I clearly remember Christmas Day in 1967, when Paul Crume — in his popular daily column featured for three decades in the Dallas Morning News — professed his belief in angels. Oh, he acknowledged demons, too, but this day he wrote of angels.

It was a heart-warmer, and his column was applauded so widely by Christians, the DMN has seen fit to re-run it every Christmas since. For the few who “pooh-pooh” it, they might do well to suspend reading of this piece right now. I believe in angels, too, even more fervently upon learning what happened on Dec. 30, 2011, a mere five miles from our home.

Who knows, if I had listened carefully, perhaps I could have heard the rustle of the angel’s wings.

Probably no fig tree in history is better known than the one Zacchaeus scaled in Biblical days to get a better view of Jesus. Surely whatever fig crops it may have produced wither in the brightness of its ultimate sacred purpose. The same seems true of a giant cottonwood, stretching skyward for 100 feet and attaining at least 100 years on earth before its ultimate mission came to pass in 2011. On that fateful December day — with its center core rotted away — the tree became central to the ravaged life of 9-year-old Annabel Beam.

At the edge of death more than once during her four-year battle with a condition called pseudo-obstruction motility disorder, Annabel summoned strength that day to climb the big tree with her older sister Abbie. Soon after reaching the three-story-high limb, a cracking sound was heard. In their haste to get down, Annabel tumbled into what they’d called a “cave,” but it turned out to be a tunnel to the tree’s base. She plunged head first, lying motionless and unconscious as Abbie summoned their mom.

What to do, she and rescuers wondered. Little did they know they were to be sacred instruments during the five-hour ordeal in which Annabel says she saw Jesus and sat in His lap. She added that an angel in the tree helped her attached the harness rescuers had lowered. Airlifted to Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, doctors were dumbfounded. Falls such as hers often are fatal, or at the very least, cause serious injury. Annabel was not injured; there were no longer any disease symptoms, either.

Boston Children’s Hospital doctors were likewise baffled. They, too, found no injuries or symptoms.

Soon, Annabel was back in school, gaining strength, no longer required to take a long list of medications. Now 13, she’s taken no medicine since “the miracles.”

Mother Christy has journaled much of the pilgrimage, and friends urged her to write a book. She did. It has been on the New York Times’ best-seller lists since the movie’s release.

The day the book was published, a storm claimed the giant cottonwood. It now stands only about 10 feet tall, with more than 90 feet resting across several smaller trees below.

My wife and I visited Christy, who, with husband Kevin, has called greatly on both deep faith and deep reliance on their pastor, Dr. Scott Sharman, and other Christian friends.

They continue to reside on their 30-acre place near Burleson, committed to living as normally as possible. Their daughters — Abbie, Annabel and Adelynn — are now ages 16, 13 and 11, respectively, and attend Joshua, Texas, schools.

Kevin is a veterinarian in Alvarado. He’s forever bringing home stray animals, so the “pet population” at their house changes often. Needless to say, he likewise lives like every day is Thanksgiving, and he, too, believes in angels.

This is a “must see” movie. It is a “based-on-a-true-story” film, grossing some $70 million to date. My suggestion: Read the book first; it is written with no embellishment. The movie is basically true, and variations from “the way it was” are minimal. For both reading and viewing, have tissues at hand, maybe even towels. (Also, please check out Crume’s “Christmas column,” still fresh after more than a half-century.)

It should be noted that Christy “held out” for the name of Jesus Christ be included in the movie. It is.

A final hurrah: Popular movie star Jennifer Garner says playing the role of Christy has caused her to view spiritual matters in a different way. Why wouldn’t it? It is unquestionably a life-changer.


Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com. Columns archived at venturegalleries.com.