I’m Harvey Thurmer, and this is how I’ve been living deeply.
“My mother put Bible verses on the wall around the kitchen table, and we were encouraged -maybe even coerced- to memorize those verses! I was pretty good at it, and I believe there was a plaque in the hallway of the educational building with my name on it as having memorized the shorter catechism. Don’t ask me to recite it now! Every morning throughout my elementary and into my high school years, my father prepared a huge breakfast. Afterward we read the Bible from a devotional and he prayed extensively for our family and extended family. Then, as my sister and I left the house to walk to school just over the hill, my mother prayed over us. This had a huge impact on me. It was clear that my mother actually believed her prayers would be answered. God was listening! There was power behind it! I might not have felt the power at the time -I’m sure I didn’t- but later in life I certainly have: to the point that when my children were born and I wanted to instill in them the same things, I did some of the same things that I saw my parents doing. I grew up at Cedar Springs in what is now the little chapel. My mother sang in the choir. The church was central to our lives: going to VBS, services on Sunday and Wednesday, misbehaving in church and getting disciplined for it! I grew up expecting that the minister would be invited to Sunday lunch at our home, and those are vivid memories. It was during Lane Adams’s tenure [as senior pastor] at the church that I remember becoming a Christian. He was a very commanding speaker, and I was around 8 years old. One Sunday night he gave an altar call and I responded. I remember discussing my decision with my mother as she ironed clothes the next day and I got busy studying the Bible. It’s amazing to think of the history of this church, founded near the country’s beginning. To think that God’s plan for me began at that time in this church -and it’s still being worked out in my life and the lives of my children- it’s given me a lot of peace. It reminds me that amid all the upheaval and uncertainty of these times, there’s Someone bigger in charge who has everything planned and worked out. And I can rest in that. It’s the peace that passes understanding.”
“Many years later, when I was in graduate school in the early 1990s, I met up with Lane Adams again. He was a guest speaker at a church in Coral Gables, Florida, where I was studying at the University of Miami. I asked if I could take him to lunch. I was a poor graduate student living on a shoestring budget, and I made him lunch at my little apartment. I remember thanking him for his ministry and for introducing me to Jesus. It was a very important lunch for me, and I hope it was for him, too. So my life with Jesus began at Cedar Springs. And much later, very circuitously, I met my wife through this church! Although we never actually met when either of us were here, Jane Knowling was involved at Cedar Springs and knew my sister Lois during the 1980s, when I lived in Austria [working as a classical musician]. She was studying nursing at UT and was involved in the singles class and discipleship groups. She remembers me playing for a service when I was home on a break- but we never met, and if we had, I am pretty sure nothing would have happened at that time. I wasn’t her type! It took many more years and both of us moving to Denver to study biblical counseling for our paths to finally cross. Jane had moved out there in 1991. I made it there in 1994. As I left, I remember our mutual friends Gordon and Marylin Adams saying, ‘Be sure to look up Jane Knowling!’ We did meet, and eventually became engaged in November of 1994. We got married on June 3, 1995 at Cedar Springs. It was a day my parents had prayed for, and probably many of their friends as well. I come from a long line of “late bloomers” and was 40 when I finally married. After our son Will was born in 1996, I finally found a teaching position and we moved to Ohio, where I have been teaching music at Miami University since 1997. Our daughter Marin was born in 1998 in Oxford, Ohio, and both children have begun their journeys with Jesus. They’ve been involved in youth ministry- Will as a Young Life leader, Marin as a youth group leader at a local church in Oxford.”
“This past summer, while on a short vacation in Loudon, Jane and I very serendipitously found out about a special event at Cedar Springs where George Dilworth was giving a historical overview of the church from the 1790s to 1950. I knew we had to go! We showed up, and I was surprised to see so many people there, some of whom I recognized. It was there that I learned for the first time of my mother’s involvement in collecting letters to send to servicemen in World War II. There were probably around 20 or so men from the church involved in the war, and so the parishioners back home wanted to send them their love and concern. I had never heard of my mother’s involvement in this. She never said a word to me about it. I didn’t even know these letters existed. I was able to read some of them- one from my grandmother Clara Keller Walker, who died before I was born. My mother married one of those servicemen stationed in the South Pacific for the Navy, and the rest is history! My mother was very creative, fun-loving, and flexible when it came to adjusting to life’s circumstances. She grew up just down the street from the church, in what is now a renovated historic home [to the west of the church]. As little girls, she and her sisters sold fruit and vegetables from the farm along Kingston Pike. The depression hit while she was at Maryville College, so she had to stop and find work. After marrying, then staying at home with us when we were little, she reapplied for her secretary job at the TVA and got it back. This whole time she was attending Cedar Springs- involved in women’s groups and singing in the choir. She died in 2002. Reading the wartime letters -newsletters or journals from home, really, you could call them- reminded me of how I remember my mother as a child. She was so full of life and fun and creative. Even my daughter now loves to write, and I love to write. So it fits that my mother would do something like that. It has been a real blessing to discover these letters, and to look back on the beginnings of my faith journey at Cedar Springs. It is a confirmation to me of the sovereignty of God, His unfailing love, and how the faithful prayers of my parents -and even of my great grandmother Kate Baker Walker- continue to bless me to this day.”