Monday, October 15, 2018

Every Guard is a Prisoner


A number of years ago I presented a children's sermon in which I used a pair of handcuffs as the object lesson.  I asked for a volunteer from the group, chose a very lively first-grade boy who usually was very active during the children's sermon, and proceeded to handcuff him to my wrist.  While I shared the children's sermon I had a smug sense of satisfaction that I had this young man under control for a change, right where I wanted him.  The moment came for my grand finale.  I reached for the key, attached to the handcuffs by an elastic band, to un-cuff my young friend and me.  That’s when I discovered that the band was not long enough for the key to reach the lock.  I could not break it.  I could not stretch it enough to make it reach.  And then I began to see my situation very differently.  I realized that I had not only bound my young friend to me, I had also bound myself to him.  I had visions of leading the rest of the worship service bound to a first grader.  Before I resorted to gnawing off my hand to get free, a kind deacon with a pocket knife took mercy on my young friend and me and cut the band which held the key.  Freedom was sweet for both of us. 

          What happened to my hands also happens to many of our hearts.  We can choose to bind others to the wrongs they have done to us in the past.  We can wrap those events around that relationship just as we would slap shackles upon the wrist.  For a while, we feel a sense of satisfaction from this.  They are paying for what they have done.  They are getting what they deserve.  But what we must see is that when we bind others with the shackles of their sins, we bind ourselves as well.  We wear a blindfold which keeps us from seeing joy and beauty.  We bind our hands and keep them from reaching out in love.  Worst of all, we chain our hearts to what is evil instead of freeing it to fly toward what is good. 

          Forgiving is important because we cannot bind others in the shackles of unforgiveness without also binding ourselves. 


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Unity Comes from Knowing We Fight the Same Battles


This past week, a woman walked into our church, asking to speak to the pastor and obviously in need of help.  As I sat down with her, I thought we could hardly be more different. 

·        A man and a woman
·        White and black
·        Provided for and painfully poor
·        Clean clothes and clothes worn too long
·        Clark’s tie-up shoes and a pair of bedroom slippers she’d walked in for miles
·        A talker and one who struggles to speak clearly

Through her tears, this sweet lady told me of the very difficult circumstances she faced.  As she spoke, I noticed that her body was jerking slightly, like many small convulsions.  As I continued to strain my ears to understand her, I learned why her body was in such turmoil.  “I’m bipolar,” she said, “and I’ve run out of medicine.”  “How long have you been without your medicine?” I asked.  “Five days,” she replied as she buried her face in her hands and wept. 

In that moment, I felt a profound connection with this lady.  We had something in common.  We’d faced the same enemy.  We’d fought the same battle.  She didn’t need to know anything about my medical history, but I wanted her to know that, at some level, I understood. 

“I’ve needed that kind of medicine before,” I said, “and I know you don’t need to be without it.  Let’s see what we can do.”  Our church helped her get her medication that day and she helped me see that no matter who we are or where we’ve been, as human beings, we’re fighting the same battles. 

We begin to experience unity in the human family when realize, once again, that we fight the same battles. 

·        I know what’s right and am so tempted to do wrong.
·        I let little things keep me from giving my life to what matters to God.
·        I’ve allowed unresolved differences to tear Christ’s body, His church, to pieces.
·        My life is very busy, but also very barren.
·        I’ve kept my faith a secret while people are dying without Christ. 

The church is not a museum for saints; it’s a support group for sinners and strugglers.  When we’re honest about the battles we’re fighting and dare to share them with each other, Jesus makes us one. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Mission Trip Cancelled Due to Dangerous Political Unrest in Honduras



Four days before our Honduras Mission team was to leave for our annual mission trip, the team’s leader, Frank Welch, faced a heart-wrenching decision.  Since Honduras reelected President Juan Orlando Hernandez in November, tensions have been rising between the people who supported the elected president and those who believe the election was stolen by a corrupt election process.  As the time for our team’s trip drew near, Frank learned that protests were being organized to take place in Tegucigalpa, the capital city and the location of the airport our team must use for the return flight.  These protests, planned for the day of the presidential inauguration, are intended to express disapproval of the election results and to call for a new election. 

In assessing this tense situation, Frank Welch consulted with numerous missionaries in Honduras and friends he has in government.  Each time he called, his sources were more concerned about the scope and potential hostility of the protests.  Planned demonstrations will now take place from the day our team planned to arrive in Honduras until at least the day they were scheduled to leave.  The airport has become a target of the protests, knowing that tying up the airport would interfere with dignitaries arriving for the presidential inauguration.  Protesters plan to block as many major roads around the capital city as possible, making transportation from the airport to the team’s mission site difficult and dangerous, if not impossible. 

In light of these developments, realizing that he did not feel confident the mission team could travel to its work site and return safely and on schedule, on Tuesday evening, Welch made the decision to cancel the trip. 


Commenting on the decision, Pastor Dee Vaughan said, “Our team is very disappointed that we cannot go.  We feel very sorry for the people we planned to serve.  But we are blessed to have a team leader who has the experience and connections to know the right thing to do.  His concern for the safety of his team makes me confident that we are well cared for every time we go to Honduras.  We look forward to our next opportunity to serve there.”  

Friday, December 22, 2017

Vaughan Family Update Christmas 2017

Vaughan Family Update
Christmas 2017
Friends,

This has truly been an eventful year for the Vaughans.  Where do we begin?  The Davisons have experienced several big changes in 2017.  Josh became pastor of Old Lexington Baptist Church in Leesville, SC.  The church has been very responsive to his leadership and is growing in all the ways that matter.  Elizabeth, after teaching in elementary school for several years, has returned to middle school special education.  Their three boys, Liam, Creighton, and Josiah, bring much joy to our family.  The boys are now 6, 4, and 2.  Dee and Linda recently took the boys to Greenville to see “Frozen on Ice.”  We were relieved to keep all three boys off of the ice. 

Josh and Jen surprised us this year, too.  After several years of practicing physical therapy in Charlotte, the two of them accepted jobs with Palmetto Baptist Health and have moved to Columbia. They are both working in the specialties they love (Josh in sports medicine and Jen in pediatrics), have bought a home, and, after only a few months, are telling the rest of the family where to find good food.  They certainly enjoyed Clemson’s National Football Championship.  Their puppy, Ranger, turned five this year. 

Andrew continues to work at Fatz CafĂ© in Irmo, spend time with friends, enjoy his nephews, and correct the rest of the family’s grammar.  He managed to break a foot and a hand in the course of the year.  Santa is bringing Andrew calcium supplements for Christmas. 




Linda continues to love teaching GED and diploma students for Lexington School District 2.  Their program won numerous state awards this year for the progress their students make and their graduation rate.  Linda also teaches young couples in Bible Study at St. Andrews and leads the advisory council for the church’s leadership development program. 

Linda’s father, Basil Clary, moved to Columbia in January to be cared for at the Tucker Veteran’s Nursing Care Facility. Ann kept Basil at home years longer than any of us thought possible, but the time for professional care had clearly come.  Basil passed away in October.  Our family celebrated his life and hope together.  He is deeply loved and deeply missed this Christmas. 


Dee surprised Linda with an early Christmas present—a Pomeranian puppy she named after her dad.  Basil or “Little B,” as we call him, weighs 4 pounds and has taken over large portions of our hearts.  He’s brought much joy (and expense) to our family. He celebrated his first week at the Vaughan house by breaking his leg and leading us on an adventure to the doggie ER.  



Dee has now completed six years of service at St. Andrews Baptist Church.  He published his second book this year, a collection of devotional readings for people struggling with depression.  “Seeing in the Dark” is based on Dee’s study of scripture, his own experience with depression, and the work he’s done with others as a pastor, counselor and group leader.  The book is available at Amazon.com or Helwys.com. 

We hope this snapshot gives you some idea of how our lives are going and the many blessings we enjoy.  We’d love to hear from you.  May the Baby born in Bethlehem long ago be born in your hearts in a fresh way this Christmas season. 


Dee, Linda and Andrew Vaughan

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

An Interview about Seeing in the Dark



An Interview with Ronald “Dee” Vaughan

Ronald D. Vaughan is pastor of St. Andrews Baptist Church, Columbia, South Carolina. A native of Greenville, South Carolina, he is a graduate of Furman University (BA) and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv, DMin). Dee has also served as a hospital chaplain, a fire department chaplain, and a college and graduate school teacher. He and his wife, Linda, have three children and three grandchildren.

What were you hoping to accomplish with your new book, Seeing in the Dark?

I wrote Seeing the Dark to settle a dare and answer a prayer. In the darkest days of my depression, my talks with God—more, at times, like jeers at God—were very caustic and sarcastic. In one of those crying out moments, when I felt no hope for myself, my ministry, or my future, I said to God, “If all things really can work together for my good, prove it. Bring something good out of this hell. I dare you.” I later realized that my dare was, in fact, a prayer. I was drowning in depression and needed to believe God was still with me and working in some redemptive way I couldn’t yet see.
As I began to see specks of light in my darkness and began making some progress in the journey toward healing, God gave me many opportunities to share what I was discovering with other depressed people. I soon realized that some of my most significant ministry would be with people stumbling in depression’s darkness, longing to discover enough light to guide them in finding their way. The growth and gratitude I saw in my fellow pilgrims settled the dare I’d made and answered the prayer within it.
Seeing the Dark is my testimony that God can redeem even something as dark and difficult as depression by giving those who make it through the valley the gifts of experience and insight, which they can share with others to help them see light in their emotional and spiritual darkness.

Memoirist Mary Karr says that a person needs about ten years on an experience before they can write well about it. Your major bout of depression was almost ten years ago. When did you know you wanted to write a resource for people dealing with depression? When did you actually start writing these devotions?

I took several steps on my journey of writing Seeing the Dark. The book began with a list I made while I was in the very dark days of my illness. I called that list “Wisdom.” Any time I read, heard, or thought of something that shone a bit of light on my illness and illumined the next step of the path toward healing, I wrote it down. The list includes scripture passages that spoke to me at a time when spiritual truth was very difficult to hear. The list also contains quotations that offered me a helpful word. Many of the items on the list were discoveries I made in working with my doctors and counselors.
When better days came, I suddenly had numerous opportunities to minister with people struggling with depression. I shared some of the truth I’d learned through sermons, small group work, and especially in counseling individuals.
The joy and meaning I found in supporting other depression sufferers motivated me to find a way to share help and hope with a broader audience. Two years ago, I began writing what I’d learned in the form of brief biblical meditations. I intentionally kept each meditation short because I know depressed people don’t have the focus or energy to wade through long treatises. I designed each meditation to be a daily dose of spiritual insight and encouragement.

The six parts of the book resemble stages a depressed person might experience as they seek to connect or reconnect with God. Are these stages you have gone through? Why did you choose these six parts?

When I began writing, I had no plan to separate the meditations into groups. As I wrote the devotionals, however, I began to see themes emerging. Later, I decided that these overarching ideas offered me the best way to arrange the meditations and an opportunity to name some of the big issues people face in understanding and overcoming depression. At times, each of these section themes was the major issue of my recovery, but I don’t think of them as stages, in the sense of completing one and moving to the next as one would read the chapters of a book.
My guitar has given me a picture of how I think this process moves. The issues named by the sections of Seeing the Dark are like the notes of a chord. When I try to identify a chord I hear in a song and play it on my guitar, I begin by finding one note of the chord I can match. Then I experiment with another string to find the note it can add to the chord. I continue until all six strings are adding their sound, making the chord more beautiful and complete. I think people build their healing journey in much the same way.
People get their first grip on depression by finding that first note of truth they can identify and relate to their experience. Then, while continuing to strum that string, they learn other dimensions of healing they need and add those insights to the therapeutic chord they’re building.
My spiritual chord of healing began when I identified the truth that God can see in the dark. I needed to believe that God saw a more positive reality and more hopeful future than I could see. From that starting point, I began to reclaim my power to make choices that could prepare me for healing to happen. As I made choices about diet, exercise, and schedule, I realized that my power to choose extended to my attitudes toward life. I keep a few of these tough questions I needed to answer posted on the wall near my computer so I would see them often. As a strategy for improvement took shape, my toughest issue was putting what I was learning into daily practice. I had to reckon with the truth that the only way to change my life was to change the way I lived each day.
I suppose the final note I added to my chord was embracing the challenge of using what pain had taught me to help others. I’ve been amazed at how important sharing what I’ve discovered with others has been in reinforcing these points of light in my own life. I’ve heard someone say that we teach what we most want to learn. That has been true for me as I keep strumming the strings of growth and healing.

The book’s subtitle reads “Biblical Meditations for People Dealing with Depression”. What value do you think this book holds for someone who loves a depressed person, versus someone who is depressed themselves?

I’ve learned that a loved one deals with depression almost as much as the depression sufferer. His or her life becomes organized around helping the depressed person see light in the darkness and walk the road toward healing. As is true for many kinds of caregivers, the weight of helping a depressed person bear life’s unusually heavy burdens, along with compensating for the emotional deficit in the family system, can take a terrible toll on the helper. Even more exhausting is the effort some loved ones make to “keep up appearances” or keep the sufferer’s needs a family secret.
I think Seeing the Dark can help a loved one understand the experience of depression and some of the key issues the depressed person faces in finding healing. I also hope the book will give a concerned family member or friend some of the words they need to express their worries and point the sufferer toward hope. The book may even help the concerned friend or family member experience God’s presence in the healing process. God often seems far away to a depressed person. When depression captures a relationship, the one trying to help may also feel they are in a strange dark place and struggle to find God. I want this book to be a kind of star chart that guides the depressed people and those who love them to the places where the light of our Christian faith shines, even in the terrible darkness of depression.

Did anything surprise you while you were writing?

I have friends and family members who know I enjoy writing. From time to time, one of them will ask me if I have a current writing project. I wondered how people would react when I told them I was writing a book about depression. I heard myself using humor to lessen their potential discomfort with the topic, “I’m very excited about a book I’m writing about depression!” I imagined the conversation waning into awkward silence. That didn’t happen. What’s surprised me is how many people, when hearing about Seeing the Dark, have affirmed the need for this kind of resource and expressed gratitude that I was attempting to help depression sufferers. In discussing the book, many people have shared with me their own struggle with depression or the struggle of someone they love. Some seemed relieved I had raised the topic, giving them a greater sense of freedom to share a painful part of their journey and celebrate their growth and recovery.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Sculptor's Attitude

The Sculptor’s Attitude


I woke up early today, excited over all I get to do before the clock strikes midnight. I have responsibilities to fulfill today.

I am important. My job is to choose what kind of day I am going to have.

Today I can complain because the weather is rainy or...
I can be thankful that the grass is getting watered for free.

Today I can feel sad that I don't have more money or...
I can be glad that my finances encourage me to plan my purchases wisely and guide me away from waste.

Today I can grumble about my health or...
I can rejoice that I am alive.

Today I can lament over all that my parents didn't give me when I was growing up or...
I can feel grateful that they allowed me to be born.

Today I can cry because roses have thorns or...
I can celebrate that thorns have roses.

Today I can mourn my lack of friends or...
I can excitedly embark upon a quest to discover new relationships.

Today I can whine because I have to go to work or...
I can shout for joy because I have a job to do.

Today I can complain because I have to go to school or...
I can eagerly open my mind and fill it with rich new tidbits of knowledge.

Today I can murmur dejectedly because I have to do housework or...
I can feel honored because the Lord has provided shelter for my mind, body, and soul.

Today stretches ahead of me, waiting to be shaped.
And here I am, the sculptor who gets to do the shaping.

What today will be like is up to me.
I get to choose what kind of day I will have!

Author Unknown