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Archive for the ‘My Story’ Category


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Me playing for a city-wide concert in 1970.

December 1st is the day I call my “spiritual birthday.” It marks the moment when Jesus surprised me with His invitation into a deeper relationship. This morning I wrote this in my journal as I considered the past 44 years of my spiritual journey.

THANK YOU!

Abba, Jesus, Holy Spirit —

Thank You for invading my life with Yours.

Thank you for purpose — my reason to live well.

Thank you for joy. No more mourning.

Thank you for making all things new.

You put me on a fast track into the pleasures of Your presence — a road that no one or nothing could hinder the pre-established course You determined for me long before time began.

Thank you for the Cross, and Your blood — my default position and fountain of cleansing.

Take me lower — into the heights of Who You are.

Take me deeper — into the mysteries and treasures You have hidden for me to discover.

Take me wider — to the know the breath of Your love.

Take me further — way beyond what I hoped for or imagined possible…by Your immeasurable grace.

Thank You Abba, Jesus, Holy Spirit — for adopting me permanently into Your home. I love belonging to You and I love being loved by You.

Let my life be a song of gratitude to You that always — in every situation — says, “Thank You!”

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Singing my song in Qumran at the Dead Sea in Israel

There is a sound in my soul that must be released! It is a sound – an ancient song – heard generation after generation. I hear it in the night in the whisper of the wind, a poem, a song, in God’s presence. Something in me responds – no, it resonates – so that I must sing, dance, play my instruments, laugh, write, meditate, cry, paint, cook, knit . . . I must respond to this familiar sound.

I heard it long ago . . . so long ago . . . before the tears came, before I was sent away.

The first day my brother strummed his guitar, it took my breath away: It was the sound in my soul! A distance sound . . . a song . . . a memory flashed across my soul . . . I remembered . . .

Singing my song in Jerusalem

I too had to play guitar. I didn’t know why . . . I was compelled. I was only ten years old, but, it came so easily for me, as if I was born with the skill . . . it was love at first sound. It fit . . . like my favorite party dress.

My talented Uncle Ray and my Mother Rose with the beautiful voice holding me.

My voice in harmonic poetry complimented its sound so that with every rise and fall on the scale, my soul found its delight.

Every day I must sing a new song to express the sound of my soul.

Yes, my soul sings . . . it must sing . . . It is compelled to sing the melody. My soul remembers the lullaby to sleep . . . Mama singing harmony to the radio. . . Uncle strumming long into the night. It remembers the sound of home . . . before the great sadness came.

I close my eyes and see beyond – to galaxies and a realm so far away, where Father dwells in joy and light and song – and I lift my heart in a rhythmic-rhyme to Him in gratitude. He sings the lullaby over me now . . . a healing sound in my soul that welcomes me home.

For, it was He who taught the stars to sing their songs . . .  and all created things respond. So too when I sing – when I play – my voice joins the ancient song of that sound in my soul, and I am home again.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7TgOjiZHCA&feature=related

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We are often limited by our own perceptions and self-image. The playback in our minds is so powerful, that it will actually create an inability to rise above the negative image that we believe ourselves to be. We get stuck in a self-perceived disqualifying cycle that disables us from the full life God intended for us and made possible by Jesus.

I saw this illustrated as I read 2 Samuel 9 about the story of King David and Jonathan’s son Mephiboshet. By this time, King David is well established on his throne and he remembers the promise he made to his best friend Jonathan, the royal son of former King Saul.

David asked, “Is there anyone remaining from Saul’s family I can show kindness to because of Jonathan . . . Is there anyone left of Saul’s family that I can show the kindness of God to?”

Ziba said to the King, “There is still Jonathan’s son who was injured in both feet.”

The King asked him, “Where is he?”

Ziba answered the king, “You’ll find him in Lo-debar . . .” King David had him brought from the house of Machir . . . in Lo-debar.

I was struck by the fact that David was not eaten up with rage to take vengeance on the descendants of King Saul. He could have been . . . Saul hated him and sought to kill him all those years. This former king of Israel became possessed with an evil jealousy that consumed him with hatred and finally, a murderous spirit. From the time David killed Goliath, Saul was offended even by his presence and he ultimately became obsessed to kill his perceived enemy.

David, however, was a man of a different spirit: He refused to allow the foul-spirited environment he lived and worked in at the king’s palace affect his heart. Rather, he chose to live safely secure in God’s Presence, trusting Him for his full protection. He never considered King Saul to be his enemy just because he was hated; rather, David went after the enemies of his God and of his nation.

The nature of a shepherd protects the sheep from wolves whose intent is to kill. A shepherd does not see other sheep who need discipline as the enemy.

David was a man of his word: He made a covenant to Jonathan to bless his household, and now, as king of Israel, he was in a powerful position to follow through on what he had promised.

Nothing Town

We can only imagine the changes that took place for Mephiboshet after his grandfather and father were killed in battle. At this news, and fearing for the life of the little royal child, his nursemaid ran with him from the palace, falling on the child and permanently disabling him. In one day, Mephiboshet lost his family, his royal position of privilege, and he became permanently disabled. It was a life trauma indeed.

The king of Israel finds Jonathan’s son living in a city called in Hebrew “Lo-debar (לו דבר),” which loosely translated means “nothing,” or, “[land of] nothing” (9:4,5). It pretty much sums up the attitude Mephiboshet about how he felt about himself – his own self image – “I’m nothing.” Living in “Nothing” Town seemed to fit the story of his life.

Out of nowhere, Mephiboshet is summoned to the royal palace to stand before the King; but, he cannot stand because of his disability. So, in humility, he prostrates himself before the King. After all, he knows who he is – a disabled nobody from Nothing Town.

“Mephiboshet son of Jonathan son of Saul came to David, bowed down to the ground and paid homage [to the king of Israel]” (9:8).

Now I’m sure as Mephiboshet is on the ground, his life is passing before him. He knows the reputation of Grandfather Saul and how he mistreated David. He knew what he deserved. What he did not know, however, was the covenant of deep friendship between his father Jonathan and the present King of Israel. David and Jonathan had to keep their alliance very secret or it would have cost them both of their lives!

King David was a man of covenant faithfulness; he was a man after God’s heart! But, all the while, and face down on the floor, Mephiboshet may have been thinking, I deserve whatever punishment the king chooses to give me. I am worthless – a nobody.

Status Upgrade: A Royal Son

Just at the moment when he is most terrified for his life he hears the King shout his name: “Mephiboshet!”

As his name reverberates across the palace halls into the courtyard, Mephiboshet scrambles to “stand” on his disabled, deformed limbs before the King – as eye level as he can manage.

King David & Mephiboshet

The King steps down from his royal platform –where justice and mercy rules – into the courtyard of servants and peasants, kindly reassuring Jonathan’s adult son:

“Don’t be afraid,” David says kindly, taking his hand and leading him through the line of governing leaders bowed low as he passes along the interior stone walls. “Long ago I determined to show kindness to your father’s sons. This day I am restoring to you all of your grandfather Saul’s fields, and, you will always eat meals at my table.”

In this moment, the king restored to Mephiboshet his full inheritance, farms that would bring great wealth, the power of being a landowner, influence as an elder in the city and his tribe, and a royal sonship position in the palace with a life-time reserved seat at the King’s table! He was moving up from Nothing Town to Jerusalem, God’s city!

Dead-Dog Mindset

Instead of excitement at the king’s words, Mephiboshet became weak-kneed and down he fell again before him. He was accustomed to groveling with a lowly “I’m-not-worthy” slave mindset:

“Mephiboshet bowed down and said, ‘What is your servant that you take an interest in a dead dog like me?’” (vs.8)

Here are two contrasting profiles: Royalty, and a dead dog. King David saw Mephiboshet as a royal son of the palace, but Mephiboshet saw himself as a dead dog who lived in Nothing Town and who felt he deserved life-long punishment.

We often find ourselves in agreement with the negative whispers in our ear: You know, you really are nothing but a dead dog . . . you’re never going to amount to much. Look what your family has done! The best you could ever hope for are some crumbs from a rich man’s table and a resident address in Nothing Town.

There is only one power that the enemy of our souls has to use against us and that is to lie to us. He actually has no power over us; Jesus gave us all power and authority through his name. So, the only power Satan actually has over us is what we relinquish to him. And, that only happens when we agree with the lies that the enemy feeds us.

So, here is Mephiboshet, tuned in to the I’m-a-dead-dog-livin’-in-Nothing-Town lies of the enemy – a mindset that is hard to change. His self-talk was convincing him to refuse the king’s offer.

We have to press into our breakthrough opportunity if we ever hope to break out into the person God created us to be.

Upgrade Someone

I believe God showed David the real person of Mephiboshet– how he is known in heaven – and David went after it with his shepherd nature. Mephiboshet was eventually convinced of the king’s kindness and he did move to Jerusalem to eat from the king’s table.

I believe we too have the opportunity to upgrade someone in our life. We’ve all met people who communicate an “I’m not worth anything to anyone” attitude. But God has given us the power to encourage people – or discourage people; to empower people with courage or to take it away. We have the power of words that either bring life and health, or sickness and death. Our words are so powerful they can kill a spirit – or, give it life and see a dying spirit live again.

I always want to be the kind of person who breathes life into people with words of encouragement.

David was just that kind of man. God had breathed life into Him at his most desperate hour and now he wanted to release mercy and kindness with the same generosity as God had shown him.

The greatest expression of mercy and compassion is that which we give to someone who does not deserve it.

Determine to upgrade someone today. We can do this by reminding them who they are – their heavenly identity – and watch a transformation take place. Determine that your words today will bring life and health to someone’s spirit. Lift them up off the floor from their groveling I’m-good-for-nothing attitude, and look them in the eye as you remind them that, they are, in fact, created to be a royal son of the Living God through the blood of Jesus, with great purpose and destiny to glorify the Lord. Tell them that they were created to move from Nothing Town to Jerusalem, to eat at the King’s table. Demonstrate honor to them in a tangible way, and watch them emerge into the person God created them to be.

Words of encouragement call out the genuine person who is buried beneath a weight of guilt, shame, and a lifetime of disappointments.

Extravagant Kindness

David operated out of a core of extravagant kindness and deep compassion. Mephiboshet lived in Jerusalem because he was expected to eat at the king’s table every single day.

The king called Mephiboshet up into his true royal identity that was hidden under his own personal shame and physical disabilities. Mephiboshet had been identifying himself by the shame of his grandfather who had betrayed God and caused his family to be ravaged by the enemy.

And, he had been identifying himself by his physical scars that he carried from that fateful day of sorrow and grief. Mephiboshet had come to associate that trauma and his handicap as something he deserved. He branded himself as a dead dog (something truly hated as evil in the Middle East) and even referred to himself by this name.

Mephiboshet had grown to identify with his disability and life of shame with a resigned this-is-as-good-as-it-gets attitude.

But, God did not see Mephiboshet that way. I have come to learn that God will often find one in a family that he can demonstrate mercy and love to, and God intended to show his kindness to Jonathan’s family through Mephiboshet. You see, God saw him still as royalty; he felt deep compassion for Mephiboshet’s grief, and planned to restore everything he had lost when his father and grandfather died in battle. He’s just good that way.

David – always close to God’s heart – went after the treasure he saw in Mephiboshet. He purposed to create the environment for him to live as a royal son of the palace – yes, even to thrive! – though he no longer had any legitimate claim to the throne.

And, David saw what God saw: The heavenly identity of Mephiboshet. He set out to extend kindness by honoring him because of his covenant of friendship with Jonathan and his descendants.

Jesus did that for us. He went after us like King David went after Mephiboshet with his dead-dog-living-in Nothing-Town identification and gave us an upgrade through his blood because of his great love. As a result, we became royal sons with a full inheritance through Jesus, along with the kingly status to rule and reign with Him in heavenly places. We eat in the Palace with the King of the universe every day – bread and wine served up from His table.

We now live in a perpetual more-than-enough state of God’s extravagant abundance.

Identity is a Mindset

How easy it is to define ourselves by the circumstances of life. We mistakenly identify ourselves with our physical or economic situation – even long after our situation has improved for the better – because we developed a wrong mindset. For instance, a person with a long term illness who recovers or gets healed by God’s supernatural power may continue to have the mindset of an ill person. While ill, this person was very limited in what they could or could not do. Now, without the limitations of that illness, they are no longer bound and can lead a normal life. But the mind has to change its behaviors and unconscious habits in order to catch up to the new, improved state, and that takes time to make the adjustment.

To change a wrong mindset, we must partner with God in an intentional manner.

A person who has grown up in a very poor economic state, for instance, but has gone on to improve their circumstances considerably later in life, very often has a difficult time making this change in their mind. They still have a poverty-mindset that does not allow them to fully function as a person who has not grown up in those circumstances. So, even with an abundance of financial provisions, this person will continue with a poverty mindset – often unable to really enjoy their abundance. Their new economic situation requires a new mindset – and with it, a new identity.

Our inheritance is the mind of Messiah Jesus. We can appropriate Heaven’s thoughts.

A Poolside Transformation

I often think of the mindset issue when I read the account of Jesus healing the man who had sat by the pool of Siloam for 38 years waiting to be healed. In one moment, Jesus walked over to his poolside spot, had a short conversation, healed him, and that was it! He was healed! No more infirmity! Okay. Now what? For 38 years he had been identified as “the disabled man who sat at the pool of Siloam and never had anyone to help him into the waters.”  In an instant, he was no longer that person. From here on he would be known as “the man who had been healed by Jesus as he sat by the pool of Siloam.” (And, as far as we know, he was the only man Jesus healed that day at the pool that day.)

The Pool of Siloam

Prior to the healing, his relationship to God was no doubt a daily, desperate, pleading prayer for a change of circumstances. He may have used pitiful gestures in his attempt to convince someone – anyone – to aid him into the waters as they were “stirred.”

Now that his circumstance had changed, his mindset had to change! In order to maintain his healing and experience the full life Jesus intended him to live, this man had to create new patterns of thinking in his brain that agreed with his healing. He would need an after-the-healing mindset shift that would also upgrade his relationship with God.

Thanksgiving and gratitude establishes an atmosphere of joy in an upgraded relationship with God.

I’m sure after he was healed, his prayers were no longer whiney and pitiful, but rather, were full of joy. His face would have revealed this transformation!

Legally Disabled

I have a personal interest in these stories that I use as illustration, because like the man at the Pool of Siloam and Mephiboshet, I too was legally disabled for many years. My natural Mother Rose was born with a joint and cartilage genetic degenerative disease called Ehlers-Danlos which severely deformed her hips, legs, and knees. My siblings and I have suffered with various forms of this same disease which has required surgery for several in the family. I personally have had 2 major surgeries on my knees, and a third surgery that complicated my joint mobility, along with years and years of painful, slow rehabilitation. Many of those years I used the aid of crutches, wheelchairs, canes, walkers, and I too sat at the pool everyday utilizing warm-water therapy. I got used to people staring at my brother and I on crutches and braces everywhere we went. We were definitely an oddity to look at. I know what it is to be labeled “disabled” and to walk around with that mindset for decades. In my own mind, I excluded myself from most things –even from that which was physically possible – because my mind had already disqualified me with fears.

Disabled > Healed!

From the first weeks of coming to faith in Jesus as a seventeen-year old, I experienced God’s healing touch on my body. My first experience was at a Kathryn Kuhlman Crusade at the Angelus Temple in Los Angeles California. It was a miraculous healing in my knees – and everyone in my life knew it. This began a 40-year journey of learning to walk with Jesus touching my body and healing me as I needed it. Many times he came to me as I sat by the “pool” and I sensed Him saying to me: “What is it you want me to do for you?”

“I need your healing Jesus!” And, He has always answered; and with His healing, I had to move through a mindset shift yet again. Jesus has always been my Healer – through all of my surgeries and painful rehabilitations. I continue to depend upon His total and complete healing of my body every day.

I am the most unlikely person to travel the world and walk in the nations, praying for God’s blessings. By all rights, I should be unable to walk at all without great difficulty and intense pain. Oh, I do experience pain in my hips and knees and feet, but it is never a deterrent to God’s purposes for my life!

I am a walking miracle, and God’s love overwhelms me!

I was legally disabled, and now I am not!

Now I release healing in other people’s bodies and have seen scores of people healed in their joints. I continue to experience healing as I need it.

Jesus is everything I need . . . and so much more!

The King’s House

To experience the full life of healing and abundance God has for us, it will require an intentional mindset shift to our heavenly identity where we will exchange our disability for healing, poverty to royalty, beggar to adopted royal son, etc. Whatever your situation today, understand that you have been upgraded to live in the King’s Palace! He expects that you will:

  • Move from Nothing Town to Jerusalem (City of the King – the place where He dwells)
  • Eat at His table every day
  • Make an exchange from your old identity
  • Receive His royal treatment as his adopted son/daughter
  • Carry yourself as royalty: Dress, act, talk like Kingdom royalty
  • Represent the Kingdom as His Ambassador of love
  • Take from the King’s treasury all that you are entitled to
  • Take advantage of the freedom to go into the King’s private chambers and treatment rooms
  • Have an expectation that you will receive all you need from the King today
  • Expect a personal encounter with the love and kindness of your Shepherd/King

My prayer is that the revelation of God’s glory will displace any lying perception that has kept you from receiving your full healing and inheritance today . . . to the glory of His Son, Amen.

http://youtu.be/Z1DFBr-pd0E

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NOTE: I’d like to thank the leadership of David Crone, Dan McCollam, and Graham Cooke at The Mission for such powerful impartation of these principles that have come alive in my spirit and for creating a safe environment in which to thrive and mature in my journey with God. For more resources on your identity in the Messiah, check out The Mission online store and Graham Cooke’s online store.

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Birthday Surprise


Three months previous to my 18th birthday, I had a life-changing encounter with God.

Senior High School

It really turned my world upside down and immediately altered what I would do with the rest of my life.

Jesus Freaks

Jesus People Movement 1970

This was the Jesus People Movement, 1970, and God was sweeping through young people my age on every school campus and church denomination around the world. It resulted in a remnant of radicals that changed the course of history in many ways. It didn’t seem to matter what church you were going to during those days, because the fire of God was after the hearts of the next generation . . . specifically, my generation. At the age of 17, I was looking to experience God in a supernatural way, as were most of my peers. The drug culture of the 60s had set the stage for God’s answer to young people searching for life significance and spiritual experiences with a real encounter with Him.

For three months now, I had been enjoying such a newness in my walk with God, and each day was better than the one previous. I was seeking out “Jesus Freaks” everywhere they gathered, and it was not within the walls of the established churches! Sadly, long-haired Jesus Freaks were just not welcomed there in many cases! So, the Jesus People (as they were called) set up coffee shops, gathered on the beaches of southern California, and booked the Hollywood Palladium for Sunday “concerts.”  Though I was regularly attending my Catholic church on Sundays, and a Baptist Church on Wednesday nights, these other places became my extended local church body from which came a whole new inspiration. One of my favorite publications at the time, targeting Jesus Freaks especially, was the Hollywood Free Paper. Looking back I realized that what we really wanted was to get back to grass roots Christianity – you know, doing it like Jesus did. There was a strong belief in the supernatural ways of God in those days, with a simple faith in The Bible, miracles, healing, and prayer. We, the revolutionary new church, clearly wanted to get back to basics, very much like the radical revolutionary Hippie Movement we were birthed from. We were emerging whether or not society was ready for us.

I feel we are at that place once again . . . don’t you? May we never settle for the status quo, but rather, desire to press onwards and upwards in God.

Back to Basics

The Bible was my companion everywhere I went. I was convinced the world would not be around another ten years and felt it was my personal mission to warn everyone I met that Jesus was coming very soon! They must get ready!! I had many convincing signs, arguments, and a backpack full of Chick tracts, to be sure!  I was singing “I wish we’d all been ready” right along with Larry Norman.

I had joined the Jesus Freaks as a radical and could be seen any day of the week at a local beach joining in a baptism of scores of long hairs! We often took communion together there on the beach with a loaf of unsliced bread and a bottle of grape juice . . . just like Jesus did it. It was heaven on earth, as far as we were concerned.

A Costa Mesa California Calvary Chapel Baptism where I used to go

Jesus People Music

With each move of God in history came a unique musical expression. The Jesus Movement was marked with taking modern rock music to another level in praise and worship of Jesus. Like Larry Norman used to belt out, “Why should the devil have all the good music?”

Because music has always been such an important part of my life, I was happy that God was raising up worship leaders, songwriters, and musicians to write the music that would express the hearts of those of coming into the Kingdom outside of the walls of the organized church. And, He is still doing that! I love the new music as well.

Not long ago I came across this video that showed two generations attempting to come together. Kathryn Kuhlman, representing the mothers and fathers of her generation from the move of God of 1948, invited leaders from the present Jesus Movement so she could experience their worship and testimonies first hand. In this clip, the leader of the music group Love Song shares his testimony and then they sing one of the first songs they wrote.

My 18th Birthday

I believe the Holy Spirit loves an opportunity for a celebration! His personality is all joy, and He had a surprise birthday gift for me on this big occasion that I had no clue was coming.

The weekend custom of my group of friends was to pile in someone’s VW Van and head off to a Jesus concert being held somewhere. This particular weekend was my 18th birthday and the concert was being held at the Hollywood Palladium with a lineup of our favorite Christian groups: Love Song, Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Barry McGuire, and others.

We headed off that evening with a mixed group of Catholics, Baptists, non-believers packed in the van – all friends – excited to be together for my birthday celebration, and ready for another God-adventure.

Hollywood Freeway God-Encounter

I don’t remember how it began, but we were soon all singing a familiar song, worshiping the Lord as the Van drove 65-miles an hour down the LA freeway. Someone began to sing “Amazing Grace,” and there we all were – eyes closed, hands lifted up in praise of salvation through Jesus.

At some point we finished singing all the verses to that song, and we then began to sing a “new song” to the Lord with the melody of Amazing Grace. I was really enjoying this free expression of worship to the Lord and found myself transported into God’s Presence as I continued to pour out my heart of love to Him in my song. By now, I am not even aware of anyone else in the car.

With an ease of water flowing down a hill, I began to sing to the Lord in a heavenly language and felt myself slip into a deep place of worship. At this point, I was before the Presence of God Himself and He was speaking things to my heart that were so deep – and healing. All around me, I began to hear others also singing to the Lord in a heavenly language, and there was now much joy, and laughing, and excitement as God’s presence washed over us in that old VW van. I was experiencing a personal expression of God’s deep love and peace in a way I had never known before. It was like He was drawing me very near to His Heart in an embrace . . . a sweet kiss from Heaven  . . . and it felt really good to be loved in such a way.

In this moment, I felt like all the pain of my life thus far had been drawing me to this one meeting place on my 18th birthday. The Holy Spirit was celebrating my life tonight and giving me a revelation of my eternal place in the heart of Father.

I belonged here.

I have been adopted by God Himself  . . . into His family;

His name was my now my name.

My Father created me . . . I was never abandoned or rejected.

In this moment, I saw that I had always belonged to God Himself, and He had reestablished the value of my life. Out of His love for me, He had actually placed me in the care of all the adults of my life, including the caretakers at 13-different foster homes where I had lived and experienced abuse. (It was a sobering moment when God showed me years later that one day, each one of those adults would stand before Him to give an account of the God-opportunity to love a needy child. I prayed for mercy upon them.)

There would never be any question to whom I belonged from here on. The Holy Spirit had sealed the deal on this my 18th birthday. With His manifest presence came proof of His ownership.

I have no idea how long I was in this place with the Father on the Hollywood Freeway, communing through the Holy Spirit. I only remember that we had finally arrived at our destination and my friends were trying to get me out of the car! But, I never wanted to leave this place of God’s Presence . . . not ever!! I resisted for quite some time, but finally went in to the concert with them.

This was the most glorious birthday celebration I have ever had . . . just to think that God would manifest Himself to me in such a powerful way. This night — my 18th birthday — actually became my default line.

This year, on my birthday, I will be remembering 40 years ago when the Holy Spirit came to celebrate my life with me. He still does . . .

Heaven's Ecstasy

Ode to the Holy Spirit (written 2009)

Shimmering bursts of Color

Transparent and dazzling

Movements of Light

You draw near.

Spirit of Jesus

I feel Your warmth –

Living Words of Comfort,

A Passionate kiss of Mercy and Truth,

Waves of Love  –

Announcing Your Presence . . .

Your eternal Friendship.

I welcome You

Holy Spirit . . .

Come live with me here.

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It Happened One Christmas: My Story


The Last Christmas at Home

The first recollection of Christmas as a child was when I was about 4½. My brother Michael was 18 months younger and my sister Janis was a baby.

We were in a darkened bedroom with the shades drawn, jumping on the beds, waiting, waiting, waiting for the door to finally open. After what seemed like forever, the hall light burst through the opened door of the bedroom and we ran out squealing into the living room to view the beautifully decorated and lighted Christmas tree.

Opening our gifts with Mother Rose

Presents with our names on them were scattered around. I remember the warm feeling and joy of being with my brother, sister, Mother Rose, and Grandmother Eva.

Us 3 children with Grandma Eva

None of us knew at that moment that the next year would bring many unexpected changes of separation for us all.

Adopted at Christmas

“Do you want to be adopted by Evelyn? She will be your only Mother now.”

Standing in the Judge’s office that December morning, I seemed to be the center of attention that I did not seek. My insides were screaming “No! Where is my Mother?” But the faces in that circle were staring at me with an expectation of my response which I knew would forever change my future, no matter how I answered.

Only half a year earlier, after we had first come to Evelyn’s house,  I was placed in yet another foster home where the 12-year old boy hated having a new little “sister” and took out his abusive aggression upon me in daily slaps, kicks and unmentionable acts of cruelty. Begging to be reunited with my brother Michael, they eventually returned me to Evelyn’s.  Shortly thereafter she decided to adopt us both.

Attempting to collect myself from the haze of conflicting thoughts and emotions, I whispered, “Yes.”

What did I just say? What does that mean for me now? My desperation to stay far away from the 13-different foster homes of hell was my only concern in that moment  . . .that, and to save my 5-year old brother Michael from constant beatings and punishments of “bad behavior” — too severe for any living child. I don’t ever want us to be sent back there, was my silent plea.

In that moment, I felt I had in some way betrayed my Mother and my sister . . . They did not come back for me. . . A deep sadness and grief came over me on that December morning that I would visit often.

But I smiled at the Judge. I smiled at the others in the room. At the age of seven, I learned what it meant to appear to be someone else, even if you do not want to be, even if you do not feel it. I learned to smile through my pain and suffering.

I was no longer Michelle Samra. . . or “Shelley” as I had been called by my family. Now I was Carol Noël– meaning “Christmas Carol” in French– because it was nearly Christmas and the adoption was final.

I had something to smile about that Christmas however. I had been reunited with my brother Michael, and I had a new older sister now, Barbara.

Through the years I came to love my name Carol Noël and felt it was a prophetic name of what my life would be: Messiah’s Song.

Christmas Recovery

Shortly after Evelyn adopted me, it was discovered that I had a congenital genetic disability in both of my knees called “Ehler’s Danlos.” It required a double knee surgery at aged 10 that required about 2 years for a full recovery.

I had a second surgery on my right knee when I was 16 and was laid up for many months. At Christmas time, my very good friends from Church came and sang Christmas carols outside my window. That was one of the kindest acts I can remember that anyone ever did for me! I couldn’t be with them, but they came to me!

It was a great Christmas.

"Messiah Group" lead by Paul Bourassa

 

The Re-Birth at Christmas

The most significant thing that ever happened to me at Christmas was my encounter with Jesus! I experienced a rebirth of my spirit that came alive and it forever transformed me. I can honestly say that everything changed from that moment forty years ago this December.

Carol Cantrell 1970

The deep sadness and grief I carried was gone now, and in its place was the joy of Jesus’ Presence birthed in me. I was twice adopted. I had a Father who loved me and a Home where I belonged forever. He would never leave me. It changed me.

One year later, I would be reunited with my natural Mother Rose, my sister Janis, and a new sister Donna that I had never met. Isn’t God amazing? This December, I was reunited with yet more of my family and 40 years on, it has really come full circle in healing and restoration.

That season of Christmas in 1970 for me was a celebration of the Miracle of His presence in me and with me that was tangible. I was so crazy in love with Jesus that His love occupied my thoughts and I was seeing my world through different eyes. My church group of friends also celebrated a spiritual renewal as we worshipped God together, leading the congregation that special Christmas Eve.

Our group leading the music at church lead by Paul Bourassa

Christmas in Jerusalem

In 1980, we spent our first Christmas in Jerusalem with our 3-year old daughter. We lived in a Christian-Arab village in the north part of Jerusalem and were involved in full-time language study. I was 6 months pregnant with my son Michael and we wondered how we would celebrate Christmas this year.

Ron had met a wonderful Orthodox man who owned a garden nursery. One day, we received a visit from our friend.  He boldly walked into our living room, plopped down a 4’ potted fir tree and announced in broken English: “Here is your Christmas tree. Now you must decorate it, and I will be back in 2 weeks to see it!”

Our mouths were gaping open as we stared at our little Jerusalem Christmas tree in a pot. I gathered pieces of material from old clothes and curtains and set to work sewing little decorations. This was a homemade crafts Christmas! Ron and I made a rag doll out of sheets for Heather because she didn’t have any dolls to play with. We used sheep’s wool for hair and painted on a face. We called her little doll “Golda”  after the Israeli former Prime Minister Golda Meir. Heather loved that little doll.

Two weeks later Itzhak came back to see our potted Christmas tree and we showed off our simple little decorations. He was delighted, and we shared stories together as we sampled Christmas goodies. Itzhak became good friends with our family.

This was the first of 20 Christmases in Israel we would celebrate. Over the years, we learned that the Israeli forests are trimmed and maintained intentionally at Christmastime in order to provide Christian communities live trees. Ron and I felt that was such a beautiful expression by Israelis who don’t even celebrate Christmas. We too were recipients of this gift of Israelis given to Christians. They always wanted to ensure Christians had a good Christmas.

Thank you Israel, for  your kindness to us.

Christmas in Bethlehem

One year I was invited to sing with a group of Christians from Jerusalem, joining the many international choirs that go to Bethlehem each Christmas Eve in a televised event that is aired around the world as “Christmas in Bethlehem.”

Manger Square, Bethlehem on Christmas Eve

But the stunning part of this evening was going through security just to get in to Bethlehem. Because terrorists prefer to strike when there are large crowds of people, the Israeli security forces make sure that it will be a safe and pleasant experience for tourists that come from around the world.

The Israeli security teams had set up a warmed tent with candy canes, hot chocolate, and other treats as they processed each Christian pilgrim going in to Bethlehem to make the experience a little easier. The city of Jerusalem and Bethlehem had put up Christmas decorations to light the road to Bethlehem.

As my husband and I passed through each security checkpoint, we looked into the eyes of each Israeli security person and thanked them personally. They smiled — with relief actually!

I have to say that was a very special year for me, and it brought tears to my eyes to see their loving care for us, making sure we would have a happy Christmas celebration.

Derek Prince Comes for Dinner & Handel’s Messiah in Jerusalem

I worked as the Personal Assistant/Secretary for Derek Prince the last 3 years of his life in England and Jerusalem. Derek returned to live in his Jerusalem home a year after his 2nd wife Ruth died.

“How would you and Ron like to go to hear Handel’s Messiah with me this year?” Derek asked one day as I worked with him in his office. To hear Handel’s Messiah in Israel would be a first – for all of us!  As his secretary, I made all the arrangements.

Derek came over to our house on Christmas Day for dinner – and I pulled out all the stops that year! It was, after all, his first Christmas back in Jerusalem, and I wanted to make sure we all had a memorable time. After our Christmas dinner of prime rib and turkey, we piled into a caravan of cars and drove over to the International Convention Center in Jerusalem to hear Handel’s Messiah performed that night by an international choir and orchestra. The auditorium was filled with Christians and Israeli’s who love this classical masterpiece. And, it was a magnificent performance.

This was a very special Christmas for Ron and I – to enjoy both Handel’s Messiah in Jerusalem and Derek at our home for Christmas dinner.

Little Money, Creative Expressions of Love

One year in Jerusalem with our three adult children, we decided as a family that since we had little money to purchase gifts, all of our gifts would be homemade. It would require that we all be very creative.

I have to say this was one of the funnest times we ever had. Each one used their skills as a photographer, graphic artist, oil painter, music, sewing, crafts, woodcarving, cooking — all of them were employed to come up with unique and special gifts that was great fun to share with each other.

We had several nights of family crafts where we made Christmas ornaments from bread dough, decorated candles, made a gingerbread house from scratch, gathered fir branches for wreaths, and much more.

Though we have had difficulties as a family – and who doesn’t? – Christmas allows us to come together and express a deeper level of love that goes beyond fault-finding. It can be the manifestation of Heaven’s peace come to earth.

May it be so in each of our households this Christmas.

Last Christmas in Israel

My Israeli neighbors love Christmas – which always amazed Ron and I. We often had friends and neighbors knock on our door just to come in and see how we decorated for Christmas.

“It reminds me of when I lived in Europe as a child,” one neighbor told us. Many Israelis, however, had never before seen how a Christian celebrates “The Birth,” as it is referred to in Hebrew.

So, the last Christmas we were in Israel we actually made two full Christmas dinners because we had so many Israeli friends who wanted to come to dinner! They also like to “taste” Christmas, and of course, everything is homemade and authentic!

It was very special to have two evenings where friends and family could come and share in our favorite celebration of The Birth.

Yosef, Miryam and baby Yeshua

 

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very Merry Christmas as you gather together with your family and friends this year! May the Presence of God’s shalom and blessings be upon your household as you celebrate Immanuel – God with us!

God bless us — every one!!

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