Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

The Front Porch

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This is an excerpt from my next devotional:

The Front Porch

By Shawn R. Jones

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Matthew 25:21

     A three-story abandoned brownstone sat in the middle of our block.  It seemed as if the only things holding it up were the two houses it was positioned between.  The same maroon chipped paint that framed the boarded up windows and doors also trimmed the small rickety porch. From a child’s perspective, I am sure the house looked “haunted.”  I was quite nervous walking by it myself, and I certainly never walked by it at night. Too me, it seemed to serve no purpose at all, except for the many insects and rodents it housed, until I rode by it early one morning.

On that morning, there was a tan mound on that rickety porch.  At first I couldn’t tell what it was, so I stopped my car and stared out the driver’s side window.  There was someone sleeping under a tan coat.  My heart shuddered and my throat tightened.  She twisted, rolled over, and stood up.  I put my foot on the gas and proceeded to parallel park.  After I parked, I got out of my car and looked down the block before I put my key in my front door. I was so shocked by what I saw next.  The lady was using the coat to sweep the porch, her porch, her home.

Compared to that homeless woman, I have so much, and yet I still complain. Her coat was her blanket, her pillow, and her broom.  That was over fifteen years ago. I don’t know where she is now, but I can still see her sweeping.  It was also during this time that my elderly neighbor used to complain that I didn’t clean off my own porch well enough.  I gave her the poorest excuse I could think of, “I don’t clean it because it never stays clean.” There was a bird’s nest above my front door and the birds left raindrops of poop across the gray painted wood. It was an unpleasant sight that I seldom swept.  My neighbor would fuss, “Girl, you need to get some bleach and clean that porch off!”  I was thinking, Is she serious?! The inside of my house is enough to clean.  I don’t have time to worry about a porch. I am sure I would have felt differently if the porch was all I had.

We acquire so much that each one of our possessions becomes less and less significant to us.   What did a porch mean to me when I had a beautiful two-story brownstone behind it loaded with tons of things?  Now, if a storm or fire destroyed the gray wooden posts that held the porch up, the porch would suddenly become a priority.  Isn’t this how we sometimes treat many of our possessions?  Isn’t that also how we also treat some of the people in our lives?

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     Take an inventory of everything you own.  You can do this mentally, but it would be best if you could write it down on paper.  And because you are so blessed, this could take you hours, so I suggest you plan on writing this list over a period of a few days, or a few weeks, or a few months. Once you are well into this exercise, you are going to realize that I have asked you to do an impossible task because you have so much you cannot write it all down. What you might want to do instead is give away some of that stuff that you never get a chance to use.  Once you have done that, maybe you will take better care of the things you actually need.

Speaking of needs, let’s move on to the people in our lives.  I know it’s sometimes difficult to accept that we need people.  I guess that’s why it’s difficult for us to thank them sometimes. But there are people we should take a moment to thank.  They are worth the time.  They are also worth the small gesture. Who has God placed in your life to be a blessing to you? I can think of a few people in my life I should thank with a small bouquet of flowers, lunch, or at the least, a phone call.  Some people just need to hear the sincerity of your voice.  They need to hear you say, “I love you.  I appreciate you.  Thank you for being there for me.”  You know, thanking people sometimes makes us feel awkward, but imagine how you would feel if they were no longer there.  How would you feel if the porch suddenly collapsed?

     Dear Lord, I have learned so much from watching that homeless woman sweep the porch of an abandoned house with her coat.  I don’t even know if she is still homeless or alive today, but my prayer is that you bless her wherever she is.  She has indeed blessed me. Let her know that her life is significant and full of meaning and purpose.  Shelter her, wherever she may be. Amen.

 

God Nods As They Move On

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God Nods As They Move On

 

By Shawn R. Jones

 

When the wooden porch is pollen caked

from lemon dust of flowers

quaking as they bloom,

winter cries a sad good-bye

to insects snared

in looming webs of spring

and no one writes their eulogies

but  millions of doves sing

across a moon-filled dawn,

“Small lives do

God’s purpose too 

before the day is gone.”

 

Shawn R. Jones is the author

of the devotional book, Pictures in Glass Frames   http://t.co/BxiNwWRG

and the poetry chapbook, Womb Rain, http://www.amazon.com/Womb-Rain-New-Womens-Voices/dp/1599242699/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337717218&sr=8-1

After Tragedy, You Can Make It

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My Father, My Father

By Shawn R. Jones

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Matthew 5:4

When I was seventeen years old, I sat in my bedroom thinking about my biological father. I had not seen him in seven years, but for some reason, on that particular day, I became overwhelmed by emotions and flashbacks of time spent with him. I walked in my mother’s bedroom and fell on the bed crying, releasing feelings I had suppressed.

“I want my father,” I cried like I was still ten years old, waiting for him on the front step.

After a brief search, I found him in Leesburg State Prison with a six-year sentence. For his remaining years of incarceration, I visited him regularly, and we talked on the phone extensively. He shared stories of his tragic past and ongoing struggle with a heroin addiction. We talked about God, and he told me how he would hide his Bible from the other inmates as he walked across the open field of the minimum security prison.

When he was released, we spent less time together than when he was incarcerated. I began to worry. Then, in the middle of the afternoon, I heard a small knock on my front door. It was my father. He looked much thinner than he had before. I let him in. Humbly, he asked me if I would pray with him because he felt himself “slipping back.” He confessed that he had drunk some alcohol and a bottle of cough medicine. I remember thinking, At least it’s not heroin. He lightly yanked my hand, pulling me slowly down to my knees. He prayed fervently to the Lord. When he left, I just knew he would be all right. Shockingly, less than a year later, he died of a heroin overdose.

I became angry, guilt-ridden, and depressed. I kept thinking, My father and I prayed together, and he still died. I just did not understand, and I did not want to go to church anymore because the last thing I wanted to hear from people was, “God won’t put more on you than you can bear.” Then, I dreamed my father came to me and told me to keep my family in church. The dream seemed so real that I figured it was a message from the Lord.

My family and I kept going to church, and eventually I learned that you don’t have to understand everything to have a relationship with God. You are going to be disappointed sometimes, and people you love are going to die. People have been dying long before you were born, but when it becomes personal, you are more likely to change your perception of God and walk away from Him. Today, I am telling you to stay with Him, and if you don’t know Him, find out Who He is by consistently praying and reading His Word. When I found God, I realized that He was the father I was crying for in my mother’s bedroom.

Dear Lord, help me realize that life on earth is not supposed to be perfect, but You remain perfect even in the face of tragedy. I love You, Lord, and I am going to follow You, no matter what each day brings. Thank You for loving me, and thank You for bringing me through. Amen.

 Reprinted From Pictures in Glass Frames

Ambassador International, 2011

Available at these links:  http://t.co/BxiNwWRG and http://shawnrjones.com/books It is also available on Nook, Kindle, and itunes.

 

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 Shawn R. Jones

 website: www.shawnrjones.com

Author of the devotional book, Pictures in Glass Frames   http://t.co/BxiNwWRG

and the poetry chapbook, Womb Rain, 

http://www.amazon.com/Womb-Rain-New-Womens-Voices/dp/1599242699/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337717218&sr=8-1

 

Your Masterpiece-Ashmont Hill

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This is another song I listen to in the morning to prepare me for the day. I hope it inspires you like it inspires me. God Bless!

One of My Favorites

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If you realize that God brought you out of something you could have never gotten out of on your own, than you will probably enjoy this.  I have been there, and I am grateful for His deliverance.

You are more than you see in the mirror

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(This is a work  of fiction inspired by a close friend)

I examined myself in the full length mirror, my eyes moving like dusk across a fading horizon.  My husband had left me earlier that year, and my twin boys were away at college.  For the first time in my adult life, I had time alone, and I honestly did not want it-not with that body and that face in front of a mirror of images closing in on me like midnight darkness.

I decided to take a shower and shampoo my hair-a ritual that had always made me feel better.  I massaged my thick fro under the hard stream and used the unopened shower gel someone had given me the Christmas before.  I got out slowly, determined to give each second new meaning.  I brushed my teeth, flossed, gargled, moisturized my skin, and put on a white terrycloth robe.  I sat in front of the fireplace, put clear polish on the nails of my fingers and toes, and sat comfortably in front of a burgundy flame.  I was really trying not to feel sorry for myself, but it was difficult because I had never felt so lonely.  My mind searched anxiously for meaning, switching from one random thought to the next.  I couldn’t decide if I should prepare for my husband’s possible return or change the locks and move forward with my life.  Then, I thought of my boys.  They were going to be home in a few months.  Yet, it was only autumn and much too soon to plan a holiday dinner for them or rewash their sheets.  Finally, I thought I would call someone, but I had cut my close friends off decades ago.  I couldn’t possibly call them now and ask them to pick up where we left off-where I left off.  I conjured up feelings of worthlessness and regret, asking myself who I was and by whose standard I should define myself, by myself, alone.

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After thirty-five years of marriage and nineteen years of motherhood, I had become my family.  I was my husband and my sons.  When I looked at them, I saw myself, and when they weren’t there, I saw nothing.  Suddenly, I realized I had not completed anything that would have given me a personal sense of accomplishment.  I had unused gym memberships, twelve more credits to earn my college degree, a failing courier business, and a collection of items I had planned to put to good use some day.  Now, that it was someday, I had lost all motivation.  I felt I had grown too old, too unattractive, and too unintelligent to accomplish anything.  Yet, in a deep and almost unreachable part of me, I felt there was a purpose that remained unexplored all my life.

Well, that night, in front of the fire, a voice spoke to me with more feeling than sound. It moved through my body like an approaching storm and loved me more than I had ever been loved before.  It told me to stand up and reexamine myself.  I moved from the fire and stood in front of the full length mirror again, remembering a phrase my grandmother had told me years before: “We all gotta a job to do, and if we don’t know what it is, we better talk to God about it.”  My grandmother was never fancy with the way she said things, and she was uneducated and full of southern slang, but she was the most wise and most virtuous woman I had ever known and undeniably the most  beautiful-no frills, pure virtue.

I held both sides of the mirror, dropped my head and prayed.  I talked to God incessantly in a voice that reminded me of my grandmother’s.  When I opened my eyes, I discovered I was so much more than who and what I saw.  I was a representation of past, present, and future generations.  I was my mother’s laugh and father’s smile.  I was my Aunt Betty’s song and dance, my Uncle Ray’s sense of adventure, and my grandfather’s strength and keeper of stories.  I was the family stabilizer and teacher who would be a warm lap, soft arms, and wisdom to my grandchildren.  As for my grandmother, I was her voice and her Amen.

As a family, we had endured centuries of dysfunction and adversity. Yet, we were all fine miracles of genealogy, wonderfully and divinely made, given specific duties to help others and reflect God’s glory.  We did not always reflect His glory, and some of us died before we completed our duties.  However, I knew there were still generations to save.  With that revelation in mind, I prayed and studied myself for an hour in front of the full length mirror with my reflection like day, breaking before me.

Posted on November 23rd, 2011 by http://shawnrjones.com/

Author of the devotional book, Pictures in Glass Frames   http://t.co/BxiNwWRG

and the poetry chapbook, Womb Rain, 

http://www.amazon.com/Womb-Rain-New-Womens-Voices/dp/1599242699/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337717218&sr=8-1

Restore Them

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Restore Them

By Shawn R. Jones

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.

Galatians 6:1

We don’t know the hearts, minds, or histories of others. People often feel the way they feel, think the way they think, and do what they do for reasons we cannot fully understand because we don’t know the details of their past or present situations. We are not even sure how we would respond under similar circumstances. For instance, my childhood friend grew up to be shamelessly promiscuous. People called her despicable names. For years, I also wondered why she had multiple partners. I grew up with her, and from what I could see, she had a decent childhood. Well, one day when we were in our early twenties, she confided in me. She told me she had been sexually abused by a babysitter when she was three years old, and the abuse lasted a couple of years. She told her story as if the abuse was a minor bicycle accident.

As I sat there, feeling and looking uncomfortable, she said, “I’m all right, though. It doesn’t bother me.”

After our conversation, we just went on about our day, doing what twenty-year-olds do, laughing at everything and nothing, like neither of us knew pain.

Today, twenty plus years later, I would handle that situation much differently. I would help her find a good therapist who specializes in the treatment of sexual abuse and suggest a number of helpful books she could read by Christian authors who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Sadly, I cannot help my friend now because her promiscuity led to her death. Unfortunately, while she was alive, no one realized she spent most of her life trying to forget the torment of her childhood. I certainly didn’t realize it until it was too late. I never mentioned it again because I didn’t want her to regret sharing her secret with me, so I went on with our friendship pretending the abuse didn’t matter. Even if that was what she wanted, it was the wrong thing to do.

After I realized the magnitude of my mistake and the weight of my regret, I decided to help others by writing about it. I figured it was the best way for me to reach people without being intrusive. Some issues are uncomfortable and painful to discuss, like sexual abuse, but God still wants us to talk about it so the healing process can begin. If you or someone you know has been sexually abused, please get help. Go online and research agencies today. May God’s grace help you through the restoration process.

 

Dear Lord, please help victims of sexual abuse and rehabilitate perpetrators who have robbed others of their innocence. Lord, it is so hard for me to pray for the latter, but I know they are Your children too. Please teach me to be sensitive to everyone who needs restoration, and renew my strength in areas that have been weakened by life’s circumstances. Amen.

Reprinted from Pictures in Glass Frames

(Ambassador International, 2011)

 Available at this link: http://t.co/BxiNwWRG,

 

“The Day I Started Living”

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“The Day I Started Living”

By Shawn R. Jones

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

John 14:1–4

 

My mother is not sure what came first—the hives or the convulsions. The doctor gave her a shot of penicillin. Her body convulsed. Shoes flew off her feet. Hives closed off her airway. She scratched at her neck, trying to make a hole to breathe. As one of the nurses said, “Oh my God, doctor, she’s dying,” my mother watched her own hand turn gray and stiffen.

 

A doctor and nurses tried to restore my mother’s breathing. As she watched from the ceiling, she thought comically, “Wow, they’re really working hard to bring me back.” Next, there was nothing but darkness. Then, there was a brilliant light, a light so brilliant she could not see the man’s face who had on a robe with his arms outstretched. He showed her everything she had done wrong in her life. My grandmother, who had died five years prior, was there also, speaking in my mother’s defense, reminding him of all the good her daughter had done.

 

My mother was active in her community, helping the underprivileged even though she was the underprivileged. She volunteered for Welfare Rights, NarcoticAddictsRecoveryCenter, and the Community Development Block Grant Program. She sat on several boards and was also a mother, struggling to raise a child in the projects.

 

My mother pleaded with the man, whom she now refers to as Jesus. “I can’t die now. I would stay here with you, but I have an eight-year-old daughter, and she doesn’t have anyone but me. She is just not ready for this.”

 

The man spoke calmly in the most beautiful voice my mother had ever heard. “Rhonda, scream. Just scream.”

 

My mother tried to scream. It was very difficult at first, but once she was able to get a bit of sound out, she saw a glimpse of the room where her earthly body lay. Whenever she would stop screaming, there would be darkness. The longer she screamed, the longer she saw the light of the room, so she began to scream uncontrollably. The doctor and nurses tried to calm her down, explaining that they had just given her a shot of adrenalin. Regarding her return, my mother has often said, “They think they brought me back, but it wasn’t them.”

 

After that ordeal, my mother just wanted to get home to make sure I was okay, but the doctor called an ambulance to transport her to the hospital. Meanwhile, I was home worried because she had not come home from work. My uncle picked me up and took me to the hospital to see her. When I got there, she was sitting in a wooden wheelchair, looking exhausted with bloody scratches on her neck. I asked her what happened. She grabbed my hands, looked into my eyes, and said the most meaningful thing I have ever heard her say. She enunciated each word slowly and sincerely. “Shawn, don’t you ever ask me again if there is a God, because there is a God.”

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My mother in the 70s

 

Prior to that day, which was October 8, 1976, I had often asked my mother, “Is there a God? Is God real?” One day she answered, “No. I don’t know, Shawn. When you die, you just go in the ground.” Yet she continued to read The Lord’s Prayer to me every night before bed, so I wasn’t fully convinced. Well, after October 8, 1976, I was fully convinced that there was a God, and I never asked her again.

 

My mother says, “October 8, 1976 is the day I started living.” Psychiatrists tried to convince her that she had imagined the whole incident, and others said it didn’t make sense biblically. Regardless of what others have to say about the validity of my mother’s story, the incident changed her life for the better. She became even more helpful in her community. She sent me to Sunday school, and she began to appreciate things on earth like grass, trees, and even concrete. For the first time, she could truly see the miracles on earth and look forward to spending eternity with Jesus.

 

Dear Lord, You have decorated heaven and earth with Your magnificent glory, divine creativity, and awesomeness, and I am so grateful that You have blessed me with the opportunity to enjoy both heaven and earth. Amen.

By Shawn R. Jones,

Reprinted from Pictures in Glass Frames

(Ambassador International, 2011)

Author of the devotional book, Pictures in Glass Frames   http://shawnrjones.com/books

and the poetry chapbooks, Womb Rain and A Hole to Breathe

http://www.amazon.com/Womb-Rain-New-Womens-Voices/dp/1599242699/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337717218&sr=8-1

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