Friday, January 18, 2019

My Kids Taught Me Some of Life's Most Important Words


I taught my children many new words, but they taught me how to say “I’m sorry.”  I grew up in a family that didn’t apologize very often.  We tended to move on as though a hurtful word or action didn’t happen.  That didn't make us a bad family, but we were missing a good habit. When I became a father, I saw how life-giving an honest confession can be.  Some days, I would come home from work—yes, work at the church--frustrated by someone or something and would let that frustration slip out in dealing with the daily challenges of being a family.  When I saw how a little face can turn sad because dad overreacted to a minor offense, I saw how important confessing my mistake was.  Children can’t yet understand that adults bring emotions home from work.  They believe they get what they deserve.  So, I knew I had to take that burden off of them.  My children’s bedsides were the places I learned to say, “Dad came home tired and angry about something that happened at work and took that out on you.  You didn’t deserve that.  I was wrong.  I hope you will forgive me.”

Why is “I’m sorry” so hard to say?  We don’t like to take responsibility for our feelings, our words, and our actions.  We don’t want to admit we’ve made a mistake, especially one that’s hurt someone else.  We don’t like to make ourselves vulnerable by asking for forgiveness the other person might not be ready to give.  This is tough work, but the Bible says it’s worth it.  James writes, 

(James 5:16) Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Confession brings healing.  This passage is primarily about praying for physical healing, but when we confess our mistakes to each other, we also bring healing to our souls and our relationships.  Swallow your pride, be honest about your mistakes, and say “I’m sorry.” 

Monday, December 31, 2018

Tribute to My "Uncle Junior"


I grew up in the foothills of the beautiful mountains of Upstate South Carolina.  You don’t think about the mountains when you see them every day, but they are always there, strong and stately, majestic and colorful, forming the background of your life.  I didn’t think about those mountains until I moved to another part of our state that has no mountains and very few respectable hills and I realized how much the mountains of my childhood added to my life. 

Until a few days ago, there hadn’t been a day in my 61 years that Dortcha Smith, Jr., or Uncle Junior as I grew up calling him, wasn’t a part of the landscape of my life.  And it’s not until I received word that he’d finished his earthly race and had gone home that I began to think about the strength and the color he added to my world. 

Uncle Junior, like my dad, married into the Hester family of five daughters and two sons.  The Hesters liked to visit each other.  I remember many drives from our home in Greenville to Buddy Avenue in Greer, a journey which, in those days, took you through the country, not the sprawling suburbs.  With no cell phones, social media and only three television channels, we made time to sit and talk to each other, to talk about our lives and enjoy our families.  When we would go to Uncle Junior and Aunt Thelma’s house, I’d hear him talk about how his garden was doing and some car he had bought because he knew he could fix it up and resell it for a profit.   

Other times the entire Hester family would gather for a kind of conversation convention.  These usually took place at my Uncle Horace and Aunt Francis’ home, because my grandmother lived next door and could supervise the proceedings.  Big group meetings were segregated by gender, though being a young child, I had clearance to wander back and forth between groups.  The Hester sisters and their older daughters would gather inside the house and facetiously compete to see who had the dirtiest house, least money, and craziest husband.  The men, most of them Hester sister spouses, would sit outside, reminding me of a group of men sitting on a bench at the mall waiting for their wives to finish their shopping.  It was in this circle, this Hester husbands support group that Uncle Junior would shine.  When that big grin would spread across his face, you knew he had a story to tell.  It might be a one-liner or a slowly developing story, but you knew the punch line was coming.  And if you thought the joke was funny or not, you had to be entertained by how deeply convinced Junior was that it was funny. 

He brought a smile and a laugh to every place he went and every person he met.  When I think of my Uncle Junior, I think of words Paul wrote to Philemon,

(Philemon 1:7) Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord's people.

Dortcha Smith, my Uncle Junior, was a Minister of Joy because he so often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.  He reminded us often that life is a gift and a miracle, a journey we were meant to enjoy, not just endure. 

Many of my Uncle’s loyal customers at his barber shop walked out feeling better about life, not just because their hair looked better, but because, while in that chair, they’d seen a big smile, heard a good story, and shared a good laugh. 

My dad often sat in Junior’s chair and usually had some story to share with the rest of us when he got home. 

My brother, Barry, received his very first haircut at Uncle Junior’s shop.  We have the pictures to prove it. 

My Uncle Junior was involved in a first in my life too; not a haircut but something more important for my future.  Junior gave me the first invitation I received to speak at a church other than my home church.  I was fourteen years old and he was in charge of arranging programs for Pleasant Grove’s Baptist Men.  He invited me to talk to them about an experience I’d had with illness and God’s healing grace.  I still have the notes I prepared for that evening.  I was so nervous I read the wrong scripture.  I don’t think my talk planted any new ideas in the minds of those Baptist Men.  But I cherish the confidence my uncle had in me to welcome me into his church to share.  That gave me more confidence as I grew to understand what I felt called to do with my life. 

Junior cherished family.  I remember when he became a grandfather because the topic of his stories shifted from the funny things people say and do to the most adorable brightest and most beautiful grandchildren ever to set foot upon the earth. 

And I remember a time he helped our family through a tough time.  My dad was a patient in the Veteran’s Hospital in Oteen, NC and had been there for several weeks.  With him unable to work and provide, our family was struggling to get by.  I just happened to walk into our living room one evening to see my mom’s siblings and in-laws standing around her.  Tears were rolling down my mother’s face.  My Uncle Junior had his wallet in his hand.  With his other hand, he was pressing a stack of cash into mom’s hand, reassuring her that everything would work out. Things did work out, because we belonged to a family that supported each other in life’s tough times. 

My Uncle knew his own tough times.  He and my Aunt Thelma faced every parent’s worst nightmare in losing a child, my Cousin Rick, in death.  That loss also left my Cousin Pam an only child and the sole caregiver for her aging parents.  Pam, how you shouldered that mantle.  How you gave yourself daily to caring for your mom and dad through tough choices and heartbreaking changes, through times when they hardly knew who you were, but you never forgot who they were. 

You loved them all the way home.  We honor you for that today.  One day, on heaven’s shore, they’ll thank you for honoring them through your sacrificial love.

When I remember Dortcha Smith, I’ll smile.
And so will many of you.
What a great way to be remembered! 


Monday, December 24, 2018

Memories Bring Loved Ones to Life

Christmas Eve finds me keeping a family tradition--I'm making Chex Mix.  I've made a few gallons of that addictive snack every year for as long as I can remember.  I love to eat it.  I enjoy sharing it.  But I've learned I make the mix for a more personal reason.  When I dig out the recipe each Christmas, my rare venture into the culinary arts makes me feel close to my dad. 

From the time I was a small child, my father made what he called "party mix."  The recipe and the process for bringing it into reality evolved through the years.  Dad learned that a brown paper grocery bag was the perfect container in which to mix the varieties of Chex the peanuts, pretzels and, sometimes, Cheez-its with all the precision of a Medieval alchemist.  He developed a sauce shaker, a Peter Pan peanut butter jar with holes punched in the top, with which to gently apply the melted butter, Worcestershire sauce, salt, onion powder and garlic to the mixture without over-saturating any part of it.  Dad liked Cheerios in his party mix so, despite the negative comments from some consumers, that cereal was included in the holy recipe. He had a collection of tins in which he put the treasured treat when it came out of the oven.  I believe he hid a tin or two away from the rest of us to ensure he would get at least a taste of the fruits of his labor. 

Emotions well up in me as I make my own batch again this year.  I feel a tinge of sadness and miss my dad as I replicate his recipe if not his results.  But more than sadness, I feel closeness to my father as I bask in good memories and carry on some semblance of his tradition. 

I don't think my father made his family famous party mix in order to create memories in his son's heart.  He simply wanted to share something delicious with his family.  But I've learned that many of the memories that bring our loved ones to life in our hearts are of small things and everyday events that recreate the aroma of their character and the taste of their joy. 

May good memories bring someone you've loved to life this Christmas. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Runaway: When to Break a Promise

This is an excerpt from my new book

Messages from Mayberry


Chapter Three

The Runaway:
When to Break a Promise

Don’t break the rules and don’t break a promise.” Most of us have been hearing such advice as long as we can remember. But sometimes the right and loving thing just isn’t that simple, is it? As Opie says, these issues “sure mix us up.”
Barney finds the squad car parked in front of a fireplug and writes Andy a ticket for breaking the law. Andy decides to deal with his crime by letting Barney play the part of the judge and hear Andy plead his case. By the time Andy has presented all his evidence and the defense rests, Barney has learned a big les- son. What he knows about Andy is more important than what he knows about the parking violation. He knows that Andy is, as he testified, “an honest man and an honest sheriff.” And the more Barney hears, the more he realizes that Andy wouldn’t have knowingly parked the squad car in front of a fire hydrant.
Finding evidence we can use to accuse people of doing wrong isn’t very difficult. But before we write them up or write them off, we need to remember what else we know about a per- son’s character and faithfulness. That doesn’t mean that good people don’t make thoughtless or foolish mistakes. But remembering the good we know about the people in our lives can make us think twice before we throw the book at them.


When Andy goes outside, trying to figure out how his squad car got in front of a fireplug, Opie, standing nearby, voluntarily spills the beans and tells on his friends for pushing the squad car in front of the hydrant. He told on them, he adds, though he had promised not to tell. Andy applauds Opie’s honesty, but tells him never to break a promise, never to go back on his word. Don’t you just know that painting life in such broad strokes is going to backfire on Andy?
The backfire comes when a little boy named George shows up at the Taylor house with Opie. George has run away from home, but refuses to give his full name or reveal where he’s from. And when Andy asks Opie to help him out by telling him who George is, Opie refuses to help because he’s made a promise and, following Andy’s rule, refuses to break it.
A little later, at the courthouse, the sheriff from neighboring Eastmont calls to report a missing little boy, George Foley. The description perfectly matches the runaway George at the Taylor home, so Andy faces the challenge of getting his promise- keeping son’s permission to do his duty as sheriff.
Andy fights this battle in a very thoughtful way—he tries to take away the need for the foolish promise of secrecy. He tries to understand why George has run away from home. By listening to this young cowpoke, Andy learns that George doesn’t like to be bossed around by his parents and believes that the life of a cowboy is free of such order-taking. If George decides for him- self that running away is a bad idea, Andy believes, then there will be no need to keep the promise or the secret.
Maybe we can learn a lesson from this—we won’t have to worry about breaking or keeping promises so much if we will seek to understand and to help others see the wisdom of doing the right thing.


About this time, Barney shows up with a picture he’s drawn of the lost boy. He took down George Foley’s description, consulted a book on police sketches, and drew his picture. But Barney was so caught up in using modern police methods in the search that he didn’t see the real George Foley right in front of him.
We can be so much like Barney, can’t we? We talk so much about reaching people, strategies and programs and classes and all the rest. And we need to do our very best in reaching out to others. But sometimes we get so caught up in the machinery of reaching people that we don’t see the people right under our noses. The people are there. We just need to reach out and touch them.
Andy uses another tool to help George think about what he’s doing. He helps him count the cost of his decision to run away. George faces the hard fact that he can’t carry the 600 sandwiches he’ll need for the long hike to Texas in his wagon. He doesn’t have snowshoes to get him over the mountains either. Young George also begins to see the cost of the many good things he’s running away from, like pork chops and fried apple rings and a game of catch with his dad. George decides that it’s time to break the promise and call home.
Opie, still clinging to the “keep a promise no matter what” philosophy, accuses Andy of breaking his word and letting him down.
Now Andy has the chance to help Opie and us learn some- thing very important about promises. Sometimes we have to break them, not to do something selfish, but to keep a bigger promise.


Jesus said that the greatest commandment, the most important promise we can make to God, is to love Him with all that we are and to love others as we love ourselves. We have to keep these big promises, even if keeping them means breaking some smaller ones.
As Andy teaches Opie, you can’t obey a “no swimming” sign and let a little boy drown. And you can’t keep a promise not to tell about a boy running away when his parents are worried to death and an entire community is looking for him. To keep such promises would not honor God and would not show love for people.
For Christians, life is about keeping our biggest promises, to love God and love others, and praying for wisdom to know when to keep and when to break all lesser commitments. Living by the law of love will make us more faithful followers of Jesus, the kind of people who help runaways find their way home.



Thursday, November 29, 2018

May I Help You With Your Christmas Shopping?

If you're struggling to find that perfect, though amazingly inexpensive, gift for someone you love, perhaps you might consider one of my books.  Listed below are the four top-selling works of the four books I've written. 


Books by Dr. Ronald “Dee” Vaughan

Messages from Mayberry:

Spiritual Life Lessons from My Favorite Episodes of The Andy Griffith Show.

For more than half a century, viewers have loved The Andy Griffith Show, not only for its wholesome humor and unforgettable characters, but also for the life lessons so many episodes teach. 
Pastor Ronald “Dee” Vaughan put that Mayberry magic to work in his church’s worship services, showing a particularly edifying episode, then going from the script to the scripture to explore life issues from a Christian perspective.  Messages from Mayberry contains Pastor Vaughan’s messages based on twenty-six of the most uplifting episodes of the show.  Let these life-centered sermons be your invitation to take your seat in the All Souls Church in Mayberry, NC and hear a message that will deepen your love of a great television show and deepen your understanding of the Christian life. Available now at St. Andrews Baptist Church (email deevaughan@standrewsbaptist.org for information) and soon at Amazon.com.  
  

The Stories of My Life


“Tell me your story.” When you offer that invitation, you want to know someone at more than a surface level.  You want to know where they’ve been, what they’ve done, who they’ve loved, and what they’ve learned about life’s meaning along the way. 
You share your faith by telling your story.  Christians believe that God is present in this world and is at work in our lives, so when we talk about our faith, we naturally tell the stories of those moments when God has revealed Himself to us.  The Stories of My Life contains over two hundred stories from the life of Dr. Ronald “Dee” Vaughan, moments when God revealed Himself, teaching the author about himself, about faith and about the miracle and mystery of life.  Available in paperback and Kindle formats at Amazon.com. 




 
Seeing in the Dark:

Biblical Meditations for People
Dealing with Depression


Does the Bible have anything to say about depression? In thirty-five years of serving as a pastor, counselor, and chaplain, Ronald “Dee” Vaughan has learned that this is not an academic question. Those who ask about the Bible’s relevance to this illness do so because they are struggling with emotional and spiritual darkness and need spiritual strength to survive. As a student of the Bible and a survivor of depression, the author answers those struggling seekers. During his own time of illness, Vaughan kept a journal of Scripture passages, quotations, advice, and personal discoveries—truths that gave him glimpses of spiritual light that guided him through the darkness toward healing and health. In this book, he shares those life-giving discoveries. This collection of biblical meditations is designed to be used as a daily devotional resource. Along with each meditation is a prayer based on that chapter’s life lesson and a truth to affirm, a short summary to help readers remember what they’ve learned.  Available in paperback and e-book formats at helwys.com, amazon.com, and barnesandnoble.com.

Making the Shift Worship Resources:

Sermons and other Worship Tools for Making the Shift in Congregations

How can the church be relevant and authentic in our rapidly changing world? 
Three years ago, Mark Tidsworth offered an answer to that pressing question by publishing Shift: Three Big Moves for The 21st Century Church.  Since its publication, Shift has been embraced by numerous churches and denominational groups as a way to understand and adapt to our shifting cultural environment.  As groups have made The Shift, pastors and worship leaders have asked for sermons, prayers, litanies and other resources they might use to design rich worship experiences to engage the entire congregation in The Shift experience. Now, that help is available. Pinnacle Leadership Press is delighted to partner with Dr. Ronald “Dee” Vaughan to bring you this volume of worship resources. A gifted communicator, preacher and author, Dee has the eyes to see and ears to hear how the scriptures guide us into personal and congregational transformation. As you read, you will also find sermons from some of the many other pastors and worship leaders who are making excellent use of the Shift content to seed their preaching and worship planning. Available in paperback and e-book formats at Amazon.com and Pinnacle Leadership Press






Answering the Call of Those Who Need You Most


Linda and I were attending Furman’s homecoming some years ago.  Among the people I saw that day that I don’t get to see nearly often enough was Kevin.  Kevin had been one of my apartment mates at Furman’s Montague Village.  Kevin was different from the other three guys who lived with him in that apartment.  While we were studying things like music, religion and psychology, Kevin was mastering mathematics and computer science.  When we graduated, three of us needed to go on to seminary to get yet another degree.  When Kevin graduated, he accepted a position in the Research and Development Department of Duke Energy.  Now, some twenty years after graduation, Kevin and I were catching up on each other.  After asking about family and children, I wanted to see how Kevin’s professional life was progressing, so I asked, “How are things at Duke Energy?”  His answer caught me off guard.  “I’m not with Duke Energy anymore.”  “OK,” I answered, “so what are you up to now?”  “I’m teaching math in a critical needs high school.”  I wondered if my friend had gotten in some kind of trouble with Duke or maybe had lost his mind, so I dug deeper, “Kevin, what made you decide to become a high school math teacher?”  He grinned as only he could do and looked at me as though to say, “You don’t get it, do you?”  Then he answered my question.  “I realized that Duke Energy doesn’t need me.  They have plenty of good computer people.  But those students really need a good math teacher and I’m going to give them one.” 

Kevin was a very successful computer programmer and analyst for Duke Energy.  He could have worked there for the rest of his career.  He could’ve earned enough to help support his former apartment mates serving in the ministry.  But his life changed dramatically when he heard a call, the call of the people who needed him most. 

The Apostle Paul heard that same kind of call, a call that changed his understanding of his ministry and the direction of his life’s work.  He was busy taking care of the churches he had started.  He was helping them grow.  Suddenly, his path felt blocked, not by anything outside him, but by someone inside him.  God wouldn't let him continue serving the same people in the same way.  Paul had a dream of a man from Macedonia, a place he'd never been, begging him to come to a new place and share the good news with people who'd never heard.  Paul's ministry changed when he heard the call of the people who needed him most. 

This is the time of year when many churches like ours think about the needs of the world, the millions of people living in hundreds of places who have never heard the good news of Jesus Christ in a way they can understand and believe.  We’ll do some good things for those people during the Christmas season like making gifts to special mission offerings to support missionary work all over the world.  That’s a good thing.  But before we can do our best to share Christ’s love with a lost world, we, like my friend, Kevin, like the Apostle Paul, need to hear a call, the call of the people who need us most.  Only then will we change the direction of our lives, enlarge the purpose of our earthly journey, and help the people who need us most. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Who's in Your Great Cloud of Witnesses?


This Sunday, as the church I serve gathers for worship, we'll remember and give thanks for members of our church family who’ve finished their earthly journey and gone home to heaven during the past three years.  Certainly, we feel a tinge of sadness as we see the names and pictures of people we’ve known and loved in the circle of our church family, people who are no longer physically among us.  But, All Saints’ Day is not a time for sadness as much as a time for gratitude for the lives and testimonies of great Christians who’ve loved us and served Christ through this church. 

Hebrews 12 teaches us that we are surrounded by “a great cloud of witnesses,” believers who have gone home before us, but continue to cheer us on as we run our race of faith.  We cherish the list of spiritual giants we find in Hebrews 11, great men and women of the faith whose example we’ll be blessed to follow.  All Saints’ Day is a time for you to make the reality of the “great cloud of witnesses” more personal.  Who have you known and loved whose life inspires and encourages you to live for Christ?  Who is cheering for you as you run your race?  Let me share a few of my spiritual cheerleaders as you think about yours.

 My parents gave me wonderful examples of devotion to Christ and faithfulness to His church.  My dad was especially vocal about loving his church as family.  My mom loved creative worship experiences and gave me my love of drama as a means to share the gospel. 


My pastor during my growing up days, Rev. W. Harry Floyd, became my role model for how to minister as a pastor.  I remember him coming to my home to see me as a young boy when he heard I was upset by the news that one of my counselors from Camp McCall had died.  He heard my profession of faith and baptized me as a new believer. He visited me one night in the hospital after feeling strongly led to pray for me.  I’ve never been led astray in my ministry by asking, “What would Preacher Floyd do?” 

Rev. Bobby Morrow, Linda’s home church pastor, took an interest in my ministry, affirmed my gifts, and spoke a good word for me as I sought ministry opportunities.  Knowing Bobby believed in me helped me believe in myself.

Creighton and Emily Edwards, a wonderful couple in one of the churches I’ve served, adopted our family, loved our children as church grandparents, and gave each of us a special blessing.  Our Josh sat in Creighton’s lap every Sunday.  Emily showed me how a Christian navigates through the rough waters of depression.  They live on in our hearts and cheer us on. 

As you remember and give thanks for saints who’ve gone home, I hope you’ll realize how rich you are and allow the lives of those who’ve gone before you to lift your spirits and renew your resolve to live for Christ.