On May 9, 2011 Dee's ministry at Berea First Baptist Church came to an end and our family began the "Unexpected Adventure" of building a bridge to a new future. Through this blog, we invite you to share this journey with us.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Light a Candle of Hope

Today, as I led my final worship service at Parisview Baptist Church, our family had the honor of lighting the first candle on the Advent wreath; the candle of hope.  Andrew, Josh, Linda, and I each had a part to play and had a message we wanted to share.  Parisview has been a place of hope for our family.  Let me share with you what we shared with our dear friends in worship. 

Andrew:  Through the prophet, Isaiah, God made this promise to us, His people:

Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Dee: This is the season of hope.  Today we celebrate the beginning of Advent, the time of year when we remember how God gave us hope by sending Jesus into the world to be our Savior.  That hope is real to all of us who have gathered for worship today.  No matter what pain you’ve suffered.  No matter what obstacles you face.  No matter what questions remain unanswered, you have hope today because of Jesus. 

Linda: God also gives us hope through His people—His people here at Parisview.  Our family came here six months ago, deeply wounded and wondering what our future would hold.  The first day that we walked into the church, we knew that we were in a place of hope.  You loved us.  You listened to us.  You welcomed us and our ministry.  You showed us that church is a good place and that you are truly good people.  Today, as our family comes to the end of our ministry at Parisview, we thank God and we thank you, for giving us the gift of hope.  As we light the hope candle on the Advent wreath, we pray that the light of hope will shine upon you today.

(Light hope candle)

Josh: Let us pray.  We thank you, God, that you are at work in our lives, working to give us hope and a future.  Thank you for the hope that our family has experienced through the love of Parisview Baptist Church.  And I pray that every person here, no matter what his or her need, will be touched and changed by hope today.  We pray this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.  

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thank You, Parisview

If you've ever had surgery, you know that your first attempt to walk after the procedure can be very painful.  Most often, someone comes to your bedside, helps you up and walks with you as, in spite of the soreness, you take those first steps back into the fullness of your life.

As I prepare to begin a new chapter of my life and ministry, I owe an incalculable debt of thanks to a fellowship of believers who came to me in a time of great pain and helped me take my own first steps back into the fullness of my ministry and my life.

Two weeks after my very painful departure from my former church, I was contacted by David Smith, deacon chairman at Parisview Baptist Church, to ask if I was willing to explore the possibility of helping Parisview through its own time of transition.  I met with the church's deacon ministry and agreed to lead worship for two months.  I didn't want to promise more than that because I wasn't sure that I could deliver.  My soul was sore.  I felt betrayed by a church I'd served for twelve years and had mixed feelings about serving any church after that experience.  On June 5, I took my first painful step back into the ministry.  I preached my first sermon at Parisview, "You Can Begin Again."  The words of that title describe so well the message that the people of Parisview began to preach to me through their actions and their attitudes.  They listened to my story.  They mourned with me.  They praised  the good they saw in me and my ministry.  They prayed with me and for me. They walked with me, each step of the way, as I began to work the soreness out of my soul and reclaim my place in God's family.  We walked together, not for two months, but for five months because, at Parisview, the words "church" and "family" really do belong together. Parisview is a place of grace.

Last Sunday, I preached at St. Andrews Baptist Church in Columbia at the invitation of their pastor search committee.  St. Andrews heard me preach a sermon entitled "Grace Is Enough."  They heard it because Parisview Baptist Church had written that message upon my heart.  Through their ministry to me, grace was enough to heal my heart and renew my strength to serve.  Thank you, Parisview. May God bless you as you have blessed me.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

An Important Family Update

Thanksgiving Comes Early 
for the Vaughan Family

After six very long and trying months, our family is celebrating a wonderful new beginning.  Dee has been called to serve as Senior Pastor at St. Andrews Baptist Church in Columbia, SC.  Our family already feels a deep connection with and love for these good people.  Dee will begin his ministry at St. Andrews on December 1. 
Linda and Andrew will continue to live in Travelers Rest until June 2012.  We want Andrew to complete his senior year at Traveler’s Rest High School and graduate with his friends.  Linda also wants to complete a full year of teaching Developmental English at Greenville Technical College.  Until June, Dee will be a “migratory bird,” working in Columbia and driving to TR a couple of days each week.  This will give us time to get our home ready to put on the market and to learn our way around Columbia. 

We want to thank our wonderful friends who have stood by us, encouraged us, and lifted us up in prayer during these times of change.  You have brought to life the scripture that says, “A friend loves at all times…” (Proverbs 17:17).  We also want to express our deep appreciation to the Parisview Baptist Church family.  These folks, also in a time of change, gave us a warm and loving place to belong and to serve.  Dee’s final service at Parisview will be probably be November 27. 

If you haven’t kept up with our family, Elizabeth and her husband Josh brought a grandchild into our lives on July 25.  Liam has brought us so much joy and has put the “grand” in grandchild.  Josh, Elizabeth and Liam live in Monetta, S.C., where Josh serves the Bethel Baptist Church as pastor.  Elizabeth teaches a self-contained special education class in the Saluda School District.  When we finally settle in Columbia, we will be only 30-40 minutes from Liam….and his parents. 

Our son, Josh, graduated from Clemson and is now at Elon University, working toward his Doctor of Physical Therapy degree.  He is almost a year into this intensive three-year program.  Along with classes and labs, intramural sports and refereeing soccer games, Josh recently went skydiving. His girlfriend, Jen, literally told him to “go jump” for his birthday.  We don’t get to see Josh too often, but we talk by phone several times a week.  

Our family hopes that this Thanksgiving season finds you with far too many blessings to count.  Know that we count you among the greatest of God’s gifts to us. 

Dee, Linda, Josh, and Andrew Vaughan
Josh, Elizabeth, and Liam Davison

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Coping with Critics

A young friend of mine in ministry recently suffered a few cuts from critics.  I sent him this message and wonder if others might be blessed by "overhearing" it.

When I have heard the noise of criticism, I have found comfort and truth in these words of Theodore Roosevelt: 

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."
"Citizenship in a Republic,"
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

If critics are needy noisy people, love them, but don't let them lead you. 
If critics harm God's family, confront them.
If critics are right, learn from them. 

And remember, you can visit every town square in the world and you won't find a single statue of a critic.  

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Holy Mission

I'm in Monetta, SC this week leading revival services at Bethel Baptist Church, the church my son-in-law, Josh Davison, leads as pastor.  During the day, I'm keeping my grandson so that his mom and dad can go to work (and leave us alone!).  I've told folks that I've come to Monetta on a holy mission, and that I'm preaching too!  Spending time with family and with dear Christians seeking to renew their walk with Christ has already been a renewal experience for me.  Last night, as I preached, Liam heard my voice and decided that the time had come for us to talk.  So....for most of the rest of my message, I had a "hey" and "oh" corner (sort of like an Amen corner).  Some days I preach pretty well, but I can't compete with the voice of an angel.  My only complaint is that I was the only guy in the building who didn't get to be quiet and listen to Liam.  This may be an example of God speaking in spite of the sermon.  In any case, I'm looking forward to the rest of the week.  

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Chance to Share

Sunday night, I led a worship service that I called "My Story--My Song."  In that hour, I sang a few songs that I've written and others I just love to sing and shared stories of times that God has made Himself very real to me.  The congregation was made up of folks from several churches, friends we've known and loved along the way.  Seeing who was there was both a joyful reunion and, in some ways, a sad reminder of the pain of recent months.  During the service, we laughed and cried and worshiped.  The most meaningful moment of the evening for me was the chance to share a song that I wrote about my dad's life and death, "You Guide My Way."  I rehearsed that song pretty calmly while alone at home, but choked back tears when I shared it with others.  The joy of being loved and the pain of grief are timeless in the human heart, at least they seem to be in mine.  One gentleman who attended wrote me to say that he had known "Dr. Vaughan" for a while, but had the chance to get to know "Dee" Sunday night.  I'm glad that he did.  I'm very blessed to have people in my life who will listen lovingly to my stories and my songs.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

You're Invited

Thirty Years, But Not a Day

September 14 marked thirty years that my father has been gone from this world.  I saw that milestone in my mind, off and on throughout that day.  As is always true for those who grieve, my feelings were mixed.  I was saddened by all of the good things that dad was not here to see and share with me in the past three decades.  He didn't see any of his children married.  He didn't get to hold a grandchild.  He didn't hear me preach as a pastor.  I sorted through the confusing ideas of what God allows those in heaven to know and what they don't know.  I come to a joyful moment and think "it wouldn't be heaven if dad doesn't know about this."  Then, in a heartbreaking time, I think "it wouldn't be heaven if he had to know about this."  

My strongest feeling on that milestone day was how much my father is alive in me.  Though he has not walked this earth since 1981, I have not lived a single day that he has not been with me.  The memories are good.  The lessons are truth.  The example is faithful.  I am blessed.  I stayed up late that night and wrote down some of my thoughts about my father's absence and presence for the past thirty years.  I hope that these words will one day grow up to be a song.  

Though you've been gone so many years
I have never walked alone.
Your strength and wisdom 
go with me each day.

And though I've cried so many tears
Still my heart is filled with joy
for a father's love that ever guides my way.  

Remembering and Giving Thanks,

Orin's Boy

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sometimes the Dog Has the Last Barf

Saturday night, our family was packing for our early Sunday morning trip to Monetta for Liam's dedication service.  Suddenly, Linda and I realized that we had made no plans for the care of our dogs.  Half serious, and knowing that I would get a strong reaction from Linda, I suggested that we put plenty of food and water in the garage and leave them cooped up for a few days.  Linda, a lifetime dog lover, assumed the role of defense attorney, and gave me a list of reasons why we couldn't leave our little dogs behind.  As planned, I relented, but didn't realize how closely the dogs had been listening.  Winston, riding in the back seat on the way to Monetta, suffered from an upset stomach and, well, barfed all over my suit coat hanging in the back and my tie that was inside the coat.  Talk about holding a "garage." When we arrived in Monetta, I had only one suit and only a few minutes to get the coating off of my coat and remove the new puke pattern from the the lower third of my tie.  This story has no lofty moral to teach.  I offer it simply to make an observation.  You may think that you're the master of your dogs, but sometimes they get the last barf!

Dedication Day

I had the honor and joy of leading the dedication service of my grandson, Liam, at Bethel Baptist Church in Monetta, SC, on Sunday, September 4.  Let me share the thoughts I wrote for the occasion.    

This is such a happy and holy moment for our family and, I know, for this church family. 

I am Elizabeth’s father, Josh’s father-in-law, Linda’s husband, Andrew’s dad, but most of all today I am Liam’s Papa Dee. 

We’re here today to celebrate a miracle, to thank God for the life of Joshua Liam Davison and dedicate him to God. 

In truth, we’re here to dedicate ourselves to the holy work of teaching Liam to love God and live for Him, to “train up this child in the way he should go, so that when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

As we take this sacred step together, I want to speak first to Joshua and Elizabeth as Liam’s parents, then to those of us who are blessed to be a part of Liam’s extended family, and then to all of you who will be his church family.  All of us have a part to play in the unfolding miracle of his life. 

Joshua and Elizabeth, I can still remember the night that you called to tell Linda and me that you had a child on the way.  I was upstairs in our home working at the computer.  When I heard the news, I froze for a long long time.  But now, here you are, parents.  Liam will learn more from you than from any other people in this world.  You are his first teachers.  You are his first theologians.  You are his first coaches.  You are his first counselors. From you, he will learn how life works.  Both of you hold very important jobs, Elizabeth as a teacher, a shaper of young lives, and Josh as a pastor, a shepherd of God’s flock.  But other than the call to follow Jesus and to be faithful to each other, loving Liam is your highest and holiest calling. 

So I ask you, “Will you strive to be the parents that God calls you to be?  Will you show the love of Jesus in your words and your ways?  Will you worship Christ in this church-house and in your house? Will you raise this beautiful boy in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, praying for the day when he will receive Christ as his Savior and follow Him as Lord?  If you will strive to be parents like this, say, “We will.” 

Family, we are here, beaming with pride and joy and thankful for God’s goodness that allows us to share our lives with Liam.  Each of us has a part to play in the unfolding miracle of his life.  If you will join me in pledging your prayers, your hands-on help, your wisdom, and your love to this child and his parents, say “We will.” 

Church family, you are called to continue the work of Jesus, to take little children into your arms and into your hearts, to teach them the scriptures and the songs, to show them Christ’s love and give them His blessing.  If you will promise to be God’s family to Liam and all of the children in your care, say “We will.” 

Let us seal these promises we’ve made in a moment of prayer.

A wise man has said that every baby brings the message that the world must go on.  Children are messengers of hope.  As we close this dedication service, let us sing and celebrate the hope that is ours because Jesus lives.  

How sweet to hold a newborn baby
And feel the pride and joy he gives
But greater still, the calm assurance
This child can face uncertain days because He lives
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

This is the manuscript of a message I preached at Parisview Baptist Church on Sunday, August 7. my first message after the birth of my grandson, Liam.  

Lessons from Liam

On July 25, 2011, Joshua Liam Davison was born.  That little guy has made some big changes in our family.  My daughter and son-in-law are now parents.  My boys are uncles.  My mom is a great grandmother.  My camera is about to burn up from taking so many pictures.  The poor little boy believes that he’s been born into a world where a bright flash of light occurs every five seconds.  The two hour drive from Travelers Rest to Monetta is suddenly no problem.  My wife and I have changed our preferred names from “Dee” and “Linda” to “Papa Dee” and “Nama.” 

I wasn’t surprised that little Liam changed our family, but I was surprised by how much he changed my heart.  Liam’s birth, and these two weeks that we’ve shared with him, has been a time when God has spoken to me as He has at very few times in my Christian journey.  That very little boy has taught me some big lessons.  He’s been like a little angel bringing messages from God for me. 

This morning, I want to share with you a few of the lessons I’ve learned from Liam, ways that God has taught me and touched me through him. 

You Are a Miracle

I’ve heard many people say that they believe in miracles.  I’ve heard a good number say that they’ve seen a miracle.  But the experience of Liam coming into this world took me beyond believing in or seeing miraculous things.  His birth taught me that every person can look into the mirror and say, “You are a miracle.” 

Psalm 139 is a song through which the singer praises God for the miracle of his life. 

(Psalm 139:13-14) For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

During her pregnancy, Elizabeth would send me updates on what was happening to Liam as he grew and got closer and closer to birth.  As I read what science has learned about the growth of a child before birth, I thought of those words again and again, “you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” 

Where do you see the glory of God, the evidence of His power and His purpose?  You might see the glory of a sunrise.  You may look into a cloudless night sky and see the countless stars He calls by name.  You may gaze upon the mountains, dressed up in fall colors by countless leaves changing at His time.  Or you may, like a friend of mine, say that he no longer says that there are no atheists in the fox holes of a battlefield.  When he became a father, he said, “there are no atheists in delivery rooms.” 

But little Liam reminded me that every human being wonderfully made by God, knit together by His hand, can look into the mirror and say, “I am a miracle.”  You are not merely the result of a process.  You’re not an accident.  In God’s mind, you weren’t a surprise.  You are a mighty act of His power, His creative purpose, and His love.  And the same God who did a mighty thing in creating you can do might things through you.  You can live in the confidence and purpose that come from knowing, “I am a miracle.” 

Liam taught me something else the night he came into this world…

Pain is the Price of New Life

The day that Liam was born, Linda and I arrived at the hospital and went to her room to visit with her and Josh.  Every two or three minutes, Elizabeth would have a contraction, a passing moment of tension and discomfort, but between those contractions, she visited with us and talked about many things, posed for pictures, and even joked about becoming a mother.  But in a few hours, the hurt she was feeling became far more intense and came more often.  I saw the look of pain written on her face and the fear that comes from hurting like you’ve never hurt before.  The time came for all of us to leave the room, leaving Elizabeth with her husband, her nurse, and the challenge of enduring the pain she was feeling. 

As excited as I was about becoming a grandfather, I spent the next several hours pacing up and down hallways, questioning anyone who came out of Elizabeth’s room, and even putting my ear up against the door to hear any clue that could tell me how my girl was holding up in her battle with pain.  A few times, a doctor or nurse would open the door to leave, only to find me in the doorway with my ear turned toward the door.  I didn’t care.  I was worried about my daughter.  Everything inside me wanted her pain to end.  For hours, we heard the voices of doctors and nurses coaching her, we heard her voice as she fought the good fight, and then, at 7:21 p.m., almost 14 hours after she had begun, my daughter’s pain turned to joy, the joy of a new life.  Outside in the hallway, we who had been listening to Elizabeth’s struggle heard something new, a little voice crying out to announce his entrance into the world.  I hugged Linda and we remembered three such days in our own marriage.  But now we felt the joy of our daughter’s pain leading to the miracle of a new life. 

Childbirth is one of the most painful and dangerous experiences a woman can know.  I wish that it were different.  I wished it a hundred times that night.  But in God’s plan, pain is the price of new life.  It’s true for a woman giving birth.  It’s also true for any person asking God for a new beginning. 

Liam’s birth taught me that, for any of us, pain is the price of new life.  So many people want a new start, a new beginning, a deeper faith, a greater faithfulness, victory over a struggle, joy on the other side of weeping.  But what we must realize is that we won’t hear the sweet sound of a new life unless we are willing to endure the pain that new life demands; the pain of honesty, the pain of confession, of heart-broken repentance, of letting go of the old in order to make room for the new, of enduring a night of darkness in order to see the glory of a new day. 

The Apostle Paul tells the Galatians that he is bearing great pain with the purpose of seeing Christ more alive in their hearts and in their church.  He writes, in Galatians 4:19,

(Galatians 4:19) My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…

Many times, over the past few months, I have asked God why I’ve had to hurt so badly—why the people I love have hurt so badly.  I don’t know that I’ll ever understand the reason for this pain, not on this side of heaven, but I can find hope in the result of this pain.  By God’s grace and power, my pain and your pain, can be the beginning of a new life. 
When Elizabeth’s time of hurting was over, when we heard Liam’s voice and then got to hold him and see him, he taught me another great spiritual lesson. 

We’ll Understand When We See Him Face to Face

ILL: Several times during Elizabeth’s pregnancy, she sent me ultrasound images of Liam.  I don’t know how well you interpret an ultrasound image.  I find most of them to be like a two-year-old’s picture that they draw in Sunday School.  I look at it and say, “Wow, that’s amazing!  Tell me about it.  (Which is a nice way of saying, “What in the world am I looking at?”)   

Sometimes I could be guided to see Liam in the picture, other times I had to trust that others saw things I just couldn’t see.  But all of that changed the first time I held him in my arms and looked into his little face.  That face-to-face moment revealed more to me that I had seen in all of the moments before.  Later, I returned to those ultrasound pictures and, now, some of them made perfect sense, especially one in which I could trace the features of his face and see that those hazy images were, in fact, my Liam all along. 

In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul says that our journey through life is that very same way.  He writes,

(1 Corinthians 13:12) Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

In Paul’s day a mirror was nothing more than a shiny piece of metal.  The reflection it gave was often dark and distorted.  We don’t see life so clearly while we’re living it.  We want to see the plan, the purpose, the meaning; we want to see Christ working in the joys and challenges we face each day.  Sometimes we catch a glimpse of him in that poor reflection our human hearts can perceive.  Other times we don’t what we’re seeing or what it means.  We just have to live by faith. 

But one day, we will see Jesus face to face.  When we do, all of those poor reflections, all of those small glimpses of His grace and His glory, will make perfect sense.  We will look back and see that He was there, in every step we took, every tear we shed, every burden we bore, even every question we asked. 

When our faith becomes sight, we will see that Jesus was with us every step of the way.  

One more lesson my Liam has written on my heart;

God Wants You to Know How Much He Loves You

            I had held little Liam for the briefest moment when I heard myself telling him how much I love him.  Even though he’s a genius baby, as we call him, I don’t think that he could see me clearly or understand the meaning of the sounds my voice was making.  But I didn’t give up.  I’ll never give up.  I’ll always tell him and, hopefully, show him that he has someone in his life, one of many, who look upon him and feel nothing but love.  And though I don’t want to rush him in growing up—he’ll change too quickly, I know—I look forward to the day that he knows, truly knows that I love him and he, in his own childlike way, can love me back. 

            Paul wanted the Ephesians to have that same kind of experience with God.  Listen to his prayer for them in Ephesians 3:17b-19,

(Ephesians 3:17b-19)  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

            I want you to know how much Christ loves you.  I want you to build your life upon that confidence, “being rooted and established in love.”  I want you to see how big his love for you truly is, “how wide and long and high and deep.”  And I want you to know His love, not just as an idea in your head, or the right answer to a question someone asks you in church, but as an experience that changes you from the inside out, that fills you with the presence and power and peace of God. 

            As long as you have been in this world, God has been telling you how much He loves you.  For a long time, you didn’t recognize His voice, much less understand what He was saying.  But God wants this to be the day when you know His love, when you experience the love that gives you life, eternal life; the love that fills you with God’s spirit. 

            Have you heard His voice?

            Have you understood how much He loves you?

            He’s shown you most clearly in Jesus, the One who died to take away the sin that stands between you and God, the One who rose from the dead to say, “Love has won.” 

            This can be your day to know how much He loves you. 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

And Thanksgiving Broke Out

Wednesday Prayer Service was underway.  The prayer time had just concluded.  I took a deep breath and prepared to speak the first words of my Bible study when someone spoke up first.  The retired pastor of the church, seated in the congregation, asked for a moment to speak.  He talked about the four weeks that the church and I have been working together.  He talked about the attendance, the new faces, and the new sense of hope he feels.  He said, "I am very proud to invite people to my church."  I was very touched by what he said, but I drew another deep breath to begin the Bible study.  Before I could start, a lady in the crowd spoke up.  She, too, wanted to thank me for helping her church.  When she finished, another began, then another, then another.  For the next ten minutes, people spoke up to say "thank you."  The last man who shared said, "In other words, we love you."  I fought back tears.  I glanced at my watch and saw that choir rehearsal would begin in five minutes, a sacred hour in a Baptist church.  I folded up my notes and tried to tell those good people what having a place to serve, even part-time, means to me.  With that, the service ended. 

As I drove home, I replayed that unusual service in my head and asked myself why it had touched me so deeply.  Then it dawned on me.  This little church had just done more to say "thank you" for one month of ministry than the church I had left did to give thanks for twelve years of ministry.  The contrast and the lesson it taught were crystal clear.  I had seen how much a simple gift of gratitude adds to life and how much its absence steals away.  I will never forget that Wednesday night that I came to prayer meeting and thanksgiving broke out.  I want to be one of those who steps up, speaks out, and gives thanks.  . 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Some Good News

Linda has been hired by Greenville Technical College to teach a course in Developmental English this fall.  This class, in many ways, will be similar to Linda's GED work that she led at Berea First for eight years.  She will be working with Greenville Tech students who need some coaching and practice in putting their thoughts into writing.  I'm very proud of her and she is very excited about this opportunity. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Father's Day Gift

My Father's Day gifts came early this year.  My children, Elizabeth, Josh, and Andrew have made me very proud through the character they've demonstrated and the support they've given me during this time of transition.  I felt guilty having to tell my children that the church I had served for twelve years, the church where they spent some very formative years, had turned its back on me.  I worried that my children might hate the church instead of loving the church.  I feared that they might see their dad as a failure. 

They've made me proud.  Each of them, in his or her own way, has given me a very precious kind of support and encouragement.  Andrew even had a verbal showdown with a not-so-friendly Facebook friend (don't start a war of words with Andrew!).  My children didn't ask for or deserve this test, but all three of them have passed with flying colors.  Elizabeth....Josh....Andrew, I know that being my children has not been easy lately.  But I want you to know that there's never been a time when I've been more proud to be your dad. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Great Truth From a Great Christian

"When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares."
                                                                              -- Henri Nouwen

Saturday, June 4, 2011

New Beginnings

Sunday will be a day of new beginnings for our family.  My son-in-law, Joshua Davison, on the same day that he celebrates his one-year wedding anniversary, will begin his first pastorate as he begins his service at Bethel Baptist Church in Monetta, SC.  I had the joy of moderating Josh's ordination council and his ordination service on May 15.  (I had to resist the temptation to ask Josh, during his ordination council, "How often do you promise to bring my grandson to see me?") He and Elizabeth have been very busy moving to Monetta and getting their home in Greenwood ready to put on the market.  I know that they would welcome your prayers as they begin this new chapter of their lives and then, in about eight weeks, become parents for the first time. 
My little girl is now a pastor's wife.  If she will remember her mom's example, she'll do just fine. 

June 5 is also the day I begin preaching at Parisview Baptist Church.  These folks have been so welcoming and affirming that I am truly excited about the opportunity to worship and work with them for a while.  If you need a church family to love you or even a safe harbor during a spiritual storm in your life, I know that you would be more than welcomed at Parisview.  My first message to them?  "You Can Begin Again."  That seems to be the theme of the day. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Something New

To say that life is filled with surprises would be the biggest understatement of the past several weeks.  I've been knocked down by some tragic surprises, but, thank God, have also been blessed by some very affirming ones.  Official today, I have agreed to undertake a new writing job for Lifeway Christian Resources (the people who publish Sunday School literature and other resources for Southern Baptist and other churches).  A week ago, I received a telephone call from the editor of You, a new curriculum that I have never before used.  She enlisted me to write "sermon starters" to go with each lesson in the Spring 2012 quarterly, a brief suggestion of a message a pastor might preach to support the theme of that week's lesson.  That was a nice surprise.  What was an even greater surprise was that You is designed for urban and African-American congregations.  This very white guy who lives in TR will have the chance to support the ministries of fellow pastors I have never met who come from a very different background.  My childhood was spent in a very segregated South.  I am grateful for this opportunity to experience and express the unity that Jesus gives to His people. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Preaching at Parisview

This Sunday morning, I begin preaching at Parisview Baptist Church, Sunday mornings (10:30 a.m.), Sunday evenings (5:30 p.m.), and Wednesday evenings (7:00 p.m.)  These good folks have asked me to help them with preaching and pastoral care in June and July while they seek God's guidance in the longer-term needs of their church.  The spirit among their deacons was sweet and strong, so I look forward to getting to know the entire church family.  If you know anyone who is searching for a church home, this is a place you need to visit.  The facilities are beautiful and well-kept, the music is inspiring, the ministries for youth and children are growing, and the love of Christ is strong. 

Some folks have asked me if I would offer counseling to members of my former church.  I will help anyone I can, especially those with whom I have already establishing a counseling relationship.  Please call me at home (864) 610-9770 or leave a message at Parisview (864) 232-1838.  I'll be glad to hear from you. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Joy from Your Song

A couple of years ago, I invested in an inexpensive version of a Fender Telecaster electric guitar.  I have often seen that guitar on its stand in the corner of our bonus room while I was working on a sermon, a funeral, or a wedding at my computer.  Recently, I've had more time to pick up that guitar and spend some time enjoying the music it makes.  Those musical moments have taught me a spiritual lesson.  When life is going well, your song flows out of your joy.  On bright and beautiful days, the heart of a believer overflows with the joy of loving God and gratitude for his countless blessings.  In more recent days, as so much of my life has been turned upside down, I have found that my joy and my song are still connected, but in a different way.  Right now, my joy flows out of my song.  My memories of God's mercy, my testimony to His faithfulness, my confidence in the grace that has "seen me safe thus far," are like a treasure chest where I can go and find everything I need.  I can sing the Lord's song in a strange land.  By singing it, I can find strength and hope.

On every sunny day filled with God's blessings, sing His praises!  Worship Him, hear His Word, count your blessings, let your song flow out of your joy.  Then, when you find yourself in a strange land, when life has taken so much away from you, you will still have your song.  And from your song will come your joy.  May you have some time with your Telecaster today.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What Are You Doing Now?

Since ending my ministry at Berea First, I've become surprisingly busy. 

From June 5 until July 31, I will preach and give pastoral support to the Parisview Baptist Church.  These good folks are at a transition time in their lives too, so I look forward to sharing faith and friendship with them while we all seek God's guidance and grace for the future. 

Beginning August 22, and until December 5, I will be teaching at North Greenville University's T. Walter Brashier Graduate School.  I'm researching and designing a new course for students in the Master of Christian Ministry program, a course to prepare local ministers and staff members to counsel people preparing for marriage and those facing marriage problems.  If I ask Linda to list all of the things I've done wrong as a husband, I'll have most of the course planned. 

Between now and September 15, I am writing adult Sunday School lessons for Lifeway Christian Publishing.  These five lessons on the Sermon on the Mount will be studied by churches in September of 2012.  I love to write Bible study material and could not have been offered a better text to study and teach, so this project will bring me a great deal of joy. 

More important than any of these, Linda and I have enjoyed time to talk about our lives, our marriage, our values, our faith, and our future.  Dreaming again has drawn us closer to each other and to the Lord.  I look forward to seeing what He will do.  In the meantime, I'm blessed to have so many good things to do. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Moment of Gratitude

Today the good folks at Parisview Baptist Church invited me to preach for them in June and July while they seek God's will about the longer-term needs of their church.  When I accepted their invitation, I realized how thankful I was for the opportunity to lead in worship, to share God's Word and my heart with others.  I also realized that I have taken that honor and privilege for granted. 

I was reminded of a telephone call I received many years ago from a friend and church member who asked me to come to her home as quickly as possible.  I knew that she had been very ill, suffering from cancer and its treatment, and feared what might have happened to her.  When I got to her home, she invited me inside and said, "Dee, I need you to lead me in a prayer of thanksgiving.  Today, Carolyn brought me some potato soup and it tasted good.  That soup was first food that has tasted good to me since I began chemotherapy." 

Tough times became a gift of gratitude for my friend.  The food she had eaten and enjoyed on so many days, she would never again take for granted.  I don't know what the theme of my message will be on June 5, but I know that the song of my heart will be thanksgiving. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Place to Keep in Touch

As many of you know, on May 9, our family set out on a very unexpected adventure.  After twelve years, my ministry at Berea First Baptist Church suddenly came to an end and Linda and I were left to discover what the next chapter of our lives and our ministry would be all about.  This change not only touches my ministry as a pastor, but also Linda's ministry as a GED instructor in a class housed at Berea First.  She has been robbed of the ministry she has used for eight years to change lives in our community for the better.   

Many friends have told us that they hesitate to call or even email us because they don't want to wear us out with talking about the painful events of the past few weeks and the uncertainty of the future.  Please know that we have not been worn out by your concern.  You have given us much strength through your calls, cards, emails and visits.  Your experiences of sudden life changes has encouraged us and challenged us to believe that God can use something as bad as what we've suffered to bring something wonderful into our lives. 

Still, I'm created this blog, the first I've ever done, to give us an easy place to keep in touch.  Visit whenever you'd like to see how the Vaughans are doing.  We'll try to keep it up to date. 

People often ask how they can pray for us right now.  Let me share a few specific requests.

Pray that we, in God's good time, will find the freedom that will only come from forgiving those who have hurt our family so deeply.  We want to move forward and know that we can't travel very well if we're carrying the burdens of the past with us. 

Pray for our children, as each of them deals with this disappointment in his or her own way.  Pray that they will know that God's church is much bigger than what has happened at one church by a few misguided people. 

Pray for Elizabeth and her husband Josh as they soon will move to Monetta, SC for Josh to serve as pastor of Bethel Baptist Church.  Pray for their first child, Liam, who is to be born in late July.  Pray for the people of Bethel church that they will be ready to begin a wonderful new chapter of their ministry.

Pray for our son, Josh, as he continues his very demanding studies at Elon University.  Pray that he can be free from worry about his parents and free to continue to do his best as he prepares for a career in physical therapy. 

Pray for our son, Andrew, as he grieves the unexpected and undeserved loss of his church family and as he prepares for his senior year at Travelers Rest High School. 

And pray for Linda and me as we strive to turn our hearts away from the past and toward the future God is preparing for us. 

I hope that you'll use this blog as one good way to keep in touch.  Know how much your friendship and prayers will always mean to us. 

Ronald D. Vaughan