Karen's Devotions

This is a selected collection of my devotions e-published on Daily Devotions, Journey Christian Church, Irvine, California; George Bragg, Editor. To join the mailing list, email George, gbragg@cox.net.

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As a 25+ year homeschooling vet, post-cancer, math prof, mother of five, master's track and field athlete, and certificated private pilot, I have a lot to share about what God has done in my life. In 2000 I began writing devotions as something to try when it seemed like accoustic pianists were becoming an endangered species at church. I have since found great blessings from writing and sharing. God is good.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Handbag

First published June 29, 2009

“And the disciples came and said to him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” Matthew 13:10-11

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Ever since I could remember, my Granny would say, “I mustn’t forget my handbag.” When I visited and we would work outside at the clothesline or garden, a neighbor-lady would ask teasingly, “Katy-Bell, where’s your handbag?” Granny would reply without looking up, “Oh nearby, Evelynn!” When I was older, I asked why the handbag was so important. “It was a dear present from your Grandpa. But child, what’s in the handbag is more important.”

As I became a woman, a wife, and a mother, I began to pay attention to the contents of my own handbag and to appreciate the wise words of my Granny. Upon hearing of Granny’s death, I rushed to pay my last respects. When I asked other relations about Granny’s parting words, I was pleased to know that she was buried with her handbag.

Like the parables that Jesus told, my story is metaphoric with a lesson. On the surface, it seems a bit odd for a grandmother to be obsessed with her handbag. But, then again, grandmothers were assumed to be odd by definition. So, the literal meaning has some validity. Now, is this my real Granny, or a symbolic grandmother for everyone? Hm. Ask my kids! The story is also dated. Today some people would relate better to words like purse, wallet, diaper bag, tote bag, or even “Franklin Planner®.” But, Granny said that though the physical handbag was special, the focus was elsewhere. The real point seems to be hidden in the handbag.

Literal. Figurative. Metaphoric. Historic. Timeframe. Culture. Author. Audience. These are all words that need to be considered when studying the Bible. Understanding is also difficult when interpretations collide. You can image “The Church of the All Important Handbag” splitting from “The Fellowship of the All Important Contents”. On a personal level, though, we may be assured that there are basis truths iterated repeatedly in the scriptures. Included is the charge that we continue to hear, learn, and do (James 1:22), and hold on to what is good and just. And just like Granny, we won’t forget our handbag!

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Thank you Lord, for giving us parables so we may learn your truths. Through your mercy, please reveal to us what your word means, and help us to rightly share them with others. In your Son’s name, amen.

Copyright 2009, Karen Vaughn

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Extra Super Duper Dollop

First published June 8, 2009

When I was about five or six years old, I remember occasionally going out for ice cream after church. It seems that when my father had to work and my mother took my siblings and I to church, we’d get to have a single scoop of ice cream. My favorite was strawberry with big chunks of bright red fruit.

Sometimes as we sat eating our dessert I’d watch other customers order and receive their treats. When someone ordered a sundae, the shop owner would flamboyantly put an extra super duper dollop of whipped cream on top. His eyes would grow big as artfully swirled the snow-white topping and crowned the creation with a cherry. The receiver’s eyes where just as big as he anticipated the extra special added sweetness.

I thought it was a great wonderful thing to get an extra super duper dollop. And as I grew older I realized not only would I get extra super duper dollops, but they could take on different forms.

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When I was pregnant with my fifth child, I had cancer as well. After two surgeries in the spring, I resumed homeschooling and teaching math at a local university in the fall. When I went into early labor the course of events could have only been woven by God.

My sister Gail, who was a civil engineer fresh out of college and working at her first big job, took off of work and drove an hour to my house, snatched the final exams for my classes and drove up to Cal Poly to proctor them for me. Jeff stayed home to monitor my contractions, orchestrated the details of my sister’s arrival with the department chairman, and corresponded with the doctor.

My sitter/helper, Angie skipped her afternoon classes at PCC (Hope University) and watched the children. Gail brought the completed final exams then headed for the airport to pick up my mother. Jeff and I went to the hospital. Gail arrived at my house with Mom, took Angie to her place, and bought dinner for the kids. I gave birth to a healthy boy, and months later resumed radiation treatment.
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Yes, you know of those super duper dollops of blessings in your life. There are special events, special presents, special kind deeds, and special people who have added that extra sweetness on top of blessings. Or maybe you can be the extra super duper dollop of blessings to someone? Meditate on today’s verse. By word and deed, pray that today, you can be an extra special dollop of added sweetness.
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Ephesians 3:20-21
“Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think,
according to the power that works within us,
to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

Copyright 2009 Karen E. Vaughn

At the Strider's Meet of Champions

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009 Orange Coast College

high jump 1.05m - 1st

Javelin 21.87m - 2nd

Shot Put 9.67m - 2nd (Personal Best!)

Thanks to Chris Stone for the photo of my first put.

And in the javelin...

Thanks to Dave Peeters for use of the photo.

At the State Senior Games in Pasadena, CA

Discus - 3rd

Shot Put - 2nd

Javelin - 3rd

High Jump - NH

Thanks to Chris Stone for the pic!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Singing a New Song

First pulished March 20, 2009

“Sing to the Lord a new song; Sing to the Lord, all the earth; Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.’”
Psalms 96:1-2

Recently a friend remarked that she read an article charging that singing at least once a day added years to your life. Well, since I like to sing, I did a quick search on the computer and found several sites explaining that singing increases blood flow, provides an emotional release, and lowers blood pressure. Science has ascribed to something that the Bible has taught for a long time – singing!

David is to have written 73 of the 150 psalms of the Book of Psalms. There are also 50 anonymous ones, some of whom he probably wrote. Singing was important in Biblical times. Moses sang and taught the people to sing (Exodus 15). The people of Israel sang as the traveled to the Promised Land (Numbers 21:17). Deborah and Barak sang praises to God (Judges 5). Hezekiah’s singers sang the words of David (II Chronicles 29:28-30). Nehemiah’s singers sang loud and strong (Nehemiah 12:42). Jesus and his disciples sang at the last supper (Matthew 26:30). Paul and Silas sang from behind prison bars (Acts 16:25).

Psalm 96 does not hide its directive. Sing to the Lord. Sing to the Lord. Sing to the Lord. This is a wonderful way to praise the Lord. Perhaps your church gives a call to worship through song. The songs and hymns your congregation sings may also use verses from the Psalms. Haven’t you experienced the exuberance of being part of hundreds of voices singing “Our God Reigns”?

Well, if there are so many benefits to singing to the Lord, then why don’t we do more of it on a daily basis? When we are joyous we need to sing praises. When we struggle we need to sing praises. When we are victorious we need to sing praises. When we assemble to worship we need to sing praises. Today take that song from your heart and let it out! Sing!
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Oh Lord God, thank you for giving me songs to sing; songs of your love; songs of your majesty, songs of your son Jesus. Singing praises onto you is good physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. But I am apprehensive to sing out daily in my life. Help me to be bold, to worship you through song as I grow in you. Amen.

In The Servant-Hood: It’s Also About Me

First published April 30, 2009

The Bible is explicit about the subject of selfishness [Phil 2:3]. And it’s a big enough concept that there are gobs of sermons, books, talks, exercises, and discussions about the problems of leading a selfish life. One obsessed with “Me! Me! Me!” can even find him/herself down a road of destruction, perhaps dragging others along.

However, far too often faithful saints find themselves overworked, stressed, and ignoring primary responsibilities of self and family. I know an adult Christian man who said to me that he had hated is father for never spending time with him as a boy. His father was a well-loved church elder who spent the majority of evenings in church meetings, in sessions counseling parishioners, teaching a Bible study, and on the phone. This may be an extreme situation, but you get my point.

Here are three real life facts: 1) an unhealthy tree does not consistently bear good fruit. 2) There is wise instruction from airline attendants. “In case of a loss in cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop down. Passengers with small children put on your masks first, and then attend to the children.” 3) Life guards at the beach have the confidence, training, and experience to swim at a level high enough to save others who struggle in the water.

Together, what does this mean? Our own spiritual life needs to be mature enough to bear good fruit. “…Whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies….” (I Peter 4:11a). Our own spiritual life needs to reflect proper priorities. “‘And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?’”(Luke 6:4`) And, our own spiritual life needs to be strong enough to help others. Basically, there needs to be enough attention to “Me” in order to effectively serve “Others.”

So, start with “Me,” by focusing on your spiritual nourishment. But don’t stop there. Maturing does not come from remaining a seedling. Through your prayer life, Bible study, and input from trusted mature believers, kingdom work can be revealed to you. Next consider your closest sphere of family and friends. Serving begins in these relationships. Then expand your servant-hood as you face challenges and blessings each day. Your life will be overflowing with good fruit!
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Oh gracious Heavenly Father, I am your child who desires to serve. Daily I face the challenge of prioritizing. Please help take care of me first, then as I mature in you, let me serve others to your glory. In Jesus’ name, amen.