Hi, my name is Donald N. Norris and I am a grateful believer in Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah). I thought it would be helpful to share a little bit about myself on this first ‘official’ blog post.
Although I was born in San Diego, I grew up in southern Michigan and was raised by my grandmother while my mom worked hard as a nurse anesthetist. As far back as I can remember, my mom always took me to church. We were Episcopalians and I developed a deep sense of respect for the church. I loved the liturgy and always asked to stay in the big people’s service rather than going to Sunday School. My mom did send me to a vacation bible school at the local Baptist church one summer where I memorized John 3:16.
My mom and I moved to Petoskey, Michigan where I entered high school as a freshman. Once again, we attended the local Episcopal Church and I became an acolyte. I loved helping the parish priest and even thought of entering the priesthood myself. Well, the best-laid plans don’t always work out.
My wife and I were married right out of high school and I began my college education at Michigan Technological University as an electrical engineering major. Again, we attended the local Episcopal Church. After I completed my prerequisites and took my first course in my declared major, I realized that I did not want to spend the rest of my life as an electrical engineer.
After a short stay in Maryland – near my half-brother – we moved to Southern California and again became active in our attendance in the local Episcopal Church. The war in Vietnam was escalating and through the influence of fellow students at the University of California, Riverside we had become peaceniks. The vestry of the Church would not support a resolution opposing the war, so we stopped going. We abstained from attending services for about three years before we decided that we really missed it and we knew our three children needed that exposure.
Long story short, through several renewal ministries (Faith Alive & Cursillo) we experienced the indwelling of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and became active in the Episcopal Renewal Movement. Due to a job change, we moved to the Sierra Nevada foothills of California. Within a few years of our move, we became increasing uncomfortable remaining in the Episcopal Church due to its increasingly liberal theology. We began attending a non-denominational charismatic church and continued to mature in the faith.
Again, due to another job change, we relocated to the Central Valley of California and for the first time in our lives had to do some church hoping to find a new home. After visiting several local churches, we settled on Calvary Temple Worship Center (recently renamed “The House”) in Modesto, CA.
In October of 2000, we traveled to Israel with a group from church. The moment we arrived in Tel Aviv, we knew without a doubt that we were HOME! The trip was life changing for us. When we had to return to the States, unlike Tony Bennett, we left our hearts in the land of the Chosen People ~ Israel.
Upon our return, we learned of the Messianic Jewish Movement and began attending a congregation in Livermore, CA. Again, we were back to our roots. We experienced a liturgical service with an emphasis on scripture readings and sound biblical expository preaching. We went to our Senior Pastor at Calvary with the suggestion that we form a Messianic Jewish Congregation as a missionary outreach of the church to reach the local Jewish community. Pastor readily agreed and when we asked for permission to search for a leader, he said: “No, it’s your vision, it’s your calling, you do it.” The first service of Congregation Lev L’Yisrael (Heart for Israel) was held in October 2001. I then completed the course work required to be licensed.
In June 2004, we felt called to leave Congregation and move to Florida to be closer to our youngest daughter and her two sons. In January 2011, we moved back to Modesto for health reasons. We discovered that Heart for Israel was still active (albeit now a house group that met every other week) and we began attending once again. I was asked to resume my teaching role and in August of 2012 our leaders decided to retire and asked me to resume leadership. We agreed to do that on the proviso that it would only be temporary until we could find someone else to take the Congregation to the next level. Unfortunately, no one came forward and with increasing poor health and declining attendance our small group disbanded in July 2014.
This blog will allow me to continue the teaching ministry without all the other responsibilities of being a Congregational leader. It is my intent to post a new teaching at least once a week.