.” But if it read thus, it would have no comfort for anyone in this world, for there are no sinless people here.
-J.R. Miller

The language of this psalm can be so commonplace to church-goers that we easily run right past its true meaning. If we pause a moment and think about the phrase, “Blessed is the man whose sins are forgiven,” it’s mind-blowing. What do we do to forgive our sins? Nothing! It’s pure gift. And in addition to this gift, we are blessed. What type of God is this who blesses those who tell Him what they did wrong? If I stole something and then turned myself in, I would still be guilty of that crime; but with God this is not so. When confessed, our sin is covered, obliterated, and never used against us. Do we live in gratefulness to this love? I think the answer for most of us most of the time is, “Sadly, no.” But what a privilege this gift of sin-covering is. It’s a gift that promises us a hope and a future. It’s a covering that allows us to not live in fear. Ever since our first ancestors hid from God in the garden out of fear and guilt, we have followed suit. Perhaps I can be courageous enough today to step out of hiding toward God, and gratefully accept my blessing.

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City of Glass

By Melodious Monk

I met a new friend this week, Welsh poet R. S. Thomas. While recently feeling a little lost and tired of looking for God with seemingly no answer back, I went to a shelf of poetry books in hopes that someone else’s words might open my eyes a bit differently.

Perhaps it was Paul Powis’ colorful illustration on the front cover of the R. S. Thomas collection that caught my attention, but every poem of R. S. Thomas that I read I find compelling, thought-provoking, and profoundly mysterious.

One such poem is titled, “the empty church. “ I spend a significant amount of time in an empty church here at the Community of Jesus– either cleaning, doing maintenance work, or praying alone–so, in quickly glancing through the index, this poem’s title leaped out at me as one to read.

The Empty Church

They laid this stone trap
for him, enticing him with candles,
as though he would come like some huge moth
out of the darkness to beat there.
Ah, he had burned himself
before in the human flame
and escaped, leaving the reason
torn. He will not come any more
to our lure. Why, then, do I kneel still
striking my prayers on a stone
heart? Is it in hope one
of them will ignite yet and throw
on its illumined walls the shadow
of someone greater than I can understand?

In the short time I’ve spent with this Anglican priest’s poetry, I have found a strong sense of the knowledge of God’s presence when, and perhaps especially when, He is not tangible to us. I often ask God why this road through life has so many components that often feel pointless or at cross-purposes with one another. I think Thomas might say that our inability to understand God in our lives is not something to be afraid of. At the end of his poem Emerging, Thomas reminds us that God has destined us for good.

There are questions we are the solution
to, others whose echoes we must expand
to contain. Circular as our way is,
it leads not back to that snake-haunted
garden, but onward to the tall city
of glass that is the laboratory of the spirit.

Poetry by R. S. Thomas. Artwork by Paul Powis

Purple Shade by Paul Powis

Vine Support

By Melodious Monk

I’m still very much a novice gardener and one plant I’m still scared of is the vaunted, precious, glorious gem of the summer crops – the vine ripened tomato! Perhaps I’m still haunted by the tomato plants that unexpectedly caught disease last summer and died before producing fruits, but I still find myself delicately reverencing the great tomatoes, afraid that too much action (pruning, fertilizer, or water) or not enough of the same will result in a failure to produce fruit at the end of the summer.

Tomato signOne particular tomato plant is teaching me a lesson this August. It’s a tall tomato plant at the front of staked row, one that has a stout 8 foot stake to climb, and, even with faithful succoring, it has grown well above this height. The stalk is a sturdy with a straight trunk, about an inch or more thick in places. After a recent heavy wind storm, a tall main branch was folded in half at about 4 feet above ground. I found it the next morning, nearly broken in half, collapsed to the ground. Instantly the anxiety began to rise, my fears were coming true: here we are in August and the entire growing season is going to be for naught! I was about to cut off the large sprawling branch, to throw in the brush pile and quickly hide the shame I was starting to feel of ruining this beautiful plant. I should have tied it up better, maybe added another stake, I’m thought to myself.

I assumed the branch had no chance of survival, since only a paper thin outer strand was keeping it connected to the rest of the plant. As I took hold of the branch and tugged, it remained surprisingly, but solidly, fixed on the main vine of the plant. I’d heard that as long as part of the branch is still connected to the main trunk, it’s possible for the branch to still get nutrients, to heal and keep living. With not much to lose, I figure why not try an experiment. I grabbed a flat 6 in piece of wood that was lying on the ground nearby and tied a splint along the stem. Surprisingly the branch held even with the twisting and bending to move it back upright, and with a few extra supports tied to the tomato-heavy top, the branch felt relatively secure. The next day it was still standing, still green, and a week later you’d never know it had been within a tinsel thread of its life.

“I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.” In dark, doubt filled moments, we must remember that no matter what storm may cause us to fall off the vine, we always have the choice to reconnect even the smallest thread to the main vine, and continue on our path towards producing good fruit–and our healing.

Tomatoes

Always Reserved

By Melodious Monk

In the Reservation Chapel
Jesus Waits
He waits for our yes
He waits for us to ask
He hopes we stay.

In the Reservation Chapel
Light comes and light goes
like a mirror of our souls
and Jesus waits
through the darkest night.

In the Reservation Chapel
Morning Sun is never late
it always comes
and Jesus waits
for our hearts to do the same.

The Community of Jesus

 

Daily News

By Melodious Monk

At the scene of the Resurrection, the radiant angel cried out “Why in the world do you women mingle with your tears?”

On many levels, we can all find much to mingle our tears about.  Whether it’s a personal situation, a family situation, certainly larger issues of violence, corruption, and disaster on national and global scales. But our faith must remind us that daily, the angel messenger brings us good news. “Behold, the tomb and understand: the savior is risen from the dead!”
I need to ask myself, where are today’s empty tombs in which I still mingle with my tears?  Why do I keep looking in these empty places for help?  If I am willing to just stop, stand still and open my heart, maybe I’ll find a radiant angel urging me to open another door – towards our eternally risen help, Jesus.

 

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Improbably Possible

By Melodious Monk

What if Today,
the Holy Spirit will cleanse in me that which is unclean
water in me that which is dry
heal in me that which is wounded

What if Today,
the Holy Spirit’s fire will bend that which is inflexible,
fire that which is chilled
correct what goes astray

What if Today,
by His Grace I am granted the reward of virtue
granted the deliverance of Salvation
and granted eternal Joy

We have available in us a limitless grace that we have no comprehension of its capability.

Therefore Today,
Come Holy Spirit
send forth the Heavenly radiance
of your light.

[Verses slightly modified from an ancient hymn
appointed for feast of Pentecost]

hs

Live Generously

By Melodious Monk

In Eugene Peterson’s Idiomatic translation of the Gospel of Matthew, many of Jesus’ words come alive in a somewhat shocking way.  I pause to re-read and re-acknowledge the awesomeness of what Jesus brings us, and the duty that he calls us towards.  Near the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told us:

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’  I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love you enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves…If you simply love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal?…”In a word, what I’m sayings is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

I’m slow to listen to Jesus’ call to “Grow up.”  I’d rather nurse old hurts, take jabs at my enemies and not work to give energies of prayer and peace to others, especially those people or circumstances that I would normally shy away from. God desires so much more fulfilment for my life then I can comprehend. After re-reading this whole chapter from Matthew, I’m shockingly aware of how much possibility there is for an outrageously fulfilling, adventurous, and hope-filled life. God offers such a life to us, if we choose to live inside His kingdom.

The Community of Jesus

 

A Gift is Coming

By Melodious Monk

Even a brief watching of the nightly news shows a world in need, and inwardly, we are never far from a spiritual battle between our human natures and God’s divine purposes.  Here we are at Ascension, a time when Jesus tried to explain to his closest followers why he had to leave them.  He said, “If I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you.”  The word Advocate can be derived from the Greek word Parakletos, also phrased as “one called alongside.” Or, as the NIV translates the word, “one who speaks in our defense.”  I forget regularly that Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit, our advocate, to help, to comfort, and to defend us.  As the season of Easter is fading away, we have a great gift coming from Jesus. A gift I want to learn more about. In moments of need, I want to learn to gain strength and trust by following this Advocate’s counsel.

The Community of Jesus

A Need to Stretch

By Melodious Monk

I’m too small to understand much about God.  Perhaps this is why I’m drawn to ponder over a sermon from the 14th century.  Father John Tauler was a Dominican priest who taught that the way to union or friendship with God was through detachment from earthly matters. He said, “To be guided by one’s own light and not by God’s is the chief cause of our not attaining to union with God. There is an overmastering joy in self-guidance, even in spiritual matters; nature is intoxicated by this pleasure more than by any other; and withal, it is deceitful, and its hurtfulness too often remains hidden.”

I certainly strive to guide myself! I like to do things, to accomplish things, and to have things somewhat organized — not without change and variety mind you, for without could be boring and uninteresting! But I’d still rather have some foreknowledge of what’s coming so as to be prepared. And I do find joy in guiding myself through things…but at what cost?  Did my drive to accomplish a job today, even a job that may have been God’s will, cause me to miss being with Christ today?  And in the process of organizing and making the job happen, did I run over blessings God had intended for me or someone else, all in the name of finishing a “worthy” task?

“God’s friends are afflicted to the marrow of their bones as they see and hear the injury done to God and the harm to immortal souls by people’s affection for creatures, which is all too prevalent around them.”  I find this thought somewhat humorous when juxtaposed to the goal of loving ones neighbor, but nonetheless true. Our “affection for creatures” is very high, and takes a number of subtle forms, working hard, working for the joy of accomplishment, of self-worth, or looking for praise.  In getting this temporary joy and praise from other creatures, I find myself continually striving for more of this unrequited goal, pushing aside people and events that seem like interruptions.  I don’t stretch to think or pray about the hidden hurtfulness that this selfishness can cause.  I’m much too small to realize that God is in anything that comes into my day, yes, truly everything. He may be asking me to do more, or He may be sitting on the side of the road wishing I’d stop and sit with him a while.

The Community of Jesus