I met Lord Jesus in January, 1974. You really can’t say I was a hippie, because I dropped out before that term was coined. Though I considered myself a fine artist, I had no real talent except for the necessary ego.
I was born again out of a life of fine art, drugs and occult practices. I was so stoned, it took several days before I even noticed anything. But the transformation by the summer of 1974 was truly astounding. I am not the same man I was—thank God!
Like Saul (though certainly not on his level in any way) I was an enemy of the church. I was even brought in as a guest teacher for church youth groups to preach the glories of LSD and spiritual seeking—though at that time my seeking was all in the occult and Zen.
For the first couple years after giving my life (such as it was) to Jesus, I was trained in the Lord by my father, who was one of the first charismatic Episcopalians—being filled with the Spirit in the late 1950s under Agnes Sanford while he was studying for ordination as a perpetual deacon.
Throughout 1974 (and much of 1975), I went with him every evening as we were deeply involved in seven bible studies a week, a couple led by my father and several led by others—including most of the charismatic meetings in the Twin Cities area. At that point I was Episcopalian (though I actually accepted the Lord at a Roman Catholic group). I was taught through immersion into the spirit-filled life with a well-trained, very experienced mentor to guide me.
In 1976 I married the woman who would transform my life, Patricia Harper—though she had the name of a former husband tacked on to the end of her name. Here was a woman with a very clear call to ministry—both in gifts and in a desire to serve. Her wisdom and common sense approach to following Jesus has enabled me to open up more to the Lord and begin to become what He designed me to be.
I spent many years teaching end times prophecy until my pastor-wife convinced me that this was a waste of time in her church. Her conviction, which I have come to share, is that prophecy teaching normally becomes endlessly fascinating fleshly speculation without ever meeting the real needs of the people—namely are they ready to meet Jesus when He comes? I submitted to her wisdom.
Dealing with the occult
I had spent many years dabbling in the occult and heresy. Before my rebirth I had seriously explored Gurdjieff, Jung, Taoism, astrology, Tarot cards, numerology, symbolism, Zen Buddhism, I Ching, and more. I lived with an astrologer and hung out with people deeply involved in the occult.
My normal practice was to get completely involved in the latest area of interest and run my life by the precepts and practices of the belief system that currently had my attention. For example, when I was following the I Ching, I would check the oracle about every decision large or small, many times a day.
In all of these areas, it was eventually said that the next step was to get a personal spirit guide. I was never willing to do that. I had no reason to avoid this. In hindsight, it has become apparent that I was protected in all of this by my father’s prayers as I wandered in spiritual danger rebelling from the church of my youth.
In fact, the Holy Spirit used the occultic practices to lead me until I met Lord Jesus. In the early 70s I read the Bible from cover to cover—out of boredom originally while I was working in a psychological boot camp for children in the mountains of northeast California (Pulga, to be precise). In my arrogance, I came to the conclusion that the book was true but not necessary. It was just one of many ways to the Godhead.
How I met Lord Jesus
Several years earlier, my father and I had been in countless debates about all of this. I could see that he had something that worked for him. I was happy for him, but I didn’t see Jesus as a viable alternative for me. As the debates became more like arguments, my dad wisely pulled back after making me promise to never quit seeking for the truth until I was convinced that I had found absolute truth.
After reading the Bible, I started getting messages in 1972 from the I Ching that I was going to be led through a radical life-changing experience. Toward the end of 1973 I moved into a cold-water storefront next to a rough bar in the Indian (primarily Sioux) ghetto in south Minneapolis just outside the hippie area of the West Bank.
The spiritual darkness in that gallery became oppressive (though I had no real discernment spiritually). I knew my Dad was an exorcist, so I asked him to come over and clean the place out in October or November. Needless to say, he was tickled to do that!
For the next couple of months, my life got worse and worse. I was living on one large pancake a day, dry, filled with sunflower seeds and raisins. I couldn’t afford more than that. I could barely pay the $45 a month rent. Needless to say, my art wasn’t selling well down in that area.
I was smoking pot every two hours as I had for the past seven years. I was dropping acid (LSD) once or twice a week. I had hundreds of acid trips by this time. Somehow, in my drugged stupor, I called my dad (on his birthday—January 15, 1974), and said, “I need to get filled with the spirit.” I had no idea what that meant and as far as I know I had never heard that term before (though it just dawned on me that I had surely read it when I was going through the Bible in that psychological boot camp in the Californian Sierras.
Needless to say, my father came over and bundled me in the car and took me to his bible study of the night. They all laid hands on me. I renounced the world, the flesh and the devil. They prayed that I would be filled with the Holy Spirit in power.
I felt nothing. I was too stoned. I kept doing my drugs. As with all my spiritual adventures, I got into it fully (as much as I could in my intellectual arrogance). I gave Jesus six months to prove himself. I accepted the Bible as truth. The first indication that something had changed was the note on my wall calendar/journal a couple days later that “I feel strangely peaceful”. I didn’t realize I’d met Lord Jesus for quite a while.
Learning to know Jesus
I joined my dad every night at the bible studies with which he was involved. I started reading the Bible starting with John, then the epistles, then the gospels, then the prophets, then the epistles again, and so on.
The following month I actually started working again—day jobs. By March I had gotten hired as a cook downtown. Walking home from work (as I did every day) I was praying and singing like I always did. My songs changed to an unknown language and my songs became worship. I had received tongues. I never did have an emotional experience of conversion. But I’d met Lord Jesus.
I devoured Dad’s library of Watchman Nee, Andrew Murray, Smith Wigglesworth, Oswald Chambers, Hudson Taylor, Rees Howells, Derek Prince, and many more including all the fashionable charismatic books of the day. By early 1975 I had read several hundred Christian books. I would often read two or three a day plus the Bible. I couldn’t get enough. I just poured the data into my drug-ravaged brain.
In that first six months I read the bible cover to cover several times, still doing drugs (pot and acid). My few friends all kicked me out because of Jesus. I had one friend left—a gay man named Gene Kunz. We talked and talked and talked on long acid trips at his apartment and wandering the streets of Minneapolis.
However, the acid trips had really changed. I could now see part of spiritual reality and I spent the entire trips in spiritual warfare fighting off the demons. There was no fear or danger, as far as I was concerned, with Jesus’ power in me—but it had become hard work as I went insane from the drug and fought my way back to reality. (This was our method of character development—strange as it might seem to you). We were the results of the Timothy Leary school of personal development, followed by Baba Ram Das (though I had left that stuff far behind).
I remember that Gene gave me several hits of wonderful acid for my birthday in June of that year . But it had become too much. Having met Lord Jesus just changed me too much. I finally flushed them down the toilet and accepted my death (as talked about in Romans 6). I had come to realize that death was all my flesh deserved and that Jesus had covered that on the cross. I surrendered completely to my Lord.
What a ride it’s been since then! My dad and I ministered in the gifts daily. I met my wife at one of the groups.
The Bible and Jesus
My dad convinced me that what I needed to study was the Bible. That and Jesus were all that mattered. He taught me to avoid commentaries and books about the Bible, Jesus, or the church. He was convinced that most of them promoted views that were slanted by personal theology. He filled me with books of testimony and anointed teachings and I read the Bible. I’ve found that to be good advice.