Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

The Front Porch

Posted on 5 Comments

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?

P1070307

     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.

 

Your Masterpiece-Ashmont Hill

Posted on 4 Comments

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

Posted on No Comments

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

Posted on 8 Comments

(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.

P1070720

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

Judge Not

Posted on 12 Comments

Judge Not

By Shawn R. Jones

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

Matthew 7:1

A cashier at our neighborhood market had such an unwelcoming disposition that I would avoid her checkout line. Sometimes she would be the only cashier working and I, of course, would have to get in her line. I would smile and say good morning as pleasantly as I knew how without breaking into song and dance. She would respond with a mumbled hi. After that, she would work in silence, and I would bag my groceries and pay in silence.

One day my husband and I were shopping in that same neighborhood grocery store. I told him not to go to the “evil cashier.” Of course he carefully angled the cart between the candy bar and magazine racks of her aisle. He asked her about her holiday and talked about the weather. Meanwhile, I was thinking, He is so corny, and this is so unnecessary. He called her by the name displayed on her nametag. She mumbled and grumbled for a while, but he kept on talking to her.

Then she held up my frozen macaroni and cheese and said, “You should make it from scratch.” I looked at her strangely. Then she gave me advice on how to prepare the best macaroni and cheese. “You gotta use that cheese from behind the meat counter. Tell them it’s for mac and cheese. They’ll know what you’re talkin’ about.”

My husband said, “How about we just come to your house and eat?”

She smiled and said, “Anytime. I haven’t had much company since my son passed away last year.”

My husband and I did not go to her home, but every time we saw her in the market, she smiled, talked, and laughed as she ran our items across the scanner.

 

Dear Lord, I am sorry for judging others. Please remind me that everyone has a story that I may not know or understand. Please forgive me and fill my heart with compassion for everyone I meet. Amen.

Reprinted from Pictures in Glass Frames

(Ambassador International, 2011)

 

Move on Despite Tragedy

Posted on 2 Comments

Move on Despite Tragedy

By Shawn R. Jones

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

1 Corinthians 15:54

My grandmother held three jobs. She worked fulltime at a nursing home in Atlantic City, part-time as a waitress at a local restaurant, and part-time as a home health aide. Although my grandmother was in her early forties, she had just become fully independent. She had enrolled in evening classes to obtain her G.E.D., got her driver’s license, and purchased a used car. Unfortunately, she and my grandfather were legally separated, and with five older children, she was finally able to concentrate on herself.

My grandmother started dating Jerry, a bellhop who worked at the restaurant’s adjoining hotel. He was twenty years her senior and claimed that he too was separated from his spouse. When my grandmother discovered he was still living with his wife, she ended their relationship. Jerry threatened and stalked my grandmother for days. However, no one took his actions seriously, until my mother received a phone call from the restaurant.

“Jerry just shot your mother up!” It was the voice of the sixteen-year-old waitress who worked at the restaurant with my grandmother. The young waitress later told police that Jerry came in the back door of the establishment and shot my grandmother three times before shooting himself. Later, my mother had to identify her mother’s body at the Atlantic CityMedicalCenter. The residual effects of that tragedy affected our family for a couple generations. When I would complain about small things, my mother would say, “Look, my mother was murdered! Save your energy for the big stuff.” As much as I wanted to ask what that had to do with anything, I knew better, and I later learned that it had a lot to do with everything.

As I got older, some of that “big stuff” came just as my mother had promised. Sometimes I felt like I was hit coming and going, but I knew I had to keep going. “Big stuff” will come your way too, but you have to move past it all just like my grandmother’s five children did. From watching them, I learned that death and tragedy are not excuses to give up on life and certainly not excuses to give up on God. All five of them were survivors, and no matter what comes your way, you have to be a survivor too.

Dear Lord, I am so grateful for Your divine strength that helps me cope in a world that can be frightening and unpredictable. During times of mourning, thank You for reminding me of Your gift of everlasting life. It is this gift that keeps me hopeful in the face of death. Amen.

 

Reprinted from Pictures in Glass Frames

(Ambassador International, 2011)

Let Love Be Your Goal

Posted on No Comments

Let Love Be Your Goal

By Shawn R. Jones

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:3

 

When most people think of the word love, a slew of thoughts comes to mind, but most people never come up with their own definition for it. People often say “I love you” too soon, too seldom, or too late. Before you say “I love you,” know what you mean. For me, love was  selfless and unadulterated concern for others. Before I read God’s meaning of love, that was my definition based on more than twenty years’ experience as a wife and mother. I love my husband and children purely, unconditionally, and sacrificially.

 

What do you mean when you say you love someone? Do you love your boss, coworkers, neighbors, family, and friends in the same way? I wish I could say that I do, but only God can love all people so evenly and unreservedly. However, I still welcome you to add love to your list of lifetime goals. To help you in your quest to love, here is the biblical description of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4–7: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

 

Now that you know God’s meaning of love, read it a few times with a few people in mind and ask yourself if you love each of them according to the above description. If you do not love them as described by this definition, you may want to reassess your feelings.

 

Dear Lord, teach me how to love according to Your description. Please help me truly love others unconditionally, purely, and profoundly. Amen.

 

Reprinted from Pictures in Glass Frames

(Ambassador International, 2011)

 

Restore My Mind

Posted on No Comments

    For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love, and of a sound mind. -2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

     Have you ever been afraid of what the day might bring? I have, and to be honest, it was more of a moment to moment struggle. My mind would not stop creating visions of unforeseen tragedies, and my fears increasingly turned into panic. It got so bad that I would get light-headed as soon as I walked into what I believed was a potentially dangerous situation.  The major problem was that everything had become a potentially dangerous situation to me. My house was the only place I felt safe. Then one day, while driving, I lost control of my body.  I gripped the steering wheel several times, trying to find a position to calm me. I grabbed my neck and hair repeatedly, alternating between the two with my mouth twitching, hands and arms shaking.  I looked over at a group of boys selling drugs on the corner, and at that moment, I understood the tremendous struggle within every drug addict, alcoholic, and crazy person I had ever seen in my life.  I even thought of pulling my car over to the curb where the boys stood and buying something, anything, to make me feel better.

That day, I realized I couldn’t get well on my own.  I couldn’t beat the invisible power that had a hold on me. My mind had folded in on itself. In six months, I had become both depressed and paranoid, and I knew I could no longer think my way back to reality. All the cliché prayers I had learned went right out the window.  Instead, I cried a deep cry, gargling Jesus’ name through my tears.

In the days that followed, God gave me deep human insight and overwhelming compassion for people I had once casually dismissed, like prostitutes and the neighborhood “crackhead.”  Whenever I encountered them, I talked to each of them about God.  I discovered they had a story that was not too different from my own.  Life, with its magnitude of cruelty, had brought each of them down to the place where I met them on the street.   Instantly, I understood that God put them in my path, so I could look beyond their plight and connect with their humanity…

Reprinted from Pictures in Glass Frames

(Ambassador International, 2011)

All proceeds go to charity when you purchase

a signed copy from my website:  http://shawnrjones.com/books

PIGF cover