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Over the summer our family visited the Sovereign Grace Church in Knoxville, TN—Cornerstone Church of Knoxville. That morning, a young woman named Shannon shared her story of leaving a Christian home to attend college, and the crisis of faith that followed. Her testimony was so powerful that we wanted to share it with you, and Shannon graciously gave us permission. So whether you are in college, just sent a child off to college, or are home with small children today (and feeling far away from your college days or theirs!) may you encouraged by how God used the members of one church to display the beauty and truth of His Word to one wayward college student.
I was blessed to be raised in a Christian family with strong involvement in an evangelical church. Because I was a “good kid,” I was confident in my ability to do the Christian walk right. It was with this ill-placed confidence that I left home and enrolled at a Christian college.
All freshmen at my college were required to take Bible classes, and the religion professors there taught that parts of Scripture were not true. Though my friends had no trouble believing the Bible anyway, my mind was filled with doubt. I had been taught all my life that Scripture was as accurate as any textbook, but my professors suggested that my parents and Sunday School teachers were deceiving me, trying to keep me sheltered from the real truth. In the end, I believed my professors instead of God’s Word.
I began by just questioning certain parts of Scripture, but the doubt quickly spread to other areas. Eventually, I wasn’t sure if God existed at all—and if He did exist, I wasn’t sure I liked Him. By the end of my second year in college, the doubt had progressed so far that I refused to read my Bible, and if I prayed, I only did so to challenge God to prove that He was real. More than once, I sat on my bed with my arms crossed and glared at my Bible with hatred.
Though I didn’t believe in the Bible, I also realized that if the Bible wasn’t true, then life was meaningless. This realization made me continually angry, cynical, and depressed. Still, I demanded answers to my questions—and I had many questions—before I would accept God as Lord of my life again.
I was in the worst phase of this hostile doubt when my brother and sister-in-law first began attending Cornerstone Church of Knoxville. My brother tried to persuade me to visit, and even though I initially refused, he just wouldn’t ever stop talking about the church. Finally, I agreed to go, knowing that visiting once was the only way he would leave me alone.
The Sunday I first came to Cornerstone, I avoided the greeters at the door, and I didn’t raise my hand to identify myself as a guest. But I was struck by a pre-teen boy sitting in front of me who was singing passionately during the music. I had never seen any pre-teen that excited about praising God before. As I looked around the church, I saw that this boy was no special case: other people exhibited the same delight in worship. Watching them sing, I knew these people had joy, which was something I missed—so I started to attend Cornerstone to see if I could have it, too.
Coming to Cornerstone helped me desire faith again. The pastors exhibited a firm belief in the truth and the power of Scripture, and instead of being offended at how countercultural the teaching was, I found it refreshing and challenging. I began to grow spiritually again, but I was still often crippled with fears that the Bible was a lie made by men and that I was wasting my time and life by believing what it said. On top of that, my classes at college still bombarded me with falsehoods, making it difficult for me to hold to my faltering faith.
This pattern continued for about a year, until I attended a class offered at Cornerstone on the doctrine of Scripture. I believe that God ordained this specific class, at this specific time, for my good. One day, as we were talking through one of the homework readings, I realized that if the Bible was true, then my doubt and accusations against a Holy God, along with the skepticism that had been so encouraged at my college, were atrocities in His sight. But if the Bible was true, then that also meant that God, though He had just reason to crush me for despising His Word, had mercifully provided His Son to absorb the full wrath for all the animosity I had shown toward Him. And even as I raged against Him, He had patiently and gently brought me to a church where I could see the height of my folly and the depths of his grace, where He had been planning all along to restore me to Himself. Hallelujah!
That morning, as I sat in the Scripture class quietly, nobody there knew that a drastic change was taking place in my soul. God was restoring my trust in Scripture and in Him. I was amazed as I tried to recall the questions I had long demanded answers to—and found that my doubts were unconvincing, powerless against the rush of joyful assurance that God had given me.
The changes in my soul were sweeping; faith and joy replaced my cynicism and misery. I began a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan, and every morning I eagerly picked up the same Bible I had often glared at angrily just a year before. I read the warnings in Scripture about false teachers and being wise in my own sight, and I was amazed that God’s Word predicted the exact lies I had fallen for at college. And I treasured the mercy of God that would give me the gift of faith even though I had shaken my fist at Him and at His Word in hostility.
I still have the sinful tendency to struggle with doubt, but through Cornerstone Church, God has consistently, graciously provided me with support for the fight of faith. Through my four years here, other college students have challenged me, pastors have prayed for me, and people in my small group have lovingly walked with me through my hard questions. My husband, whom I met at Cornerstone, daily leads me to apply Scripture to every situation, and I can see its powerful effects in my life. I now know experientially that Scripture’s promises are true, and I praise God for the power of His living Word and for bringing me to a church where His truth is prized.
Q. How do I keep my child from getting out of bed multiple times every evening?
A. I asked my mom about this recently because I needed an answer! I would put my daughter Caly (4 years old) to bed, and for the next two hours or more, she would come out with a myriad of excuses—my favorite being the time she said she had “internal bleeding.” It’s amazing all the things a child can think of when they don’t want to go to sleep!
I was starting to lose my mind; or, to put it biblically, I was having difficulty with the fruit of patience. Instead of my day of training and caring for the kids ending at bedtime, it would drag on late into the evening.
It was also a problem for my babysitters (often my family). There were a number of nights when we came home to find her watching baseball with my dad—way past her bedtime. (But then, it doesn’t take much to convince Pop-Pop to change the rules!)
So as usual, I turned to my mother for help with this little problem, and you know what? She solved it! The “potty block” was born.
After our bedtime routine (the typical, reading, singing, praying) I give her books to read on her own and turn on her favorite music. Then I place one block (like a building block, but you could use whatever you want) at the end of Caly’s bed. This is her “pass” to come out of her room one time to use the bathroom. She brings the block with her and gives it to me or daddy (or babysitter when we are gone).
After potty, we tuck her back in and she is instructed not to get out of bed again. No more block means no more times out of bed. If she obeys, then she gets a sticker on her chart when she wakes up in the morning. (For the chart I just took a blank sheet of paper, drew a bunch of circles on it and hung it on the back of her door. When there are stickers covering all of the circles, she gets a surprise.). I play the sticker/chart thing up really big! But if she comes out of her room again without a block, then there is a specific consequence.
I’m telling you, it’s working! Took about a week of training for it to really stick and now she is doing great. I have started using “potty blocks” for other times during the day such as her rest time and play alone time. And ya know what? We are all happier! She’s happier, Mommy’s happier, and of course this makes Daddy happier! Thanks Mom!
“I think I find most help in trying to look on all the interruptions and hindrances to work that one has planned out for oneself as discipline, trials sent by God to help one against getting selfish over one’s work. Then one can feel that perhaps one’s true work—one’s work for God—consists in doing some trifling haphazard thing that has been thrown into one’s day. It is not a waste of time, as one is tempted to think, it is the most important part of the work of the day—the part one can best offer to God. After such a hindrance, do not rush after the planned work; trust that the time to finish it will be given sometime, and keep a quiet heart about it.”
~Annie Keary, 1825-1879 (qtd in Keep a Quiet Heart, p. 9)
“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.”
You’ll find us right back here on Monday. Take Care!
for Carolyn, Nicole, and Kristin
—from the archives
“It helps to imagine an ornate gold frame. Pick it up (don’t worry; it’s only pretend) and place it around the image that appears when you say ‘supper at my house.’ Bet the picture you see is very specific: These are the seats we sit in, the things we discuss. Here is the person who shows up last. That is the bowl we use for the rice…. Sitting down to a meal together draws a line around us. It encloses us and, for a brief time, strengthens the bonds that connect us with the others members of [our family], shutting out the rest of the world.”
I love photography; that is why I love this quote. It tells you to stop for a minute and observe. To pull up the image of your family mealtime. Can you see it? It can seem so trivial: What’s the big deal? You rush around, trying to get everything hot and on the table at the same time. Everyone comes, eats, leaves and you clean up. However this author is challenging us to take a step backwards and take a long, slow look at this seemingly mundane activity. There is something more that happens here.
Mealtime is a gathering. The people you love the most come to the same place at the same time. Conversations happen; memories are made. There is laughter and tears. A strong family bond begins to form—a bond that grows stronger by doing it again tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that.
The mundane has purpose. If it weren’t for the ordinary duties of food preparation and kitchen cleanup, than this moment, this mealtime, this bond, wouldn’t exist.
So the next time you make dinner, hang that “mealtime picture” on the wall of your mind while you grate the cheese and toss the salad. You are making much more than dinner.
—from the archives
“Sisters, all the advice from Vogue, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan that talks about going after and getting your man, all the blather about how in this day and age it is just as acceptable for you to initiate as for him, is just that—blather. Be confident and trust your feelings on this matter. Be confident that if he is the man you hope and wish him to be, he will play the man. You crackle the leaves a bit when he is in the area and let him know you are there. Then wait for him to initiate, or not. In the long run, you will be well served either way.” Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart, page 94
In his newly converted, youthful zeal, my dad, and a group of his friends decided that God had called them to remain single. Dad was uninterested in the efforts of women to attract his attention. Put off by their forward manner, it was easy to think that God wasn’t leading him to get married.
Until he met my mom.
When he walked into the canteen at the Christian retreat center where Mom was working for the week, she didn’t try to catch his eye. Instead, she told him the canteen was closed. After pleading for a hot dog (because he had been serving and preaching all day and was tired and hungry) she finally relented. But to this day, Dad claims the hot dog was as cold as her demeanor. (She disputes this accusation, of course!)
My dad, who only a day before thought he would remain single, was suddenly smitten. Something in him—something that wanted to initiate, pursue, and win a woman’s heart—was awakened. So he asked my mom to take a walk. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Mom used to remind my sisters and me of this story when we were tempted to try to get some guy’s attention. Allow a man to win your heart, she would say. And if he doesn’t want to, then why would you want him?
God created men to initiate and he created women to respond. Or, as John Ensor also puts it, “His power is in the exclamation [of love]. Yours is in the echo.” When we remember this, things will work right in matters of the heart.
—from the archives