In the early 1970s, there was a song about a little girl whose whole world was hidden behind a door that led outside the house in which she was kept. To get her message to the world outside, she wrote a note and slipped it through a crack in the door. On the note were written the simple words carrying the message she wanted anyone who read it to know:
Whoever finds this, I Love you.
There is Someone who feels the same way about the hands into which this work finds its way. If it is in your hands at this moment, someone who made sure it got there loves you.
So that readers may place this extremely important account of astonishing events into the hands of others, we grant permission to download or copy for use provided that the material is distributed for free, and shows the copyright notice. Sharing the reality of what many doubt exists is more urgent than financial benefit to the author. Those wanting to do so are encouraged to read it to others, print it, copy and e-mail it, make CDs of it, and otherwise distribute it without cost.
"...your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:"
These words of the Hebrew prophet Joel came to the mind of the old man who'd had the dream some thirty-plus years after the young man had seen the vision.
Both the young man --- and the old man --- were me.
The physically overpowering vision of the dragon that temporarily paralyzed me appeared when I was 16 years of age. It came to me twice on the same night.
The intense dream that would bring me to my knees came to me over thirty years later when I was almost 50 years old.
For a period of time between those two experiences, at the age of 28, denizens of a demonic world were beckoning me to their habitation; one from which, except for my prior knowledge of the reality of Jesus Christ, I might never have escaped.
I had spent many years believing in Christ, but for many of those years my life was less of a testimony for Him than He would have desired of me. While I never quit believing in Him, I would come to harbor deep-seated feelings that He couldn't really love anyone like me. I was too imperfect and, no matter how hard I would try to live what some consider a "Good Christian life," I always failed Him.
As I gradually became less attentive to the teachings of the One who rescued me from the demonic vision that came to me as a young man, I didn't realize how swiftly the years would pass away until the dream appeared to the old man I had become.
Little did I know, when I moved from Dallas to the desert southwest, that I would wander a spiritual desert for almost as long as Moses wandered in the wilderness before I would feel a previously unfelt urgency to write these things I now feel others must be told.
After I had the vision, I wanted to tell others what had happened to me, but I didn't know why the vision came, nor did I know its source; only that God must have allowed it for some reason then unknown to me. I didn't know if the vision was from God or from the Devil, but I knew that it wasn't just my imagination. The only positive thing I could see coming from the demonic attack at the time was the knowledge of how I had escaped it.
It was an experience that assured me of the reality of a world beyond the physical realm, a world we can't yet comprehend apart from biblical references.
My dialogue with the demons a little more than a decade after the vision resulted in a more positive outcome after I wrote that experience down in longhand and sent copies to two pastors, one in Texas and one in California. Both reported back that, after reading the account (which is now a part of this overall testimony) to their congregations, several people made decisions to receive Christ.
Realizing the testimony's potential for good, I wanted more than ever to publish it in greater detail, but the urgent need hadn't stirred in me at that time. I now feel that God was restraining the urgency until I could include the other occurrences, and the dream that was yet to come.
Only after the dream, which resulted in my reevaluation of The Bible, the original source of my personal faith, did it seem I could look back at the separate, puzzling events that had taken place in my life and the reason for my experiencing them. The dream was the piece needed to complete the puzzle.
1997 marked the completion of my 40 years in the spiritual desert. While I had wanted to write this account, I felt constantly hampered. Were these experiences personal, to be kept to myself, or were they to be shared with others?
I knew that I wanted my children, grandchildren and extended family to be aware of these things, but was I to share them with people who didn't know me, some of whom would surely think me a fool? Remembering that the Apostle Paul was willing to be considered "a fool for Christ" made me more willing to make the record public, although another ten years would pass before I told God that I would write these things, then leave the rest up to Him. The consequences facing those unfamiliar with the "principalities" and "powers" of which we have been warned are much too horrendous for me not to proceed.
The accounts of both the vision and the dream were written mostly from memory, still quite vivid because of the intensity with which each appeared to me. The record of the demonic events that began with the Ouija was originally written shortly after the events occurred so that I might be able to relate them with accuracy if and when it might appear that it was time to do so.
Being aware that our minds can distort the recollection of events years after they have occurred, I have asked God to not let me record here anything that might have been different than what I recall, or at least to let the substance of my recollections be accurate to the extent that the truth is presented here.
In order to respect the privacy of others who were involved with me in the occult, if they are ever found, in most cases I will use only their first or last names as the telling of the specific incident requires.
This Testimony is not intended to be a self-glorifying autobiography. It is, instead, a true account of the failures of a man who rediscovered his Redeemer. Its contents are meant to glorify only Him. For that purpose, I choose to remain anonymous. If God has a different arrangement in mind for me, He will make it come to pass.
I am totally aware that God will hold me responsible for any intentional untruths that I pass on to others. Therefore, I trust that the readers will be confident of the journey they are about to undertake. While the occurrences experienced are true, my interpretation of them should be judged by the reader's own confirmation with Scripture. There are many references to Scripture in this testimony. In most cases I have omitted their location to encourage serious readers to open the Bible and "search the Scriptures," as Jesus commanded.
This book is humbly dedicated to the memory of my Dad, Elisha, the second most wonderful man I have ever known, whose example helped me find the most wonderful Friend either of us would ever know. I look forward to walking with you again, Dad, beside our most wonderful Friend, with Whom you so faithfully walked here.
Before The Ten Commandments and The Golden Rule would become a greater threat to society than the results of their absence, I was blessed to have been born into a Christian home. My grandparents were the founders of a church in Dallas, Texas during the heyday of Bonnie and Clyde. One of their gang attended service there, and would talk to my grandmother about his regrets before he was sent to prison. After his release from prison, he became a Sunday School teacher. His more depraved brother would die in the electric chair at Huntsville. My great-grandfather is buried not far from Clyde's grave near the old Fort Worth Highway.
Notwithstanding my surroundings, I disregarded my parents' desire for me to obtain a firm spiritual foundation, and quit attending church with them before I became a teenager. But being in church as a child had already made me aware of the idea that God might really exist, and that awareness at least gave me options in life. After all, I might someday decide I wanted to learn more about Him, or possibly even adopt whatever commandments or rules might eventually suit whatever I might choose to believe --- or not.
Entering my teen years, I exercised my option to think little about God's existence. Fortunately, He had not exercised His right to think so little about mine. He was pretty much a stranger to me. I knew of Him, but I didn't know Him.
God sometimes uses unorthodox ways to get our attention, and so it was with the beginning of my actual knowledge of Him. My life might have turned out quite differently had I been a student in today's public schools. The incident that led to my becoming a Christian then would today likely provide the authorities with cause for expelling me --- and a fellow student who had brought a New Testament to school. The young fellow had appeared one day at my junior high school in Dallas carrying the little Book in his shirt pocket (again, these were the days when carrying a Bible to school wasn't seen as a transgression bordering on criminality). I asked him why he had it with him, and he told me that he had become a Christian earlier that week.
Thinking that the New Testament in his shirt pocket was a pretty neat conversation piece (sort of like a knife or a gun might be in today's schools), I began carrying one in mine. Being only a marginal student, I actually hated reading, and King James' English would not have been my choice had obtaining knowledge been my true intention. I thought that just being seen carrying the "good" Book would make people think that I was a "good" kid.
Each day after school I went to work at a Mexican restaurant where, because I worked a split-shift and was working several miles from my house, I had to find a way to keep myself from being bored during my three-hour breaks. There was a park with a lake nearby, and it became my retreat during those times.
Being more bored than usual one day, I reached into my shirt pocket and retrieved the little Book that had remained unopened since the first day I had decided it would be "cool" to be seen carrying it. I read a page or two, then tucked it back into my pocket.
The next day in the park, I opened the book and read a little more. On the days following that one, I found myself looking forward to the breaks so I could see what was in the chapters following the ones I had previously read. For the first time in my life, I felt I was starting to learn about the Stranger I had been told about when I had gone to church
with my parents. I had always passively endured listening to what others wanted me to know. This was the first time I was actively seeking to learn about Jesus for myself.
Within a couple of weeks of my really beginning to learn about Christ, I knew I wanted to learn more about Him, as He tells us to. Upon finishing Matthews's Chapter 24, there in the park, I began to believe the things He said, and asked the One who claimed to be the promised Messiah into my life.
According to the words of Jesus, I had been born again --- there in the park at the lake.
I was 14 years old.
Jesus would no longer be the Stranger I had known so little about.
Most life-changing Christian conversions occur in a group or church setting, or at least in the presence of another Christian who can help acquaint the new believer with the new life experience. But I had been alone that day at the lake when the Person of Holy Spirit, as the Bible says, convinced me of my need of the Savior. The isolated surroundings in which my "new birth" took place became, for me, evidence of the power of God's written Word, and of the work of the Holy Spirit, Whom Jesus promised would guide us when we choose to follow Him.
I didn't immediately find a church to attend, but I believed that, there in the park, I had become a new person in Christ.
The Book told me that old things would pass away and all things would become new. My focus on life immediately changed, and soon I began to learn new things --- at just the time in my life when people my age thought they already knew everything. The ego of one aimless teenager became unimportant as I sat on a park bench with the little Book in my hands, and my mind and heart began desiring positive changes in my life. I now wanted to learn how to have the character and love of the One I was learning about as the central part of my being. My newfound belief had begun to point me in a direction that would eventually change my life forever.
Desiring to learn all I could about my being "born again," I made a decision to begin a serious study of my new life's "owner's manual," the Bible. My initial studies began a two year endeavor, and I was almost 17 years old before I finished the last chapter of the Bible. While others had their worldly heroes, the One who was the central theme of the Bible would become mine, and I loved The Book that was helping me learn of Him.
In those early years, I recall specifically asking God for just two things:
The first was wisdom, which I sorely lacked (but which He promised He would give to those who asked).
The second was that, if I ever lost my faith, He would do whatever was necessary to bring me back to Him, whatever the consequences.
In retrospect, I believe that He honored both requests.
During my study of the Bible, sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ became an indispensable part of my young life. Knowing the unhappiness that can plague those who don't have an effectual knowledge of Jesus, I had an unquenched desire to introduce others to my new Friend.
My passion in wanting to share this wonderful Friend was rewarded by meeting some well-known Christians, quite by accident, just by letting my faith be known. I encountered one Asian man near the Dallas County Courthouse and ended our conversation by asking Him if he knew who Jesus was. He smiled broadly and told me that, Yes, that after World War II, he had accepted Jesus as his Savior. My casual acquaintance was Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese officer who had led the attack planes on Pearl Harbor just a few years earlier. I thought it amazing how former enemies could now be friends through their mutual acquaintance with Jesus Christ.
The first person I definitely recall introducing to Jesus was Richard, a 17 year-old boy who worked at the Dallas Morning News where I had become a copyboy.
I was telling a group of young men on break in the company cafeteria about how Christ had made a difference in my life, but it seemed that I was accomplishing little more than making a fool of myself.
As I walked away from the group a bit dejected and started down the hallway to the elevator, one boy hurriedly left his seat among the others and came after me. He stopped me and asked if I would please tell him more. After I answered more of his questions, we knelt together in an inconspicuous place behind huge rolls of newsprint in the basement of the News building, and he asked my Friend to become his Savior.
Meeting periodically afterwards, I would explain more to him, encouraging him to read the Bible for himself and find a church where he could enjoy meeting with other believers. He began going to a Baptist church near his home in Mesquite, Texas, many miles from where I had begun attending an Assembly of God church on the west side of Dallas.
It was during my camaraderie with this young man one year older than myself that I first witnessed the effects of God performing a supernatural act. I was about to get my first lesson in God's Divine intervention in a Christian's earthly concerns.
Not too many mornings after he had received Christ into his life, Richard approached me animatedly and told me what had happened to him the night before.
Living many miles from the newspaper and driving his big, gas-guzzling car home on a lonely stretch of road late the previous night, he ran out of fuel. Choking back the tears that welled-up in his eyes, he said, "I was driving home last night when my car sputtered and came to a stop. The fuel gage read 'empty'. I took a stick and put it in my tank, and it came out bone-dry. I began to talk to God, and said, 'Lord, Ben told me that you can do anything. I need a miracle from you tonight. Please help me get home.'"
Tears of gratitude continued to roll down his cheeks as he finished telling me the story of how God had answered his prayer.
He said that, after asking God for help, he returned to the driver's seat and turned the key. The gauge began to rise and the car started. After he arrived home, he put the stick back into the tank, and it came out wet. Not only did he make it home on the gasoline that miraculously appeared, he told me, but he had driven the car back to work that morning without stopping to put any more fuel in the tank. I'm not sure, but I believe that he later told me that the fuel lasted him several days.
Richard had exercised the child-like faith that Jesus taught was needed to please Him. I didn't want to admit it to him at the time, but the new-found confidence in Christ that he had shown was probably greater than what I could have mustered.
Little did I realize then how that same providence would be working for me in the years to come.
I was probably experiencing the beginnings of His providence for me about the same time Richard had received his back road miracle, but didn't realize it at the time.
Some people wonder if God has a sense of humor. How I came to be doing the job I did at a major newspaper in Dallas may indicate that He does.
In working as a copyboy at the Dallas Morning News, I didn't initially realize what a rare job I had landed, or how almost impossible it should have been for me to have that position at a huge paper like the Dallas News. There were only three copyboys employed at the News during my employment there, and the other two were college students. I was a junior high school dropout.
My stint there started as a joke played on me by one of the busboys at the Mexican restaurant where I was toiling 60-hour weeks, also as a busboy. Possibly because he was offended by my apparent faith, he told me that I should go apply for a job at the Dallas Morning News because they were hiring workers on the dock.
Seeing myself working loading and unloading trucks at such an honored institution as a step up in my career, I fell for his ploy and showed up at the newspaper's employment office during one of my three hour breaks. The interviewer asked me what position I was interested in. Knowing that the news company hired many laborers on the dock, and thinking they were called copyboys, I replied, "I'd like to apply for a copyboy job." The interviewer stated, "Well, we hardly ever have an opening for a copyboy, but we just happen to have one at present."
I was immediately hired for what I would learn was an immensely desirable position (for a teen) because I didn't know the job description that was used for the laborers working at the docks. I had actually hoped to become one of the dockworkers, but it appears that God had something better for me.
I now think that my ignorance at the time was God's way of getting me prepared for future events in my life. As a teenage copyboy, I "rubbed elbows" with top news people, including a Pulitzer Prize winner. I became acutely aware of current events, because part of my job was to watch, classify, and distribute to the appropriate news desks copy from the teletype machines that constantly spewed out world, national and state news. I began getting some of the education (and possibly more) that I had failed to get before I left junior high school. I learned to type, something I would never have studied in school. That "talent" would, one year after leaving Dallas, help me land a unique assignment at the 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters in Korea. While assigned to the 1st Cavalry, I was selected by my superiors to represent my regiment when President Eisenhower visited Korea.
At The Dallas News, I worked in the offices of two different managing editors who would, a few years later, be mentioned in William Manchester's book, "Death Of A President," an account of President Kennedy's final days. Dealy Plaza, where President Kennedy was shot, was named for George Dealy, patriarch of the family that owned the News.
After my military obligation was over, I became a flight operations agent at Dallas Love Field.
That's where I would be on November 22, 1963, the day President Kennedy was assassinated, and President Johnson sworn in as President.
It's the only time I ever saw President Kennedy and Jackie in person. I remember commenting on the pretty pink suit she was wearing.
It was spattered with the President's blood when Air Force One departed Love Field for Andrews A.F.B.
Before I began my study of the Bible, I had no desire to read any kind of literature at all. I had no goals, nor any desire to learn. I was a an indifferent student in school, and it seemed that my only purpose in life was to play whatever hand fate would deal me each day. My Dad had done hard manual labor all his life, and that was all I thought life held in store for me. Had my Christian conversion not occurred when it did, I would have been a prime candidate for full participation in the hippie movement of the next few years, and especially vulnerable since I would move with my parents to the San Francisco Bay area when I was in my late teens.
After I made my decision for Christ in the park, I found myself voraciously devouring not only the contents of the Bible, but other books I had never thought interesting. Having paid little attention to academic pursuits up to that point, I found myself developing a desire to read self-help books, such as those by Dale Carnegie and Norman Vincent Peale (whom I would later meet in person at a business convention in Florida).
For the first time in my life, I felt that I was obtaining an education. I began planning for the future and applying to my life the positive lessons I had begun to learn.
Of the many hundreds of books I've read over the years, no other book has influenced my life in such a positive manner as the Bible. Even when I strayed from its teachings over time, God never let me completely lose sight of what I had learned from the Book in those earlier years. From it came, for me, the moral absolutes that some of the intellectual elite and those of a more "enlightened" persuasion deny exist, or from which some proclaim it is permissible to stray in the name of moral relativism.
The Bible became the foundation upon which a purpose for living was actualized in my life. Had I never read it, I am convinced that life would have offered less hope, less success, less love --- and a destiny beyond a gulf from which there is no return.
Had I attended public school for four more years, I'm sure that the caption under my senior picture would have read, "The boy least likely to succeed." After all, I didn't know of any other students who had been "awarded" straight Fs on their report card, as I had. I never understood why the teachers kept passing me to the next higher grade. I just might not have been seen as worth the effort they thought necessary to correct my failings.
Dropping out of school after the 8th grade, I went to work full-time to help my parents, as my older brothers and sisters, who had been helping them, had by then left home.
Realizing how serious I had become about the study of the Bible, my parents presented me with a new one of my own. (Before then, I had been reading from another Bible I had found in our house.) I could hardly wait each day to get home from work, delve into the next chapter, and learn more about the Friend who would become closer than a brother. I couldn't explain to others the fiery passion in my heart, or the story of Jesus, or His love, unless I really knew more about why my heart burned within me the way it did. I felt that God had a purpose for my life, as He does for each of us, and that, if this Book I was reading were true, its contents deserved at least the same concentrated study that students at college would devote to their majors.
Among the teenagers at the church I attended, I seemed to be somewhat of an outsider, possibly because my friends there were a bit uncomfortable having a teenage zealot among them. Also, before going to work for the Dallas Morning News, I had initially been working 60 hours per week at the restaurant to help generate income for my parents while my friends continued their high school studies, so maybe they thought I didn't have that much time to develop a closer relationship with them. Additionally, like the college student serious about his education, I was more concerned with giving what limited time I had after the day's work to study rather than being involved in serious teen revelry each night, even if it was "good, clean fun". While the other teens lived closer to the church, I had to ride the bus several miles to get to wherever it was they would meet. It seemed almost useless for them to include me in most of their activities.
I already knew what I wanted to do with my life, and had begun making preparations for it. I wanted to share with others the Good News that could change their lives for the better.
Although I was the "oddball" on the field, I was frequently asked to speak at the church's youth services. I had been given a guitar by a music teacher in Amarillo and, learning it (somewhat), began singing shortly after my conversion. I sometimes took it along and included a couple of Gospel songs before speaking, and was frequently called upon the platform and asked to contribute with a song or two during regular services.
Shortly after I began speaking and singing at the church I regularly attended, I began receiving invitations to speak and sing to youth groups at other churches, mostly Assemblies of God, then to general congregations of other denominations. I was also invited to speak at the regular devotional meetings at the Morning News.
For the fellowship I was missing with them, I would frequently invite teens from our church to come along when I spoke at other churches, not realizing that those invitations were a threat to my pastor. He cornered me at the church entrance one Sunday morning and berated me severely (in front of friends and strangers alike) because of these invitations. Actually getting red in the face, he became animated and screamed that I was trying to steal "his" kids away (although his church was still my church home). I don't remember that being my intention at all, but it was a hurtful accusation that might have been less searing if made in private.
All I had done, I had done because of my love for God. I had thought my pastor and I shared the same desire --- to lift up Christ. This was the first of several questionable actions by mature Christians that would eventually lead me to begin questioning my usefulness to God.
If I was still considered one of the "brethren," I would begin to feel that I must be the "least of these."
Maybe I was worth at least a cup of water:
Given in His Name.
Despite the disheartening public criticism I received from the pastor of the church I attended, at 16 years of age I had no problem sharing the basic Gospel message of salvation with those in the pews of different denominations. I considered all churches that taught and accepted Jesus Christ and His redemptive work (as defined in the Bible) Christian (as I do to this day).
More than halfway through my teens, I began giving greater consideration to a more formal preparation for a full-time ministry. I had begun to delve deeply into my study of the Bible. My desire to know biblical truths might well have been a serious threat to the Devil.
He evidently decided to pay me a visit.
It was the night of the vision.
Having closed my Bible after my studies one night in 1957, I walked to my room to go to bed. As I crossed the threshold, a chill, like cold fingers touching my skin, came over me. I knew that my Mom and Dad were the only other humans in the house, and that they had already gone to bed.
But the touch wasn't human.
There was something else in the house --- and it was in my room. It's presence wasn't anything like the benevolent presence I'd often felt when talking with the Lord --- it was its antithesis. Even without immediately seeing the entity, I knew that it was ugly and menacing, and at enmity with God --- and with me.
Until that night, I had never felt anything so malevolent; nor would I again until 12 years later. I could see no visible threat, but the awareness of an unseen presence being in the room remained as I climbed into bed.
As my head touched the sheet on my bed, the atmosphere began to emit a red glow. Suddenly the "presence" I was feeling revealed itself.
Slithering out of a red aura, just out of arms reach above my body, was a red dragon, much like the mythical depictions seen in Oriental artwork. It leered at me menacingly as it began slithering in a serpentine manner back and forth in front of my eyes.
My first inclination was to close my eyes, as I thought that, somehow, I was dreaming while still awake. If I closed, then opened my eyes again, I thought, this grotesque thing I hoped I was imagining would be gone.
Instead, my eyes were frozen open. I couldn't even blink, and was forced to continue looking wide-eyed at the monstrous presence gliding just above my body.
With my vision frozen on the dragon, I then thought to myself, "I'll put my hands over my eyes." I strained in vain to move my arms from my side to place my hands in a position to block the threatening figure before me, only to find that my arms were completely paralyzed, as was the rest of my body. My eyes remained wide open, involuntarily focused on the hellish thing that continued to move in front of them.
I then thought, "I'll yell out," thinking that if I did so my parents would come into the room and the demonic attack would cease. I tried to open my mouth, but no sound would come out. I had no voice. The dragon continued in its motions above me, seemingly taking pleasure in my helplessness.
Finally, my mind became the only part of me seemingly not under attack. It came to rest on The Name with which I had been making myself familiar. As I was being forced to watch the sadistic dance the dragon was performing over me, my mind called on The Name: "Jesus!" Then, once again, "Jesus!"
The third time my mind cried out His name ..."Jesus"... the dragon hurriedly departed, and the paralysis I had been forced to endure left with it.
I rolled out of bed and quickly went to my mother and father's room, where I related the experience to my mother. My Dad was asleep. I expected my mother to believe me when I told her about the vision, and I guess she did --- in a way. "You probably ate something that disagreed with you, and dreamed that." she said.
I knew that what I saw wasn't a dream. I knew it even more when I returned to my room. Reentering the room, I was immediately aware that the overpowering evil presence had returned. It began attacking me in the same manner as it had the first time. This time, though, I was peacefully assured of the outcome being in my favor, because I had just minutes earlier experienced the power of The Name.
Again the red glow illuminated the room as the dragon emerged. I now felt little, if any, fear, looking upon the dragon's second visitation as a confrontation I knew it wouldn't win. I found myself, instead, eagerly waiting to use The Name again, to see Its power at work.
Jesus promised believers power over demons. When the seventy disciples He sent out returned to Him, they were overjoyed by the fact that the demons they had encountered were subject to them through His Name. I was glad I had spent time in the Bible learning that His promise existed. The dragon left for good after its second encounter with The Name, and I dozed off into a peaceful sleep.
I knew it would be difficult to have anyone believe the experience, especially after my own mother's reaction, so I told very few people about it at the time. After my mother's comment, I didn't even bother to wake my dad. I'm not even sure I told him about it after it happened. After all, I couldn't explain it at the time, nor would I know anything else about the "test" I had just been given until 12 years later, when an unseen entity would "speak" and tell me the purpose of my meeting the dragon.
God allowed me to experience the vision twice, I now believe, to thwart any suggestion that the (first) vision could be explained away by intellectual musing.
Looking back, I now know that, had I not been seeking to learn more about the Lord, I probably would never have had the vision, because the Devil wouldn't have been that interested in harassing someone who was already on the broad road that leads to his domain. There would have been no need for me to take the "test" (as it would later be described by his demons) if I had already met the prerequisites for entry into his abode.
Conversely, had the "test" made me fearful of him, Satan might have succeeded in diverting my attention from the knowledge I was seeking. Had I not been learning of Jesus, I would not have been shown, first-hand, as I was that night, the power of His Name.
The dragon had retreated --- for awhile.
My mother and father moved to California in 1958. Being the youngest of six children, and not yet out on my own, I quit my job at the Dallas Morning News and moved with them. In 1957, about the time of the vision, I had completed my first expedition through the Bible.
Knowing I would soon be making the move west with my parents, I decided that I would put off the more comprehensive Bible studies I had been doing and begin only a random reading for each day. I rationalized that I could return to my more serious studies again after getting resettled in California. I had good intentions, but I would not read the Bible in its entirety again until an overwhelming dream I would have in my forties would show me how essential its contents were to maintaining my faith.
Interrupting my good intentions, as well, was a pretty, blonde 14 year-old girl I met while visiting another church in the Dallas area. I was immediately smitten. I continued going to church, but the closer relationship I had been enjoying with God began to suffer as my devotion became more focused on my new love. I began rationalizing that I didn't have to read the Bible every day in order to be a believer, anyway. My thoughts, instead, began to involve the pretty girl and how I would have to figure a way to return from California to be with her.
I had been entertaining the thought of attending a Bible college to prepare for the ministry, but it was still taking all my meager earnings, pooled with those of my mother and father, to keep our family afloat financially. Leaving the Dallas Morning News and moving to California without a job put a damper on furthering my education in a more formal manner; for awhile, at least. Besides, I wanted to go back to Texas, because I was in love with the pretty blonde. But I saw that getting back to Texas, under the circumstances, was going to be a problem.
Then I saw the solution.
The U.S. Selective Service System was still drafting men in their early twenties, and I felt it was only a matter of time before I would be getting my greetings from Uncle Sam. Since I would have to be prospecting for a new job in California anyway, I told my parents I wanted to join the military and get it behind me so I could be a civilian again by the time I was 21 years old. That way, I reasoned, I could then be free of my military obligation and could prepare for the rest of my life without Uncle Sam's interruption (especially the part where I would be returning to the pretty girl in Texas after I "did my time").
At 17 years of age, I still needed my parents' consent to join the military. I recall my dad telling my mother that he was against my volunteering, because, he said, "We may be signing his death warrant." I answered him, "Dad, we never know when wars will break out. It could be that I will have completed my active military duty before the next war comes."
I was on active duty in the military for three years. As it later turned out, those in my unit who entered the military just one week after I did were required to extend their military obligation an extra year as hostilities in Southeast Asia began to heat up. I was assigned to the inactive reserves for a few years following my active duty, but was never called up for Viet Nam.
I went through U.S. Army basic training and became a squad leader in advanced basic at Fort Ord, California, and was then shipped to Fort Benning, Georgia for my first assignment. My sergeant at Fort Benning was a Christian who was planning to become a preacher when he retired from the Army. He invited me to attend the Freewill Baptist church in Columbus that he and his wife belonged to. While at Fort Benning, I formed a Gospel trio with two other soldiers. When we were off-duty, we sang at various churches, gospel singing conventions and other gatherings in Georgia and Alabama.
Within a few months, I received orders for South Korea. The "police action" there had ceased a few years earlier, but there was still an uneasy armistice.
Prior to my leaving Georgia for Korea, a Christian soldier at a Pentecostal church I was visiting --- a soldier I had never met --- slipped a piece of paper into my hand and said, "I hear you are going to Korea. I have missionary friends there you may want to meet." He gave me their names, and I put them in my wallet, almost forgetting I had done so.
Upon arriving in South Korea, the NCO in charge had the new arrivals, about 100 of us, form a line. My name was the first I remember him calling to step forward. He advised me immediately that I was being sent north of Seoul to the First Cavalry Division Headquarters where I was being assigned as clerk for the commanding general's personal club. My job placed me among a handful of enlisted men in the "1st Cav" who were permitted to spend evenings with the generals watching after-dinner movies in the commanding general's private dining room. My immediate "boss" had been on General MacArthur's staff before the general retired.
The enlisted men with whom I worked had an extensive array of extracurricular activities that I opted not to participate in because of my Christian convictions. It soon became apparent to them that they had in their midst a "goody-two-shoes," and I quickly found myself an outcast among my brothers-in-arms. I was ridiculed by other soldiers when I revealed any signs of my personal faith, such as bowing my head to silently give thanks for my food. Still, I did it, and the isolation in which I soon found myself left me with the sentiment that there must not be any Christians in all of Korea, especially in the military.
I was aware of no other person there professing any faith whatsoever until I met a young Catholic 2nd lieutenant named Cattucci, but he was prevented from fraternizing with enlisted men such as myself.
There was a period of overwhelming loneliness for Christian fellowship until Choi approached me.
Choi was the commanding general's Korean "house boy". It was his responsibility to keep the commanding general's quarters and personal apparel clean and in order. One day shortly after my arrival, he took me aside and said, "I saw you bowing your head to pray --- You are a Christian, aren't you?" I responded, "Yes, I am." He then jumped back and said, enthusiastically, "I am, too! There others here I want you to meet!"
Instinctively, for some reason, I reached for my wallet and pulled out the forgotten slip of paper the stranger in Georgia had given me. Handing it to Choi, I asked him, "Are these the people?" He looked at the names on the paper, smiled at me broadly, nodded his head and excitedly answered, "Yes!"
There were probably dozens of missionaries in Korea at that time. Amazingly, the ones Choi wanted me to meet were the ones whose names were on that slip of paper.
That weekend Choi took me to Seoul where he introduced me to Mr. and Mrs. Dick Johnson (actual names), the Assembly of God missionaries whose names I had been carrying around. Visiting them on ensuing weekends became like being with my biological family, and I was soon participating in their work.
I discovered that there were, indeed, other Christians in the military in Korea, and began attending Christian retreats where we could meet. I began helping with orphans and orphanages, and singing and playing Gospel songs at various events. I accepted an invitation to speak at a Korean teachers' college in Seoul. Several of the students there responded positively when I invited them to accept Christ.
Other Korean Christians like Choi were present when the Americans gathered at the retreats. Men and women of various races and denominations there became acutely aware that we were all brothers and sisters in Christ. One of the young Korean men in our group, Yonggi Cho, would afterward become pastor of the largest Christian congregation in the world, in Seoul. I still have an informal picture of us together taken many years before I would hear of his great congregation. Ironically, my brother-in-law, an international minister, would later preach at that church.
Just before my arrival in Korea, a Christian sergeant I'll call Bob Smith had completed his tour of duty for the Army there and had been reassigned. The work that I was doing during my spare time in Korea was similar to what he had been doing before his departure. On many occasions, others who had met him spoke glowingly of him and his deep Christian faith. The Johnsons told me, "I wish you could have known him, Ben; You would have thought well of one another." I often found myself saddened that I couldn't have met him.
When I left Korea after thirteen months, my heart was open to the possibility that I might return there someday as a missionary. I didn't yet know what God had in mind for me, but I wanted to leave all options open, and any decision I made to be strictly according to His direction, not influenced by any other factors.
Upon returning to the United States, I was assigned to Fort Sam Houston, Texas in San Antonio, the exact spot I wanted to be for my pre-enlistment strategy to work. My plans to return to the girl in Dallas and attend Bible college were coming together.
Prior to my departure for Korea, en route from Georgia to Travis Air Force Base in California where I would depart for Asia, I had stopped in Dallas to give the girl with the key to my heart a ring for her finger. Not only was I happy that she was beautiful, I was happy that she seemed to possess all the qualities an aspiring young minister could ask for in a wife.
I had first noticed her in church praying with what seemed to be a great fervor. I had often wished I could pray in such a manner and, as the days passed, felt that she would be the perfect complement for the ministry to which I aspired. It didn't make matters any worse that I was in love with her.
We corresponded by mail for most of the three years that I served in the military, and I was delighted knowing that we seemed to share the same noble dreams. I had mentioned to her the possible scenarios that God might generate for us as we dedicated ourselves to His work and, for those three years, she professed that her thoughts and desires were "in one accord" with mine. While stationed in Texas, I tried to spend at least every second weekend with her and her family in Dallas, usually hitch-hiking there from San Antonio. We began making wedding plans.
Not sure my limited formal education would be good enough to gain admittance to a Bible college, I had applied to a Bible institute in Waxahachie, Texas and a Bible college in Santa Cruz, California, hoping I might be invited to attend one of them when my active military obligation had ended. I was surprised when I received positive letters from both schools at about the same time.
Seeing positive results of the plans about which we had corresponded with each other for so long beginning to emerge, I excitedly approached my future marriage partner with the news of my acceptance by both schools, asking her whether she thought we ought to stay in Texas or go to the California school.
I was caught off-guard when the depth of her commitment was abruptly revealed to me: "If you go to Bible school, you'll go by yourself!" She then revealed that she had no intention of being a missionary's wife, a position contrary to the one she had agreed to during the pre-marriage planning years.
Her mother, who had had known of our plans during our engagement, and had pretended to endorse them, suddenly butted into our conversation, and began to argue with me. "You don't need to be a missionary --- You can make more money as a pastor!" She didn't want her daughter leaving the immediate area, and the daughter apparently shared her mother's thoughts.
Making more money sharing the Good News of God's free grace had never crossed my mind.
Sick at heart, I broke off the engagement and returned to San Antonio. Before I left her for the last time, she had emerged from her room, dressed and made-up as if she planned to go to downtown Dallas and solicit some business on a street corner, smiled slyly, and addressed me: "How do you like the real me?"
I hadn't experienced a heartsickness like the one caused by those words since my pastor had "told me off" three years earlier. I had invested three years in what I could only interpret as a deception.
Like Joseph might have felt when his brothers betrayed him, the three years of deception only added to the feeling that God didn't really care that much about me. I don't remember it crossing my mind, at the time, that the Devil himself might have been instrumental in thwarting God's plan for my life, or that maybe God "meant for good" what was happening in spite of what I had seemingly taken upon myself to orchestrate.
Shortly after arriving back at Fort Sam, I received word that my grandfather was near death in the little town of Ben Wheeler, Texas. My Dad had arrived from California to be at his bedside, and I wanted to be there to give my support to him and my grandfather during this time.
I owned a car, but on a low-ranking soldier's salary, could only afford to drive it on every second trip to Dallas. Having just driven from the broken engagement there, I knew I would have to hitch-hike to Ben Wheeler, about the same distance as Dallas was from San Antonio.
I had hitch-hiked many hundreds of miles during my almost three years in the Army, including my trip from Columbus, Georgia to Dallas on the way to Korea. Always able to get rides within about 5 minutes of being on the highway shoulder, I wasn't worried about getting a ride to the little east Texas town.
Needless to say, this particular week was a difficult one for me --- losing two people I loved. I asked for and received a military pass for the trip to Ben Wheeler.
With heavy heart I walked out to the highway leading from San Antonio towards Austin. I was able to get a ride almost immediately. The driver took me the short distance to New Braunfels, Texas. It was still daylight, but I never stayed in one spot while hitch-hiking, so I began walking backwards with my thumb out. Soon the dusky lights of New Braunfels would disappear, but I wasn't concerned. I figured that, based on my previous experiences, a ride would be along within the next few minutes.
Unlike all the other times, though, it seemed that hundreds of cars passed me by as if I were invisible.
It appeared that hours had passed, and I had walked several miles from New Braunfels' town lights and on up the highway. I soon found myself walking in pitch-black surroundings. It seemed to be around midnight. Surely no one would stop to pick me up now, I thought; not until the morning light. I was still miles, I figured, from any town ahead as well. It was the second time I had felt that alone. The first time was when I was in Korea and Choi showed up with the good news of people who were to become a part of my spiritual family.
At what must have been my lowest emotional point that night; long, it seemed, after the last car had passed, my heart felt as if it couldn't get any heavier. I stopped walking and questioned God: "Lord, Where are You when I need You so much?"
I was feeling totally unloved by Him.
Almost as suddenly as God might have responded verbally to my question, headlights appeared on the hill I had walked over just minutes earlier. I watched, hardly remembering to stick out my thumb, as the car came to a stop beside me on the highway.
In the car were three soldiers.
In the driver's seat was a U.S. Army sergeant. He smiled and said to me, "We're just returning from a church meeting. We're from Fort Hood, but we went to a meeting near San Antonio tonight."
The sergeant started to introduce himself to me: "My name is Smith." As I reached to shake his hand, I seemed to know who he was, although I'd never seen him.
"You're Sergeant Bob Smith, aren't you?" I interjected. He acknowledged that, in fact, he was Sergeant Bob Smith, and didn't seem surprised that I knew him, even though we'd never met. We began discussing our mutual "family" in Korea, and I told him how I had been disappointed that I had missed meeting him there.
As we traveled down the road, we shared the faith we held in common. We parted ways near Belton, Texas, my spirit greatly lifted.
I had no further trouble getting rides the rest of the way to my grandfather's bedside before he passed away, and was grateful I could be at my Dad's side at that moment of time in his life.
Out of hundreds of millions of people in the United States (and billions of people in the world), the one individual I had wanted most to meet for over a year was the one who stopped for me that night, just when I was at one of the lowest points of my life. I never saw him again --- but I believe that we'll meet each other again some day --- when we both find ourselves in the presence of another mutual Friend --- a Friend named Jesus Christ.
The longer I live, the more I am convinced that God, knowing the road we will be traveling in the future, plans for us accordingly.
Had I met Bob Smith when I was in Korea, or had any one of the seeming hundreds of cars that passed me by that night picked me up, the honor due God for the miracle I experienced on the road between San Antonio and east Texas would have been diminished.
The meeting on that road, however, would not prevent my taking a journey on a future road of less hope --- into a world of unseen beings.
I moved back to Dallas when I left active military duty in San Antonio, and tried to recapture my spiritual connections of a few years earlier there. I had already bypassed the opportunities I'd had to enter either of the Bible schools where I had (on paper) been accepted.
For the sake of continuity, there should have been a chapter between this one and the last; one recording the people and events in my life after I left the Army at age 20, until I was 26. But I cannot write the exacting account of those years without hurting others I have since forgiven, and it would serve no purpose to do so by recalling events other than the few I will relate without mentioning names. For those reasons, the major details of my failures during that period of time will not be recorded here.
Let it be sufficient for me to say that I took my eyes off the Author and Finisher of my faith when I let the actions of others influence me and my relationship with God.
This chapter should make sincere Christians think of how their actions might contribute to the lack of credibility concerning Christianity as seen through the eyes of "babes" in the faith --- and the unsaved. Some Christians reading this may be offended because of the reasons I give that contributed to my own failures but, unless the truth is known, the credibility of my entire testimony should be questionable.
Before relating some of the actions I permitted to have an effect on me, I should explain that most of my church acquaintances were of the Pentecostal persuasion, as were most of the churches I attended during my youth. Many of those churches at the time stressed the "evidence" of receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, as they interpreted it, to be a necessary part of the salvation experience.
My experiences relating to those claiming this phenomenon are not intended to disparage the Pentecostal experience, as that is the church of my faith, but to caution some of those believers against misuse of spiritual claims. We need to be careful whenever we claim, casually, "God told me...," the expression so commonly used by some ministers and other Christians to emphasize deeply held feelings. Most of what God wants to tell us has already been told in His Word. John's warning in verses 18 and 19 of Revelation's final chapter should be taken seriously and applied to the entire Bible. A sincere study of God's Word would, I believe, eliminate the need to hear many extemporaneous pronouncements made by some who may otherwise be well-meaning people. The "God told me" syndrome must be "tried" by what He has already written. If there is a conflict, I know where my own loyalty must lie. I can almost see some of these people standing before God when He asks them, "When did I tell you that?"
I believe the Pentecostal experience is extant. But most preachers I knew in my youth stressed that the "evidence" of the Holy Spirit Baptism was speaking in other tongues. I heard many preachers say that, if a person believed he or she was a Christian, but didn't speak in tongues, that person wasn't saved.
Believing what they said, without understanding what the Bible said, would have a profound negative effect on my thought process, and my spiritual life, for years to come, because I was one who never produced the "evidence."
I believed what I was being taught and, thus, began to doubt my salvation. I never could understand why God didn't bless me with "the gift of tongues" while almost every Pentecostal Christian I knew had "it".
If the preachers were right, then I must be out of step with God. To this day I wonder how many who have lost faith consider themselves non-Christians because of having heard such teaching. Whom will God hold accountable for espousing some teachings that are biblically unchallenged "traditions of your fathers" (a term used by Jesus to criticize the religious leaders of His day who passed along non-scriptural information), than teachings that have a biblical basis?
Although today I believe that the "tongues" experience exists, and that the Bible encourages us to be filled with the Spirit, I can find no biblical authority for what these preachers expounded --- that a person couldn't possibly be filled with the Spirit unless he spoke in tongues.
Compared to these "mature" orators, I was still a babe in Christ, so I believed what most of them said, without question. After all, I looked upon them as my mentors and superiors when it came to biblical knowledge. The person I best knew to exemplify Christianity stated with certainty that the "tongues" experience was real for him. That was my Dad. He was one of the few Christians that I personally knew who displayed the character that should be expected of a person who claims that supernatural experience.
I believed him, yet, in spite of my "seeking" (the term used by those who promote the tongues experience) the Holy Spirit for several years, I never spoke in tongues.
Consequently, for some preachers in whom I had confidence, this was proof positive that I "didn't have the Holy Spirit." I wondered why God never "blessed" me with the "gift of tongues". As years passed, I felt more unworthy, but always honestly told others that I never had experienced that phenomenon. In every other way I tried to exemplify the Christian spirit, and was told by one person that I was "filled with more of the Holy Spirit" than anyone she'd ever seen. This was before she found out that I didn't have the "evidence". At that point, she encouraged me to "get" the Holy Spirit.
A highly regarded Bible teacher at our church suggested that I never received the overwhelming joy that I was told accompanied the baptism of the Holy Spirit because I "already had so much of it." She suggested that since I was so close to God, maybe I didn't require the evidence. I lived a better Christian life than others she knew, according to her, therefore my having such a grand status in God's eyes made it unnecessary for me to conform to the biblical "requirement" of tongues.
This observation didn't encourage me. It only raised questions in my mind as to whether the concrete teachings of God's Word could be bypassed for the sake of convenient explanations. I didn't think so, even though, in the case of my struggle with the "evidence," it would have certainly been a relief.
I was trying to be a "good" Christian, but I certainly didn't see myself righteous enough to obtain exemption from the "necessary" evidence of the Holy Spirit's indwelling.
The teacher's suggestion seemed to indicate that God's ability to give joy exceeding that which one had already experienced was limited. I didn't believe you could limit God.
Many of the churches I visited over the years would encourage "those needing the baptism" to come forward, and for those Christians who already had "it" to help the others "get it". On more than one occasion, I, as one of those who "needed it," would find myself face-to-face with well-intentioned Christians whose instructions were for me were to say, "Glory, glory, glory," or something similar, until the words became sort of a tongue-twister. I could find no biblical source for such "instructions," only that the Book of Acts said that the followers of Christ "were in one accord" when they received the "power" of the Holy Ghost.
That power that accompanied the initial "tongues of fire" was given so that those early followers of Christ would have the boldness needed to give their Christian testimony in an extremely hostile Jerusalem that had just crucified their Lord; people who would kill them just for mentioning the name of Jesus.
By contrast, I knew very few Christians who exhibited even enough boldness to let their neighbors know, after receiving the triple-glory experience, that they were believers. In fact, their "receiving it" seemed afterwards to make no difference at all in their demeanors.
One preacher discouraged me from becoming a minister because I didn't have the Holy Ghost (with the evidence). I was later told by a young lady that this same preacher molested her when she was a pre-teen (several years after he had made his assessment of my ministerial qualifications).
In spite of God's previous interventions in my life, I began to consider the unscriptural words of some preachers as God's factual Word.
Something was wrong with me; God apparently didn't love me enough to give me this gift while almost every other Pentecostal Christian I knew had "it".
Finally, one well-know evangelist visiting our church (most Pentecostal people would probably recognize his name); called for those who didn't "have the Holy Ghost" (with the evidence) to come forward. I was one of those who joined the procession. He put his hand on my head (it was in a sort of "production" line), told me to say something I can't recall, then pronounced me "filled with the Spirit". I don't recall, to this day, ever having spoken in tongues, nor have I ever pretended to. If God ever gives me that gift, it will not be counterfeit.
So, was I "filled," or was this man of God in error? If I was filled with the Holy Ghost at that moment, the encounter didn't produce the exceeding joy that I was always told would accompany the experience, nor did it produce the "tongues" that were to be the evidence of that experience. If the evangelist was in error, what else that emanated from that pulpit could I believe? Seeing that the answer had to do with the serious question of whether or not I was saved, I suffered no small amount of anxiety. What was I to believe? The answer wasn't forthcoming from any preacher I questioned.
I personally knew many people who claimed to "have the Holy Spirit" because they had "the evidence" of speaking in other tongues. Among many of these I saw little real evidence of a superior indwelling of God's Spirit. Among other Christians who didn't have the "evidence," I could see what the Bible calls the "fruits of the Spirit," while many of those who "evidently" had the "baptism" had empty fruit baskets. Many fruits they did exhibit didn't coincide with what Paul said were evident of the Holy Spirit's indwelling.
One of the most disturbing examples of professed "spirit-filled" Christianity that I witnessed was when I saw a feeble, elderly lady show up in our church in Dallas. She had been married to the deceased father of a "good" Christian woman who attended the same church (and who was present when the widow showed up on that Sunday morning). The little old lady was brought there by another person. Having never seen her there before, I asked her why she never attended church with her step-daughter (who lived just four houses away from her). She replied, "I don't know the reason --- she just never offered to bring me."
I had personally visited the elderly woman on more than one occasion, and she said that her step-daughter never came to visit her. I thought it strange, since the older woman lived so close to her step-daughter, that someone else had finally invited her to the church. I later asked the step-daughter why she never brought the widow to church with her.
The answer that came from the "spirit-filled" step-daughter took me by surprise: "God told me not to have anything to do with her!" I asked her why God would have told her such a thing. She began to hyperventilate and continued, "The old woman sold a shotgun I gave to my Daddy before he died --- she should have given it back to me!"
Because the older lady had not given the gun back to her (she probably needed the income from its sale), the step-daughter felt justified in treating the elderly woman the way she had, all at the "command" of God. When I told her that was something God wouldn't tell her to do, with an almost demonic demeanor she turned on me; "You need the Holy Spirit; then you'd know I was right." I thought that, if she knew the Word of God better, she'd know the Holy Spirit had nothing to do with her motivation. I responded, "If this was inspired by the Holy Spirit, then I don't want 'it'." I knew I was on safe ground, biblically, because her actions were entirely contrary to the work that God's Spirit does in our lives. I had no fear that I was committing the unpardonable sin, as some would define it. I was not being disrespectful of the Holy Ghost that I had read about in the Bible.
The woman's outburst about me not having the Holy Spirit was contradictory, as well, since she was the one who'd earlier told me (before I told her that I'd never spoken in "tongues") that I had more of the Holy Spirit than anyone she'd ever seen. Apparently my not agreeing with her caused her to have a change of heart about me.
(Some Christians may be spirit-filled, but I would later discover, in a very personal way, that there is more than one spirit wanting to be involved in our lives, and that those who fail to give serious heed to the reality of God's Word are those most likely to become their targets.)
Finally, there were the preachers who made statements to which I had no choice but take exception --- or else let them dishearten me altogether. I would hear sermons that stressed, "If you don't know the time and place you were saved, then you are not saved!" (I couldn't tell them the time, but I could tell them the place --- maybe I was just half-saved.)
The "Amens" from the congregation isolated me from those who could accept that claim with conviction.
The constant proclamation of preachers that, "If you don't feel it, you're not a Christian" was especially troubling, because of the many times that I depended solely on faith without "feeling" any particular emotion. I didn't always have the joyful feelings that I was told to believe was the prime evidence of my salvation.
Such non-biblical and irresponsible statements only serve to confuse many who believe them.
I was one of those.
I loved God, but began to feel confused about my relationship with Him. I began to believe that I was failing in my grand spiritual plan to be of any use to Him.
I began to become disenchanted.
Something else would soon be along to enchant me.
The warning that Jesus gave to Peter might have easily applied to me during that period of time:
"Satan hath desired to have you."
Peter was sure that his love for Jesus would transcend any test. But Jesus knew Peter better than the disciple knew himself. This was the disciple whose words would become so instrumental in laying the foundation upon which Christ's Church would be built, but not until his faith had been put to the test. It was a test Peter would fail before he was permitted to retake it.
Peter promised Jesus that he would even die for Him. I think Peter really believed his declaration at the time he made it. But the human weakness that God sees in all of us became evident when Jesus was on His way to the cross, and Peter cursed and said to those who thought they recognized him as being Jesus' friend, "I don't know the man!" Years after denying his Lord, the Apostle would keep his word. He was said to have been crucified in Rome, upside-down at his own request, considering himself unworthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.
I, too, denied Jesus. Not necessarily by pretending not to know Him, but by actions that spoke as loud as Peter's denials.
I wish I could say that I went on to be a candle used of God to help light some dark corner of the world, or that I had returned to Korea and had given the last forty-plus years of my life to sharing with others the story of God's loving grace, or that I had been an evangelist used to help stir up a nation whose people, in spite of God's bountiful providence, now perish because of their lack of knowledge about Him.
Unfortunately, I can't.
I never went to a Bible college or theological seminary.
I quit attending church on a regular basis.
By the time I left the Army, I had already given up the serious study of the Bible which had marked my auspicious beginning as a new Christian. The plans to go to Bible college, and to wherever that might have eventually led, had all but been abandoned by me. I would still attend a church periodically, if it was convenient for me at the time, but I was progressively losing sight of the Friend who had been closer to me than a brother.
In the place of following Him, I began to strive for worldly success, experiencing a measure of which most young men at the age of 24 would have been proud.
At the same time, my sense of failure to accomplish for God the things I had planned encouraged me to begin avoiding Him, much like a chronic debtor might avoid confrontation with the creditor who had so many times extended him undeserved periods of grace. Because I felt I couldn't pay my debt to the creditor I was now perceiving God to be, I began to give in to a greater feeling of unworthiness that would only deepen over the coming years.
So much emphasis had been placed on "feelings" during my early Christian years that I "felt" I didn't measure up to God's standards (I still can't, but Someone would later remind me that He'd already covered those lapses in my life).
During my early years as a Christian, I would experience disappointments because of spiritually damaging traits I saw in others who held themselves out to be followers of Christ. Some of those individuals seemed to dwell only on biblical truths that were beneficial to them, while conveniently discarding those that weren't; and ministers were making statements that I had believed to be the truth, but that had no biblical corroboration that I could find.
I saw in myself similar damaging traits as well, and I couldn't seem to overcome them. I wasn't able to obtain the perfection I expected to see in others, and I didn't want people to see me as an imperfection in the Body of Christ, especially since, according to what I had heard so many of the preachers say, I probably wasn't really part of The Body after all.
I wouldn't give the secular world an opportunity to judge, by my imperfections, the Christ I claimed to be following. My decision to quit the church seemed to be justified.
I told my disappointed mother, who had thought for years that I would be a minister like my oldest brother, that I would have to have an experience like the Apostle Paul had on the road to Damascus before I could again believe that God really cared about me as an individual.
I hadn't stopped to think that I'd already experienced a similar encounter with Him on another road:
On the night I had hitch-hiked out of San Antonio, about seven years earlier.
Since I had experienced disenchantment with some churches and people that I had known, I suppose it is ironic that I would move to the place with the state motto, "Land of Enchantment". While I would eventually become enchanted with the strangely beautiful mountain and desert landscape that surrounded me, little did I realize that, shortly thereafter, I would enter a more sinister "land of enchantment".
In June, 1967, I moved from Texas to New Mexico, getting resettled just as Israel's Six-day war started. Because of bad choices I had made in my relationships with some"religious" people, and my failure to live up to being the person I "felt" God expected me to be, I had lost, at age 26, almost every material possession I thought important. By the age of 24 I had purchased a brand-new house and furnished it with new furniture. I had bought four new cars, the last one a Volkswagen that I didn't realize (at the time) would be my transportation out of Texas. But the little car would be big enough to carry everything I would then own to my new "home".
The place I would settle in and call home was on Rio Grande Boulevard near Albuquerque's historic Old Town, behind the residence of its owner. I can best describe it as a chicken coop that had been fitted with gas, a water line and electricity. I paid $51 per month, including all utilities, to "crash" there. That might give one an indication of its comfort level. By the time I found employment, I had three dollars in my pocket. I was not only like the prodigal son, spiritually speaking, but seemed to be living in his material world.
I had initially hated the barren landscape on most of New Mexico's old Route 66 every time I traveled it on previous trips west. Each time I crossed the Texas state line west of Amarillo, I couldn't wait to get to the Arizona line and the beautiful scenery around Flagstaff. This time, though, I felt that New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment, would provide me with some kind of haven until I could decide where I really wanted to go. I knew no one there, and no one there knew me. That's just what I wanted.
I made one last, feeble attempt to find a church where I might salvage my relationship with God, but no longer felt that committed to do so. The lukewarm reception that I received as a stranger in an Assembly I visited in my new hometown provided the justification I was looking for to abandon my search for Christian fellowship. I began feeling more alienated than ever from my spiritual roots.
I couldn't condone hypocrisy, and that's what I would have found in myself had I continued telling others of God's forgiveness while refusing myself to practice it. I still harbored ill feelings towards others in Dallas. I began to rationalize that I couldn't go to church merely to warm a bench. It became easier for me not to go to any church at all. I knew that I would be more of a detriment to God's cause had I continued telling others of about Him while neglecting to practice the Christian precepts I had once cherished.
Bars and dancehalls would eventually become my new houses of devotion, not so much for the liquid "refreshment," but for the camaraderie I found. Few people would suspect my former devotion to the more noble things of God. I was becoming "enchanted" with my new lifestyle.
I let myself forget the source of my faith in God, and the years that followed found me letting go of His hand. I found myself cynically telling others (the truth in some cases) that I found more practical Christianity among the people I met in the bars and night clubs that I had begun frequenting than I found in many of the churches I had attended.
Because my earlier study of the Bible had instilled in me a basic respect for moral absolutes, I didn't sink into the farthest reaches of the moral debauchery barrel, but neither did I consistently do what my heart would try to convince me was the right thing. I was apprehensive about sinking to the bottom-of-the-barrel, but I was still in the barrel along with some other rotten apples. (At that time I rationalized that there were also many rotten apples in the church's barrel.)
One thing I wouldn't do was drugs. If preserving moral absolutes was no longer that important to me, preserving my mental faculties was.
Another thing I wouldn't do is take God's Name in vain, or disparage the Name of Jesus Christ, and I felt extremely uncomfortable around those who did. I found myself defending His Name on occasion, even ending a friendship over how serious I was about it. Regardless of whatever else I might become, I would never forget how much that Name had once meant to me.
As it would soon turn out, neither would the One with that Name let me forget its importance to me.
Nothing would eventually make me more aware of the grace of God than the way He refused to give up on me; the way He always seemed to be in the background, looking over my shoulder, still loving me all the years I neglected Him. He patiently awaited the return of the prodigal son who had begun squandering his spiritual inheritance.
Because I had relegated Him to that background position, it would certainly seem that he didn't have to continue looking after me. He chose to be there, because he had made a promise to me.
He promised, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." I had forsaken the closest friend I had ever known, but He would still refuse to leave my side.
He knew how much I would be needing Him.
When I arrived in New Mexico, a place I thought would be a stopover for only a short while before moving on, I had left behind almost everything I had once treasured except my guitar, and the Bible my parents had given me a few years earlier. I picked up the former often, but rarely touched the latter.
Just as I had left God in the background, I placed His Word there. Church acquaintances I had known for years never knew what happened to me. I just disappeared. Only those very close to me knew how to contact me. The only other people I had advised of my whereabouts were my creditors. Because of my relationship with another person, I was left with $27,000 in debt. I would pay that down to around $4,000 before my complete bankruptcy about three years later.
Soon after getting settled in my new job, getting a basic salary of $60 per week, plus a meager commission (I had been making as much as $700 per week before I left Dallas, a fairly nice sum at the time), I found myself surrounded by an array of new friends, mostly men and women in their twenties and a few teenagers, the majority of whom knew little about my background. Whenever I was invited to a party, the host or hostess would usually ask me to bring the Martin guitar that I had once used regularly at church. The Gospel songs had taken a back seat to my love for country music, and my new friends seemed to enjoy it when I entertained them. Some wanted me to start a country band.
In 1969, about a year and a half after leaving Dallas, I began receiving greater encouragement from my new friends to give serious consideration to a career in country music. Accompanied by a friend, I accepted an invitation to a talent audition in Amarillo conducted by Ted Mack, a well-known national TV personality at the time. (His Television show was sort of a forerunner of "American Idol".)
Watching the performers who went before me through an observation window, I was surprised at how abruptly the judges would stop almost every act after the first few bars of their audition, dismissing most hopefuls rather unceremoniously. I mentally prepared myself for the embarrassment of being interrupted mid-song when my turn came. When the panel of judges called me before them, I was surprised that they allowed me to perform the entire song I had chosen for my audition. They then asked me to sing another, then another, then a fourth, including two I had written.
After the fourth song, the judges deliberated my audition, then looked up at me. They had one more request: "Sing The Age of Aquarius."
Never having gotten involved in the counter-culture hippie movement which seemed to consider that song its "anthem" at the time, and knowing nothing but Gospel and country songs, I told them that I didn't know the words. They lowered their heads for one more discussion, then looked up at me once last time. "Okay, thanks!" they said, dismissing me in the unceremonious manner I had hoped to avoid.
The new age subject-matter of the song they had requested embodied the "spirit" of what would soon be happening to me, and to others around me. The late 60's was a time when a great number of people began becoming enamored with astrology and other occult practices. A serial-killer in California about that time, whose identity is still unknown, even gave himself the name "Zodiac".
Although I didn't win the contest, I felt pretty good about placing relatively high in the talent review. Before making the trip back to New Mexico, my friend and I were invited to the home of the influential lady who had been instrumental in arranging the trip to Texas for my audition. Having heard me sing at a private gathering a few weeks earlier, she had taken an interest in my music. Since she had been the one who had arranged the audition, and my best efforts had come to naught, she apparently thought I was disappointed because I had not won the contest.
She was a regular customer of a fortuneteller. Believing that I would be reassured by the fortuneteller of a promising career in music, she asked me, "Ben, have you ever been to a reader?"
I confessed my ignorance of the term. She clarified the meaning for me.
A few years earlier I most likely would have avoided the first appearance of evil, but, after months of neglecting biblical precepts, I no longer recognized the warning that God's Word gave regarding fortune-telling and the related practices of the occult. I rationalized, too, that since I wasn't all that reluctant to commit other sins during this time in my life, if this was a sin, one more wouldn't matter. Halfway curious regarding any medium's ability to make accurate predictions, and not wanting to offend my hostess, I responded, "I think it would be interesting."
She then told me that she had frequented about five different "readers" for over a twenty year period and was extremely impressed by their "spiritual insight". In fact, she said, the readings she had received had been about 80% accurate. Having confidence that her reader would have only positive predictions of a budding country music career for me, she took us to the home of her fortune-telling friend.
Cordially received at the home of the fortuneteller, the process began. I was told that someone with the initials "J.D." would find out about my talent and take me under his professional wing. She went on to elaborate that "J.D." was possibly Jimmy Dean, of "Big, Bad John" fame. My lady friend knew Jimmy Dean personally, having been his neighbor in Plainview, Texas, so I wasn't surprised that the reader brought his name up. To date, I've made him a lot of money because of my love for the great sausage made by the meat company he founded, but, to my knowledge, Jimmy Dean doesn't know me from, as we would say in Texas, "a hill of beans".
I didn't fall into in my friend's 80 percent success category when it came to accuracy in what I expected to be my only "mystic" venture.
The invitation to visit the medium, however, and my disregard for the biblical warning to avoid opening oneself up to the world of the occult, would set the stage for what would become another, more subtle invitation to a world where unseen "mediums" would become almost constant companions of mine during the months that followed.
The name of the friend who accompanied me to the audition in Texas was Gary, the former brother-in-law of my best friend. He had no place to stay for a few weeks after a recent move to New Mexico from Missouri, so I invited him to use a spare room in my apartment.
As we arrived back in Albuquerque that Sunday night, we decided to stop and have a cup of coffee at a favorite restaurant. There we were greeted by a friend, Mike, who inquired as to how we had spent our weekend.
Skipping any mention of the talent contest, I chuckled and reluctantly confessed how foolish I felt after visiting a fortuneteller in Texas. I expected Mike to laugh at my naivete'.
Instead, he responded by telling us that he had once gone to a medium who told him that he would die "in a barroom brawl in Kentucky in 1972."
I asked him, "Well, did you believe her?"
Mike answered, "I didn't really give it much thought until something else happened." I asked him what that "something else" was.
"Well," he said, "About a year ago some friends of mine were playing with a Ouija board when my name came up, and they told me what the Ouija said."
My curiosity was aroused. I asked him, "What did it say?"
"That I was going to die in 1972 --- in a barroom brawl."
Despite the fact that I was still considering myself gullible because of my fortune-telling encounter just a few hours earlier, my attention jumped to about 10 on the curiosity scale. I had heard of Ouija boards, but had no knowledge of their function --- or the devastation that could result in the lives those who "consulted" them.
I had always thought a Ouija board was just another game board, like Monopoly. After all, both boards were manufactured by a legitimate game company, so what more could they be?
My delusion of that night is still held fast by many in whose closet the "Ouija" now resides.
"Just how does the Ouija work?" I asked Mike.
Mike explained that the Ouija supposedly revealed the thoughts of a person's subconscious mind as they "played" on the board. "Well, that explains it," I remarked, "Your friends were subconsciously thinking of what the fortuneteller said would happen to you in 1972."
"That's the funny part," Mike replied, "I never told anyone what the fortuneteller said."
As I was soon to discover, the workings of the Ouija would turn out to be anything but funny.
I hadn't read the Bible for months, and had failed to spiritually replenish my heart and mind. Both were becoming empty, swept, and garnished, ready to invite in new "experiences".
Mike's story of the fortuneteller's prediction of his death, and its corroboration by the Ouija, so intrigued me that sleep escaped me most of that night. The search for a logical explanation of how the Ouija made the same prediction about him as the fortuneteller did found me on the phone with him early the following morning. I told him I had to see this "thing" work, so Mike went with Gary and me to a local store that sold costumes, Halloween supplies and "games". The store was appropriately named "Fool's Paradise".
I eagerly placed my money on the counter and walked out with the Ouija board that would become a "medium" for something that, as Jesus had warned Peter, would "desire to have" me.
Arriving back at my apartment, I unwrapped the board and its accompanying triangle-shaped piece of plastic and asked Mike to show me how they worked.
Although Ouija boards can be of various shapes and sizes, the one I purchased was basically a rectangular board about 1/4 inch thick. On the "face" of the board are numbers and the letters of the alphabet. In the upper left-hand corner is the word "Yes," and in the upper right-hand corner the word "No". At the bottom of the board the words "Good Night" are spelled out. (I would soon discover that these words made it easy for the entity speaking to quickly exit our presence whenever it didn't want to be in our company.)
All the prerequisites for a conversation with us were on the board.
Just looking at the intriguing features of the oddity aroused my curiosity to the point that I could hardly wait to see "it" in action. Since Mike had first told his story to me the previous day, my enthusiasm vacillated between actually using the board and trying to comprehend how Mike's story could be factual.
To use the board, two people usually sit facing each other with their finger-tips on a "planchette," the triangular piece of plastic with a round hole in its center through which the "players" can see the letters and numbers that spell out the Ouija's messages for them.
Mike and I began our first session by sitting on the floor, legs crossed, facing each other (as would be my "technique" during the next three months), the four corners of the board resting on our knees. We placed our fingers on the planchette. It started moving immediately, but provided nothing but gibberish for the first 5 minutes or so. It was almost as if the "entity" (that I was yet to become aware of) was scrambling to gather the information needed for his new "assignment" --- someone was trying to contact "him".
Because of Mike's story, and my irrational enthusiasm since the previous day, I had paid little attention to the third person in our group, Gary. He had quietly, if unenthusiastically, been nothing but an observer of my actions and this new thing that seemed to have my unbridled attention. He would have been much more comfortable in some other setting during this time, and must have thought that I was out of my mind. I wasn't, but something in the room would soon almost drive him out of his.
I had approached our first "experiment" on the Ouija with an open mind, but Gary was an outright skeptic, laughing and making fun of Mike and me during those first few minutes. He then began transferring his derogatory comments directly to what he called "the stupid Ouija".
Before three months would pass, Gary, the skeptic, would be the one among us with whom the "stupid" Ouija would deal most harshly.
Taking a cue from the subject-matter of Mike's experience with the fortuneteller and Ouija, I found myself asking the first question that the Ouija would answer for me. "When am I going to die?" The Ouija suddenly came to life with its first statement, "speaking" plainly, "November 16, 1969."
That date was approximately three months away.
Intrigued more than alarmed by the Ouija's answer, I continued the same line of questioning, asking, "How am I going to die?" "In an auto accident --- in Amarillo, Texas." it answered.
When I asked what would cause the accident, the Ouija responded, "You will be unfamiliar with a new car you will buy." It went on to tell me that the car would be a Mercedes-Benz. (Approximately three years later I would own a new Mercedes, but it would be long after the Ouija's prediction.)
With our fingers still on the planchette, I laughed, remarking, "I just won't be there on that date, then!"
"You will be there." came the forceful message from under my fingertips. (To this day I can't explain it, but we could "feel" it when the Ouija placed an emphasis on its messages to us.)
Ready to change the subject from myself, I then asked, "How, when and where will Mike die?" The answer came, "In a barroom fight in Kentucky in 1972."
I immediately theorized that the Ouija's answer to the question about me had come from my subconscious mind, because I was aware of a dream my mother told me she had in which I had died in an auto accident. The Mercedes had been my favorite car ever since I had ridden in one in one with an Army Colonel from San Antonio, and I had contacts in Amarillo.
And, of course, our minds were already conscious of the prediction made for Mike by the fortuneteller and the other Ouija. We both leaned back and laughed heartily. This was an interesting game! But how did it work?
What I don't think either of us realized at the time was that the terminology used by the other two mediums in the prediction about Mike was "brawl". "My" Ouija used the word "fight."
Gary, our skeptical spectator, had continued making sarcastic remarks about what he considered to be a ridiculous game. He accused us of "pushing" the planchette to make it say what we wanted it to say. He thought we were conspiring to trick him. Finally he decided to participate, although he wasn't interested in sitting at the board himself: "Ask it when I will die."
We continued with the pessimistic subject. With Mike and me still on the board, we asked the question for him: "When will Gary die?" The Ouija responded, "In 1974 --- Dead drunk."
I took the liberty to follow up with one word: "Why?"
Without hesitation, the Ouija quickly spelled out, "Because he hates his sister, and wants to kill her."
I looked at Gary, who was still standing several feet away, and told him what the Ouija had said. Gary's jaw dropped and his eyes widened. After he gathered his composure, he confessed that the statement was true; that he, in fact, was guilty of the Ouija's accusation. One reason he had moved to New Mexico, he said, was to remove himself from the overwhelming urge he had to harm his sister when he was in her presence. He blurted out, "No one on this earth knew that but me!"
At least no one on this earth that he could see.
Gary suddenly wanted to sit at the board. I invited him to take my place opposite Mike. Obviously feeling that a hoax was somehow still being played on him, he sat at the board and began cursing at it as if he were talking to a human. The Ouija aggressively cursed him back. He then laughed, considering his "verbal exchange" with the Ouija funny.
After the Ouija had cursed him, it refused to "speak" to Gary and Mike again, and all its movements stopped until Gary relinquished his seat and I resumed my previous position at the board with Mike.
Even though I'd never had the habit of using the words that Gary had been exchanging with the Ouija, it continued cursing him (under my fingertips) after he left the board. The words it was using actually offended me, even though my participation was making them possible.
Finally, because of Gary's presence in the room, the Ouija refused to move for either Mike or me. I asked it one more question that it answered for us: "When will you talk to us again?"
"At 7:30 tonight," it replied.
Try as we might, we couldn't get the Ouija to "speak" to us again until exactly 7:30 that night.
Extremely fascinated with the strangeness of this new-found "game," I decided to call the person I considered my most intellectual friend, Ron, and invite him to see my new-found curiosity. I wanted to know if he could offer a logical theory as to how the Ouija worked. I told him what we had been experiencing. He laughed and said that he couldn't believe what I was telling him; that he would have to see it for himself.
Ron and his wife Cherie came over that evening. Not wanting to appear as foolish as he probably perceived me to be, Ron declined my invitation to sit at the board. Like Gary, he appeared to think that I had called him over to play some kind of joke on him, yet he was more respectful than Gary had been. Preferring to watch the proceeding, he encouraged Cherie to take his place. With Ron looking on as Cherie joined me on the board, I began to expound the subconscious theory. Mike was also in the room with us.
Failing to remember the comments the Ouija had made regarding Gary's sister when he wasn't even near the board, we reasoned that, if this were really the work of the subconscious, the Ouija could only correctly answer the questions of those who were sitting at the board at any given time. To test this theory, I had Mike stand about ten feet away while I asked him a question, the answer to which only he would know.
I didn't know Mike's middle name, and Ron and Cherie had just met him for the first time.
(In order to relate what occurred next, a first, middle and last name is necessary. For that reason, I will give Mike the fictitious last name "Roberts" in order to protect his true identity.)
Cherie and I placed our fingertips on the planchette and I asked the Ouija, "What is Mike Roberts' middle name?"
"Tam," came the Ouija's quick reply.
Turning to Mike, I said, "Okay, Mike, I have an answer --- what is your middle name?" "Duane," he responded.
"Well," I said, leaning back, "That proves our subconscious theory! The Ouija doesn't give the right answer when the question involves someone not on the board." (I had temporarily forgotten how it had correctly answered Gary's question.)
"What name did it give you?" Mike asked.
"A word I've never heard anyone use for a name."
"What was it?" he asked.
"Tam," I answered.
Mike looked almost as shocked as Gary had just a short time earlier. I asked him what was wrong.
"Mike Tam Roberts works for a Chevrolet dealership in town." he answered. "I know him!"
(In the days to come, we would ask the Ouija questions for which it seemed to have no immediate answers. It would respond by saying, "Just a minute --- Let me check the records." Suddenly, the "personality" of the Ouija would disappear, and the planchette wouldn't move until (usually a couple of minutes later) it returned to the board with an answer.) Those at the board would just keep their fingers on the planchette until the Ouija took the initiative to move once again.
It seemed that the Ouija had hastily pulled up the "records" of the wrong Mike Roberts.
I believe now, though, that the power reaching out to us through our fingertips may have been slyly suggesting that there were numerous resources at our disposal --- "services" with which we were being prepared to become further mesmerized.
Ron shook his head, then cocked it and lowered one eyebrow, giving us a wry smile as if he were certain that Cherie was in on a plan that Mike and I had conceived to play a practical joke on him.
Suddenly the Ouija rapidly spelled out, "I'm mad!" I asked it why. It spelled out, "Because of Ron --- He doesn't believe!" Ron was still standing several feet away from the Ouija board.
The Ouija then told us that it was going away for 24 hours. "Leave me alone!" it spelled out in frenzied movements that made it difficult for us to read. It moved so fast that our fingertips almost came off the planchette while it vented its anger. It was as if it were shouting to emphasize its displeasure.
We tried to continue using the board, but it would no longer work for us. A couple of hours later, we returned to it. It still wouldn't come to life.
Cherie and Ron left. Ron was still smiling, shaking his head in disbelief as he walked out the door.
The following morning Gary and I tried to get the Ouija to talk to us, and it "spoke" with the rapid movements of the night before, "I'm still mad --- Go away!" We persisted, and it cursed at us.
That night, after the 24-hour period had passed, Gary and I took the board out of the closet. Immediately it told us, "Go away --- I'm mad!" I asked why. It answered with one word, "Ron!"
I then asked it, "Will you talk to us for just a short time?" The Ouija answered, "Okay, but just for three minutes." Without looking at my watch, I asked, "Until what time?" The Ouija answered, "Until 7:28." I then looked at my watch. It was 7:25.
Forgetting about the three-minute time-limit set by the Ouija, I began to ask it questions. In the middle of one, the Ouija interrupted to inform me, "Time is up!" It then hurriedly departed. I glanced down at my watch again.
It was 7:28.
The following night the Ouija was working for us again. For some bizarre reason, I felt drawn once more to the subject of death. Still trying to bridge the gap between the subconscious theory and the things happening that I couldn't seem to accredit to that theory, I decided to put the Ouija to another test. Maybe there had been some kind of "extrasensory" energy communicated between various people in the room because of their proximity to those using the board. Proving this theory would help explain how Gary and Mike's thoughts were "picked up" by those on the board. The newest experiment would be foolproof, because the subject of our next experiment wouldn't be in the room, or even aware of what we were doing.
I then addressed the Ouija: "What is the name of the next person who will die in New Mexico that I will hear about?"
"Montoya," came the one word reply.
I called Ron and told him about my latest experiment. I heard him laugh as he told me how farfetched my idea sounded. I found myself laughing with him and remarked, "If I hear the name Montoya on the radio tomorrow, I'm staying away from Amarillo on November 16th!"
I used the word "hear" when I entered into this experiment with the Ouija, because I had been getting most of my daily news from the radio instead of the newspaper.
As I traveled about the city the next morning I had my car radio on, listening for any news that might confirm whether the Ouija was smart enough to predict the death of someone who was a complete stranger to me. If my mind anticipated anything at all, it expected to hear of some person who would die a natural death or was possibly involved in an accident.
As I listened, I heard no reports of any death occurring, and began to think of how I was making a fool of myself by involving in my Ouija experiments friends who had once thought me perfectly sane.
Ready by noon to give up on the ridiculous experiment, I stopped by my apartment to get some lunch. The phone rang. I picked it up and heard Ron's voice.
"Ben, if you're pulling my leg, I'll kill you!" I thought I detected a bit of nervousness in his now halfhearted laughter. I asked him, "What's the matter?"
Ron continued, "Do you remember what you said to me about the name Montoya last night?" I said that I did, and had been listening to the radio all morning wondering if I would hear some gruesome news about someone by that name.
I hadn't heard about any deaths at all. I was feeling embarrassed that I had told Ron about the experiment, and wondered what he might be thinking about my irrational quest by now. I wondered why he even bothered to bring the subject up again.
Maybe his next words were going to be, "Well, I've been thinking about what you're doing, and I think you're really stupid!"
Instead, he directed me to another news source: "Look at the newspaper --- the name --- 'Montoya!'"
I immediately hung up the phone, then drove to a rack and picked up the morning newspaper. There I saw the headline that Ron had called to my attention:
TOT, LONNY MONTOYA, DROWNS IN BATHTUB
When Ron called and mentioned the name "Montoya" to me, it was the name of the next person I heard about who had died since the Ouija had given me the name "Montoya," even though it was in the newspaper that I would see in printed form what I had "heard" from Ron.
The Ouija had one-upped us.
I felt uneasy.
That the subject of my experiment was a child made me even more uneasy.
I almost felt responsible for the news that told of the child's death.
Suddenly the thing with which I had become involved was becoming less of a game with me, and I began to consider trying to distance myself from it. Little did I know then how powerful its grasp had already become on my mental faculties, or how difficult it would be for me to rid myself of its "presence" in my life. I continued consulting the Ouija, almost against my will.
It was almost as if my mind were becoming paralyzed. That was the only part of my existence that had remained functional the night of the red dragon's appearance about twelve years earlier, when my physical being was completely paralyzed in its presence. Had my mind not been unfettered that night, I might not have been able to call on the Name of Jesus --- my only hope then. Was this thing trying to storm the last bastion of my being so that it wouldn't pose the problem it had for the dragon?
It began to seem that the Ouija was no less a representative of an unseen world than the dragon that had confronted me on that night when I was 16 years old. Unlike the vision of the dragon, this time I couldn't see whatever it was that was in our presence, but the confusion it brought was nevertheless disturbing.
Apparently the "thing" began to realize that I was now sufficiently in its grasp for it to reveal its true identity.
The thought came to me to ask it about the vision I'd had twelve years earlier. It seemed that whatever the thing was that was now communicating with me through my fingertips might just know the answer to my question.
Except for the precious confirmation I had received that calling on the name of Jesus made a Christian untouchable to the Devil, just as the New Testament teaches, I could never fully understand exactly why I'd had the vision that appeared to me over a decade earlier.
I asked the Ouija, "Do you remember the dragon?"
"Yes." it answered.
"What is the significance of what I saw?" I inquired.
"It was a test." came the answer from what now seemed to be a definite personality on the board.
"A test by whom? By God?"
"No," the personality answered, "By us."
"And who is 'us'?" I asked.
The personality spoke without hesitation, obviously including himself among those for whom he spoke:
"The leaders of Hades."
The leaders. Plural. It would turn out that I wouldn't be communicating with just one demon, but several, or else one who would be playing several "roles".
A Legion, enough demons to cause a herd of pigs to commit suicide, had possessed the maniac out of whom Jesus had cast them. How many, almost 2,000 years later, were now communicating with me through this medium? (If ignorant animals prefer death over possession by demons, what might that say about the intelligence, and ultimate fate, of humans who should know better than to persist entertaining them against biblical admonitions?)
Though subsequently I discovered that the leaders would sometimes lie to me, and at other times be truthful, when the truth was for their benefit, I could think of no reason to doubt the Ouija's declaration revealing the source of the vision in which the power of Jesus' name had been confirmed for me.
But, because I was still engrossed in experimentation, I still wasn't sure of the personality to whom I was playing host. My uncertainty, it seems, was moving me ever closer to granting the demons whatever it was they desired for me. I cautiously began to refer to the Ouija as "the personality on the board."
Although I had started to realize that some of the answers I received from the Ouija might be untrue, I began entering into discussions with "the personality" regarding things I had earlier learned from reading the Bible. It seemed quite willing to participate in my biblical question and answer sessions, but only as long as it thought I might believe what it was telling me.
Ironically, it seemed to be most interested in convincing me that there is no such place as Hell, even though it had earlier mentioned "The leaders of Hades" as the instigators of my vision.
What I would gradually began perceiving to be an evil spirit told me that everyone went to Heaven, a philosophy also endorsed and promoted by many ignorant of the Bible's warnings. I responded to its claim, "Then Christians are being mislead? Why do so many people believe in Jesus Christ?"
I could feel the Ouija's rage at my mention of the name of Jesus. It answered me angrily, "Because they're stuped!" Immediately I noticed the mistake in spelling. Until that moment, I couldn't recall having seen the Ouija make a spelling mistake. It was almost as if God had intervened in the conversation, replacing the "i" in the word "stupid" with an "e" to show in whose realm the real stupidity existed. It appeared that He was the editor of the demon reporter's work, and would not let the evil spirit make derogatory statements regarding those who believed in His Son.
Another time I asked, "What do you think of Jesus?" The spirit replied to me, almost sweetly, it seemed: "He is a good man." (Notice that by using the word, "is," the demon acknowledged that Jesus is alive.) I continued the questioning. "Where is He at this moment?" The spirit replied, "He is here with us --- in a very beautiful place."
As the Devil's angel tried to convince me that it was in the presence of Christ, I saw it as a continuation of Satan's ploy to alleviate the fears of those who yearn to believe there is no Hell --- that everybody goes to Heaven. He succeeds quite often, as evidenced by those who eagerly accept the teachings of today's new age movement, which is in full agreement with the demon's assertion. (I truly believe that many of these new age advocates, devoid of their respect for God and His Word, got their belief directly from Satan himself. I could have been one of them had I not been held tight in the hand of Someone Who loved me beyond human comprehension.)
Unfortunately, most people who dabble in the occult have bought into the demons' claims that they are spirits in good standing with God. Consequently, these people suppose that they are dealing with "good" spirits or angels.
When I challenged the evil spirit's claim that Christ was with him, pointing out that the Bible contradicted him, the evil spirit suddenly cursed vehemently. It was no longer a "sweet" spirit.
It's as if God would not permit the demons to tell me lies about His only begotten Son without forcing them to reveal their true, revolting natures.
It is not likely that a spirit in the presence of Christ would be using the language with which this demon revealed his true character.
During the months I was enchanted with "my board," it identified itself to me in such a manner as to try and have me believe that it was the spirit of a Doctor Jaramillo who had died in Spain in 1926. I believe that the demon's attempt to give his presence a "user friendly" name was a further effort to entice me into believing that I was dealing with a "good" spirit --- one of a departed, kindly doctor. But this disembodied personality that many people might innocently think of as an angel of light, as Satan is described in the New Testament, would gradually remind me more and more of the dragon I had encountered as a young Christian.
From my earlier reading of the Bible, I recalled the term "familiar spirits," but never understood what it meant. Under strict Old Testament law, calling forth a familiar spirit was such a serious offense to God that the death penalty was compulsory. Under New Testament grace, execution is not God's penalty, for Christ can deliver those in the occult and give them a new life. The danger that exists in the occult today is ignorance of its reality, which can lead to spiritual death from which one may not recover before physical death occurs.
The biblical term "familiar spirits" remained confusing for me until the Ouija received my naive invitation to "hang out" with me and my friends. It was then that I began to see how evil spirits can identify themselves as deceased persons already known (familiar) to those humans they are attempting to entrap. This, I believe, is the way they attain legitimacy long enough for them to obtain firm control of vulnerable minds.
One often hears of someone referring to a beloved departed person as their "guardian angel." While I believe in God's angels protecting, at His command, those who are true believers in His Son, I am quite sure there are no "departed loved ones" that God appoints as our angelic guardians. Many departed loved ones are most likely not in the presence of God. They are in Satan's domain, beyond the gulf in a place from which they cannot return. And those whose spirits reside with Jesus in Paradise are in a place where God promises that there is nothing that can disturb their serenity. From this promise I believe we can deduce that departed Christians' spirits do not become guardian angels. The serenity of those loved ones in Paradise would certainly be disturbed if they were allowed to concern themselves with the myriad troubles of those left behind. The only conclusion I can come to is that those who believe in "departed" guardian angels mistakenly call on evil spirits to do their bidding.
I suspect that many of those who believe they personally know their "angel" are wistfully trying to hang onto the memory of a deceased loved one. The devil, who seeks to "devour" the life not under God's protection, exploits such longings by offering those left behind hope through false "contact" with the "familiar" presence of the person who is missed.
Those who entrust themselves to such "angels of light" are, I believe, providing access to evil spirits. Eagerness to believe that the spirit of a loved one can return as a guardian angel opens a person's life to the advent of unseen entities whose ultimate goal is to confound God's true purpose for their lives, ultimately destroying their souls.
I believe familiar spirits to be demons that can impersonate the voices and mannerisms and, in some cases, the bodily shapes ("ghosts") of people who have died. Or possibly even someone who is very much alive. The girl I was engaged to told me that "I" paid a visit to her room in Dallas late one night. I'm pretty sure it wasn't me --- I was in Korea at the time, and don't remember getting my commander's permission to leave that day.
Even if an evil spirit does not identify himself as a familiar figure already known to someone who seeks a specific personality from the spirit world, it doesn't take long for it to seem like an old, "familiar" friend (like Doctor Jaramillo originally was to me) who is knowledgeable about the most intricate details of its victim's life. This spirit will pretend to be a friend who has only the best interests of the seeker at heart.
Millions of people who are unaware of the saving power of Jesus Christ are defenseless to visitations from these evil entities, and are subject to becoming ensnared by these soul-stalkers. This is why I believe that practices such as voodoo, witchcraft, and scores of other skewed non-Christian customs, have such credibility with those who have only a trivial knowledge of Christ. Those who believe in reincarnation, I suspect (with good reason), are contacting evil spirits familiar with thousands of years of actual history. The Bible clearly teaches that we are granted only one life here on earth, and it's for that life that we will stand in judgment before its Author. Yet notice how many different people claim to have been Cleopatra in another life. Which one of them was actually her? If only one person really is the reincarnation of Cleopatra, then something is lying to the rest of those who also believe that they were her. The truth is, it is lying to all of them. Hypnosis is no proof of a prior life. The fact is, Satan is a mind-invader.
The experiences yet to come would lead me to believe that demons can also impersonate only the voices of people still very much alive. These familiar spirits are so accurate in their impersonations of others that it is easy for those not aware of the biblical warnings against them to believe they are the persons they claim to be.
My meetings with the Ouija gives me reason to believe that I have encountered these familiar spirits.
Many of my friends began to hear of my involvement with the spirit realm and before long my apartment became a gathering place for "Ouija parties." These parties were not approached as seances in the usual sense of the word, as they were, at first, lighthearted and cheerful. Our attitude toward what we were doing could only please the demons since it appeared that we were not really taking their presence as the threat it was. The more skeptics entering my place, the larger hell could widen its mouth. Our purpose was not to "contact the dead". We were just pursuing "weird experiments". But I have little doubt that we were dealing with the same spirits that deceive millions worldwide, and those who attend seances.
By now, in spite of my own reservations, I was so totally taken with this door to a world unseen that I enthusiastically began encouraging others to get involved. Perhaps, "subconsciously," I didn't want to be alone when I arrived at the destination to which I was seemingly being enticed.
Increasingly, I wanted to be extracted from the vortex of evil into which I was being drawn, but couldn't wrest myself from the beckoning call of this thing I couldn't see. Had I been able to see it, I might have come face-to-face, once again, with the dragon.
Yet it seemed as if each unnatural occurrence only served to draw me closer to the next act of the demons. They seemed to be choreographing a show just for me. It was like an addiction for me to "make contact" on the Ouija board just to see what uncanny event would follow the previous one. I was mesmerized by the show, subtly being enticed to stay for the final act.
It wasn't unusual for the Ouija to tell us "Good Night" after offering us a small morsel of information that would whet our appetite just enough for us to invite it into our presence the following day. It could choose not to be in our presence, it seemed, easier than we had the ability to choose whether or not to invite it.
Even after we "put it away" after a session, its real presence, the evil spirit, didn't always stay in the closet. After all, the board wasn't where it really lived, and it wouldn't just restrict itself to the apartment --- as we about to see.
It appeared that the Ouija would never fully forgive Gary's cursing it, as, periodically, it would refuse to work for him. Sometimes it wouldn't work for anyone using it if Gary was even in the room. I could be on the board with another user and the Ouija would suddenly quit working. We would glance up only to see that Gary had entered the room, or was peeking around the corner of a wall, watching us. At times it seemed as if he were trying to sneak up on it, but The Ouija knew when he was near, even when we were unaware of his presence. For someone who had originally been so skeptical, Gary was now becoming extremely disturbed by the Ouija's hostility towards him, even as he continued insisting that there was some gimmick to it; that it wasn't "real".
Although the Ouija was openly hostile towards him, Gary was captivated enough to ask others to make inquiries of the Ouija on his behalf. He was working nights, until 2 A.M., at a service station, and was going with a girl named Kathy.
I had a phone number that no more than a handful of people knew. One night Gary called and asked me what I was doing. I replied that the usual "Ouija party" was taking place. Confident that he was a safe distance from the Ouija's location, he decided to take advantage of the session. He requested that I ask it when he and Kathy would get married.
The Ouija was involved in talking with someone else at that moment, so I told him I would ask the question of it as soon as I could. I told him to call me back at midnight, and at that time I would tell him what the Ouija had said.
By 10 P.M. the party was over and I awaited Gary's midnight call.
It never came.
Assuming that Gary had been too busy to call me back at midnight as promised, I went to his workplace at 2 A.M. with the intention of going for coffee after he closed up the station.
Gary opened the passenger door of my car and got in. I looked at him and asked him why he hadn't called me back at midnight. His jaw dropped. He looked shocked.
"Ben, are you playing some kind of joke on me?"
I asked him what he meant.
Visibly shaken as he realized that he was becoming even more entangled in the net being cast by the evil spirits, he said, "Ben, I did call you back at midnight. Your voice answered the phone, and I said, 'Ben?' The voice answered, 'Yes?' I then asked, 'What did you find out?' The voice answered, 'You and Kathy will be married in 1970.' I asked, 'What date?' and the voice answered, 'I don't know that.'"
Satisfied that his question had been at least partially answered, Gary said he then changed the subject, asking, "Who's there with you now?" The voice replied, "No one." Gary said, "You mean everyone's gone home?" The voice responded, "No --- there never was anyone else here --- just me."
Gary knew that something wasn't right, because earlier I had told him that there was a party going on. Suspicious now, he asked the voice if he was talking to the Ben he knew --- Ben Elisha. "No," the voice replied, "This is Ben Estein." (That was Gary's pronunciation of the name the voice gave him, though I thought at the time that it might have been Epstein.)
Unsure as to whether I was playing with his mind, Gary hung up on the "familiar" personality that had imitated my voice --- the personality that was "familiar" with the subject matter that had been known only to Gary and me.
In the early morning darkness we tried to think of every possible angle to explain the incident. Could Gary have called the wrong number? If so, how could the party on the other end of the line have known what to say in response to Gary's question, "What did you find out?" And why was it apparently "my" voice on the other end of a wrong number?
Three days passed, and we had all but stopped trying to figure out the mystery of Gary's conversation with Ben Estein.
On the fourth day, Gary, feeling somewhat bolder than usual, was allowed by the Ouija to join me on the board. By then, other "personalities" had begun to manifest themselves on the board, and we asked the one that now appeared to identify itself. "Priscilla Estein," it replied, spelling the name so as to coincide with the pronunciation Gary had given me. "Ben's wife," the spirit added.
I looked over at Gary. His mind seemed to be elsewhere. He was just letting the planchette move under his fingertips without really paying attention to the board.
I asked him, "Did you get that?" He came to attention and said, "No --- what?" I said, "The name, Estein."
He quickly turned his attention to the planchette. Then "Priscilla" offered to get her "husband" for us. In a couple of seconds, Ben Estein identified himself as the newest personality on the board. I asked the spirit, "Are you the same Ben Estein that talked to Gary on the phone?" He answered, "Yes."
Still thinking that Gary had somehow called a wrong number, I inquired further, "What number did he call to get you?" The spirit answered, "He called your number." I then asked, "If he called my number, then why didn't I get the call?"
"Because," the spirit answered, "I intercepted it."
I believe that, in a similar way, evil spirits can intercept the "call" of those seeking to contact non-biblical guardian angels, emulating the personality of the specific spirit they seek.
It would be the first, but not the last time a "familiar" spirit would use an electronic medium to talk with one of us. The next time one would also talk with Gary's boss, a person who had absolutely no knowledge of the supernatural goings-on at my apartment.
The Ouija's malice towards Gary was increasing, even though he was now attempting to do all he could to distance himself from it, short of moving out of the apartment. The greatest skeptic among us had become the person upon whom the evil we had unleashed was taking its greatest toll.
It was the night that I saw the most terrified expression I had ever seen on a human face that I decided to "divest" myself of the Ouija board.
The face was Gary's.
Gary usually arrived at the apartment at approximately 2:15 A.M. every morning after getting off his job. He normally tried to be very quiet as he entered the apartment so that he wouldn't disturb my sleep, turning on just one light to get settled. Then he would go to bed in the room adjacent to mine. I slept in the back bedroom, and usually didn't wake up when he came in.
On this particular early morning, I was suddenly jolted awake by the slamming of the front door.
It was Gary.
He slammed the door hard, as if that would keep the thing that he thought was following him from getting into the apartment. My bedroom door was open, and it seemed that Gary was turning on every light in the apartment to make sure that the thing he had just seen hadn't somehow gotten past the front door.
But the "thing" was already in the apartment.
It had been "living" in my closet for weeks.
Without warning, Gary bolted through the doorway into my bedroom and fell on his knees at the side of my bed. It was then that I saw the alarming fear that appeared in his eyes and on his face.
His voice trembled as he pleaded with me, "Ben, please get rid of that thing in the closet --- It's a devil!"
It was unusual for Gary to admit a belief in devils. He usually didn't want to hear anyone talk about anything mentioned in the Bible.
"Hold on, Buddy! Calm down a minute!" I answered. "What's come over you?"
Extremely agitated, he told me, "Ben, I know how you are going to die!"
"The Ouija will cause you to see things, and you'll lose control of you car!"
Gary was delirious because of what he had just seen.
It wasn't until I could get him relatively calm that he could tell me what had happened to him just a few minutes earlier.
After getting off work, he said, he had started towards the apartment in his car. When he arrived at the last stop light before turning into the apartment, it was red. He tapped his fingers on his steering wheel as he listened to music on his car radio, waiting for the light at the intersection to turn green.
Then the light changed color --- and form.
Instead of the usual round, green light, the word "O-U-I-J-A" suddenly appeared in front of him; in a green, pulsating form, stretching out like a huge banner.
After a few moments of being captivated by the thing that was throbbing in front of his eyes, Gary apparently entered a spellbound state. He was awakened to full consciousness again only when another car at some point pulled up behind him and its driver began to honk his horn.
Even though the driver behind him probably saw nothing but the man in the car ahead of him appearing to be inattentive, I can still remember the look on Gary's contorted face that night.
I have no doubt that his mind saw what he said he saw.
There is a lesson to be learned here for those who scoff at supernatural events recorded in the Bible. If servile demons can produce in thin air writing such as Gary saw, is it not possible that a Supreme Being could produce the handwriting on the wall recorded in the book of Daniel?
Reacting to Gary's plea for me to get rid of the "devil," I immediately got up and dressed. I took the Ouija board out of the closet and to my car, determined to rid myself of the thing once and for all. Gary and I then drove to our favorite restaurant, at an all-night truck stop..
I can't began to describe the "hold" that the Ouija had on me. I thought ridding myself of this evil would be as simple as giving "it" a new owner. But I knew I couldn't give it to anyone without first telling them what had been happening to me.
Anxious to get the evil spirits out of my life, I guess I wasn't that concerned, at the time, about releasing the evil into the lives of others, but that was my course of action. I had heard two (unconfirmed, but not now unbelievable) stories about Ouija "owners" trying to rid themselves of their boards. One girl had tried to burn her Ouija board, but that particular board wouldn't burn. (The entity most likely knew more about fire than she did.) Another had become so mentally unbalanced that he had tried to "drown" his board in a swimming pool, only to be told, "You can't kill me."
I didn't want the board returned to me. It seemed that my way out would be to make the Ouija someone else's "possession". (But a person becoming a "possession" of the Ouija's source of power is probably closer to reality.)
After telling a waitress named Mary about my experiences, and seeing that she still had no problem accepting my "gift" to her, I felt that I had freed my conscience from whatever consequences she might incur. My sense of right and wrong was soothed by seeing that Mary appeared eager to become the Ouija's new owner.
"Good riddance," I thought, as I retrieved it from my car and placed it in Mary's hands.
I had finally liberated myself from the Ouija (so I thought).
But almost immediately, even without the Ouija in my possession, I became obsessed with trying to figure out what had been happening to me. I began to seek out others who "owned" Ouijas. I wanted to see if the things that had been happening to me had also happened to them.
Shortly after giving the board to Mary, I was having coffee with Mr. and Mrs. Jones, a professional middle-aged couple who owned a local bookkeeping business. Expecting to be laughed at when I brought up the subject, I asked them, "Do you know what a Ouija board is?"
They chuckled. "Yes," said Mr. Jones, "We've had the same one for 20 years!" They were quite enthusiastic as they began telling me about their "spirit guide," who claimed to be Mr. Jones' departed mother. "She has never lied to us," they claimed, saying that "her" accuracy had been 100 per cent. (If you don't "try" the spirits, as the Bible admonishes, and accept them without question, they may have no reason to lie to you. You're exactly where they want you.)
Finding some people outside my Ouija party group that might believe my bizarre story, I began to tell them about some of the things that had been happening to me and those around me, and about the Ouija's prediction of my death in Texas the coming November 16th.
Mr. and Mrs. Jones believed in the Ouija's predictions so strongly that they suddenly became extremely uneasy. "Ben, if we have to, we'll have you arrested on a trumped-up charge and put in jail to keep you from being in Amarillo on that date!" It was unsettling to realize that they were serious.
Since they believed their spirit guide to be a 100% truthful, they told me that they would consult "her" to see what "she" had to say about my envisioned approaching death, now approximately two months away.
Mr. Jones phoned me later, telling me that he had consulted his "mother" about my Ouija's death prediction. "My Ouija says your Ouija lied to you." he stated, saying that his Ouija further remarked, "It's a bunch of hogwash!" (I never asked him, but "hogwash" was probably a term once used by his mother, now used by his Ouija to convince Mr. Jones that the spirit speaking to him with that "familiar" saying was actually her.)
It is not my intention nor my desire to offend anyone at this point, but in order to relate an important part of this account which further debunks the idea of the Ouija being our subconscious, I must relate it as it happened. (If anyone is offended, please remember that these are the words of an evil spirit, not mine.)
"Ben," Mr. Jones queried, "Is your Ouija a Mexican?" "He claims to be Spanish," I responded.
"I thought so," he said, obviously associating the two races. "My Ouija told me, 'That dumb Mexican is supposed to guide Ben --- not push him.'"
Then Mr. Jones' Ouija told him, "Tell Ben I'll see to it that he gets a new Ouija."
When Mr. Jones told me that, I thought it meant that I would be getting a different board than the one I had given to Mary.
Ron, my intellectual friend, had become so intrigued at what had been happening to me that he and Cherie had purchased their own Ouija board. After I had talked with Mr. Jones, I called Ron and asked him to make an inquiry of his Ouija.
"Ask your Ouija what happened to mine." I said. I hadn't yet told him that I had given mine to Mary. I thought his would say, "He gave it away."
Instead, Ron's Ouija told him that my Ouija was "dead".
My curiosity about what's Ron's Ouija said was overpowering. At the urging of the friends I had earlier involved, I approached Mary and asked her if I could borrow "her" Ouija. She told me that I could have it back, because she couldn't get it to work for her. I asked her if it had worked at all.
"Yes," she said, "but it only spells one word --- just one word, over and over." I asked her what the word was, and she replied, "All it will spell for me is 'goat'." I thought that strange until someone would make a spine-chilling observation a few days later, after the Ouija was back in my hands, or, more fittingly, after I was back in its realm.
Once "my" Ouija and I were together again, I sought to talk to "Doctor Jaramillo". He never appeared again. Instead, new, unidentified personalities appeared in his place.
It appeared that Mr. Jones' "mother" was still 100% accurate --- I had a "new" Ouija.
During the time my friends and I reacquainted ourselves with the Ouija, it would often make references to the Zodiac, associating its source of power with astrology, E.S.P. and other mystical practices, and subtly suggested that I learn about it. I felt the Bible admonished against heeding astrology, so chose to ignore the suggestion as my friends and I continued to seek advice from our own mystical source, the Ouija.
When I told one girl who was familiar with astrology that "my" Ouija had repeatedly spelled only one word for Mary, she asked me, "What was the word?" Still mystified at the meaning of the strange one word message it insisted on giving Mary, I replied, "goat".
She then asked me my date of birth. I gave her a date in January. A chill came over me when she reminded me, "You're a Capricorn --- the Goat of the Zodiac."
It appeared that the Ouija was telling Mary it still belonged to me.
I was the "goat".
The demons had been asking for me.
Almost immediately I was enthusiastically sitting, once again, with my fingertips on my Ouija's planchette. Unknown to me, my new "guide" on the board was about to accelerate the pace of the events that would encompass almost every waking moment of my life.
In relating here the events that followed my retrieval of the board, I feel it necessary to point out that it seems the agendas promoted by devils don't have to be based in reality. Evil spirits can generate and exploit various situations for their own purposes, exaggerating them until deceptive situations seem real, at the time, to those involved. The immediate goal appears to be to keep the gullible interested in returning to the board. If one person in a group has an overactive mind, or a personality quirk, such a characteristic may be utilized by the spirits until others near that person believe that the subject matter, at the time, depicts an actual situation.
Not until I was able to stop and look back on the events that follow did I realize just how ridiculous this particular scenario was, but it was real to those of us who were hurriedly reacting to the information the Ouija was spewing out. In reviewing it afterwards, the drama that played out now seems like it came from bad fiction writing, but the account I relate here regarding the Ouija's control of the events, and our reactions to them, is factual.
Jesus dealt with a "Legion" of demons. I was about to meet a "mob" of them.
A new girl named Gayle joined our revived Ouija parties, and we began dating. When she sat at the board for the first time, the Ouija told us that her brother, Roy, would be assassinated by the "sudosyndicate". She then told me that she did, in fact, have a brother named Roy, and that he worked for a government enforcement agency. I asked her if she understood what the message meant. She said she didn't.
I then asked the spirit on the board if "sudo" meant "pseudo". It said, "Yes." I asked Gayle if she knew the meaning of the word "pseudo". She said she didn't. We then went to the dictionary and verified the meaning to be the equivalent of "counterfeit". She then understood. Her brother, she said, had told her that he was involved in trying to break up a counterfeiting ring. (I believe the misspelling by the Ouija was intentional --- a way for it to reinforce the intrigue we were about to experience.)
After it told us about Gayle's brother being in harm's way, I asked the Ouija where the assassination would take place. "Michigan City, Indiana." came the reply.
No one in the room could recall ever having heard of Michigan City, Indiana, so I told Gayle to call the information operator and find out if there was such a place. The operator verified that there was.
While Gayle was on the phone, her girlfriend Dottie and I were on the board. I proceeded to ask the spirit, "Where in Michigan City will this happen?" The Ouija replied, "At a nightclub called 'Sir John'." I turned to Gayle, who still had the operator on the phone, and told her to ask if there was a nightclub in Michigan City called Sir John. The operator said there was.
I told her to ask the operator for the number of Sir John Nightclub. The operator gave her a number.
After Gayle finished talking with the operator, I decided to take the inquiry one step further, asking the Ouija, "Who will kill Gayle's brother?" The spirit responded, "James Mason."
We all sat there and tried to process the information that had rapidly been given to us by the Ouija, then by the operator. Finally I turned to Gayle, who had by then become visibly disturbed, and told her, "This just has to be some kind of coincidence; let's put the subject to rest --- Call that number and ask for James Mason."
Gayle made the call. A voice at the other end of the line answered, "Sir John." I told Gayle to have James Mason paged. A few moments later, a man's voice came through the phone receiver, identifying itself: "This is James Mason." Gayle screamed and dropped the phone.
Here let me comment that I believe the foregoing experience might have occurred under any one of the following scenarios:
--- The situation (predicted assassination) and actual cast of characters could have been real, or
--- Familiar spirits, having knowledge of actual places (such as Sir John Nightclub) and actual people (such as James Mason), may have used their knowledge of actual places and people to exploit our appetite for knowing the unknown. James Mason may have been a dupe (of the evil spirit) who to this day wonders who dropped the phone at our end of the line that night.
--- A real possibility is that the operator, the person who answered the phone for Sir John, and James Mason were all evil spirits, and that no human beings were involved.
Because of subsequent happenings, I think the latter scenario was the most likely.
The only thing we knew for sure is that we located Michigan City, Indiana on a map. We didn't verify whether the Indiana State Prison (which we had been told was just three miles away from Sir John) or a Sir John Nightclub was there. Years later, I can find no evidence that such a club ever existed in the city.
Nevertheless, the Ouija had its hooks in our jaws, and we were being drawn deeper into Satan's domain.
Feeling that we'd had all the excitement we could take for awhile, and more than enough to think about, the two girls and I put away the board for the night (or so we thought) and went to the truck stop that was the hangout for our group.
It was Gary's night off. He had told me that he planned to spend most of that evening with his girlfriend Kathy, so I was surprised to see him walk into the restaurant alone. Slumping down at my table, he didn't say a word for several minutes. He seemed to be disturbed about something. Thinking he'd had a spat with Kathy, I didn't interfere with his thoughts.
Finally, he spoke. Looking up at me in a rather subdued manner, he asked, "Ben, have you ever heard of a place called Michigan City, Indiana? The question gave me goose-bumps. I'd never heard of such a place before an hour earlier. (Gary had not been with me and the girls when the Ouija told us of the assassination threat.)
I told him, yes, I had heard of Michigan City, then asked him why he wanted to know.
He then proceeded to tell me a weird story of how he had encountered a man in a red Buick shortly before coming into the restaurant (at about the same time the girls and I were on the Ouija board). The man asked Gary if he could borrow a dollar from him.
"I thought that was strange, because the man had a nice car and was well-dressed," Gary said, continuing, "He told me he would pay me back, because he came from a well-to-do family in Michigan City, Indiana."
Gary said he had walked into a convenience store near Kathy's house when the man picked him out of a small crowd of people and motioned for him to come to his car. "The guy bugged me," Gary said. "I told him I had no money. He then asked me to go get some and meet him back there in 30 minutes. Of course, I didn't. But after leaving there, my curiosity got the best of me, so I returned to the store. As soon as he saw me, he left in the red Buick."
Thinking about the information we had received at the apartment about an hour earlier, I tried to think of why an affluent-looking man would exhibit such strange behavior over a dollar. And why was Gary's experience seemingly converging with ours? The entire situation began to seem surreal.
There were many things occurring that made it appear the subject-matter we were dealing with was absurd, but reality apparently didn't have to be a necessary factor for the Devil to continue with his agenda. The unfolding drama just whetted our appetites to get more deeply involved with the god of the nether world.
I don't know if Gary actually experienced what he said he did, but I'm sure he thought he did. Whether what he experienced was actual, or his mind was seized by an entity beyond his control, I can't say, but his uncanny story only served to increase the control of the demonic powers to which we were submitting ourselves.
We all returned to the apartment to consult the Ouija again.
"Who was that man with whom Gary spoke tonight?" I asked the spirit. The reply came, "James Mason's brother, Tom Mason."
I asked the spirit how the man had been able to pick Gary out of the crowd as someone involved with our group. The Ouija replied, "He saw him earlier, at the restaurant with Gayle."
The spirit seemed to realize that we were becoming perplexed with the fast pace of the mysterious goings-on that we were encountering. Apparently to keep the strained plot from unraveling, it began to rapidly "explain" what we were experiencing.
I often had a third person writing on paper any extensive information we were receiving via the Ouija, but the spirit's answers on this occasion began coming so quickly that we couldn't keep up by writing them down as fast as the planchette was moving. It wasn't just answering questions now; it was moving almost as fast as a person can scan a book, as if it was excited; possibly by its accomplishments thus far, or maybe its fear of losing control of us. The spirit had definitely taken the initiative in advancing the conversation. It explained the overview of the drama unfolding as follows:
Supposedly, James Mason, still in Indiana, wanted to ensure that, if his plans regarding Gayle's brother went awry, he would be able to keep the upper hand by kidnapping the agent's sister, whom he knew to be living in Albuquerque. James' brother, Tom, was dispatched to New Mexico several days earlier to locate her in the event it was necessary to put the "insurance policy" into effect. Tom Mason had, over this period of days, not only located Gayle, but took note of who her friends were as well as their habits and hangouts. This, according to the spirits, is why Gary had the experience that he had reported to me.
The Ouija further explained, "The call Gayle placed to Michigan City tonight was traced by James Mason. Then he placed a call to his brother alerting him that Gayle was up to something." (How would James Mason know, if he "traced" the call to my place, that it was Gayle calling? When she dropped the phone earlier, she had said nothing.) "Tom Mason," the Ouija claimed, "was sent here to keep a close watch on her for several days."
After the Ouija's explanation of how the "mob's" plans were unfolding, I began giving Gayle's safety serious consideration.
Shortly thereafter, the Ouija told me that Gayle was at the truck stop, and that the red Buick was in just outside the window. I asked the Ouija for a license plate number, then called the restaurant and had Gayle paged. She was there, as the Ouija had told me she would be. After giving her the information I had received, including the license plate number, she said a red Buick was there, but was leaving. She told someone to get the license plate number.
She said that it was the same number I had given her.
Later, the Ouija addressed me, "Ben, Look for a blue Camaro tomorrow. You may be able to identify a kidnapper if you memorize the driver's face." (I supposed that this advice was related to the "mob's" threat to kidnap Gayle.)
I responded off-the-cuff, just as if I were sitting across the table from an old buddy, "Are you kidding? This town is full of blue Camaros!" (My friend Ron even drove one.) I told the Ouija, "Give me a license number --- I'll see dozens of Camaros tomorrow."
"No," responded the spirit, "You will only see one."
The next day I drove around a big part of the day, making an extraordinary effort to spot Camaros. This was a time when Camaros were one of the most popular cars in America, and the streets were usually covered with them.
Not only did I see only one blue Camaro --- I saw only one Camaro the entire day.
I had a passenger that day. He also saw only one Camaro. The blue one.
No kidnapping would take place, but the incident kept our attention riveted to the fact that we were dealing, for certain, with a supernatural power.
Gayle and her girlfriend Dottie lived together. The following night the three of us took the Ouija board over to their house. As we proceeded to ask the Ouija questions, a loud knock came at their front door.
It was Gary, extremely bothered. "Ben," he said, "There's a guy calling for you at the apartment every fifteen minutes." I asked Gary who it was. He replied, "I don't know. Whenever I ask him to leave a number, he just hangs up; then he calls back and asks for you again. His voice is so unreal it sends chills through me!" (If the caller was a demon, maybe his actual purpose was to scare Gary by using a voice similar to the one used in The Exorcist movie.)
Gary refused to go back to the apartment alone.
Still on the board at the girls' house, I asked it who was calling me at the apartment. "James Mason," came the reply. (Gayle never commented on the "unreal" voice of James Mason when she heard his voice. Was it the same "personality"?)
Forgetting that the Ouija a couple of days earlier had told us that James Mason had gotten my phone number by tracing the call that Gayle made to Sir John in Michigan City, I asked the Ouija, "How did he get my number?" "E.S.P.," the spirit replied, "He has it."
I then asked, "What is the purpose of his calling?" The Ouija answered, "He's waiting for you to get home so Gayle will be alone."
After Gayle convinced me that she would be all right, I returned to the apartment with Gary. There were no more calls to the apartment that night, nor did any physical harm come to Gayle.
The next day was a work day for Gayle. At 11:45 A.M. that morning, the phone rang at my apartment. In spite of my several "hellos," all I could hear was heavy, raspy breathing. The caller then hung up.
I asked the Ouija who had called, and it replied, "James Mason." It then told me, through extremely frenzied movements, "They're going to try to kill the girl when she leaves work for lunch --- a red Buick is waiting to run her down!"
I immediately called Gayle's office and asked her if there were any unusual cars parked outside her place of business. She left the phone, then returned and said, "Yes --- a red Buick with two men in it." I told her not to leave the office until I got there. When I got to her office, the red Buick was not there.
After several days of our uneasy involvement with the (most likely nonexistent) mob from Michigan City, the Ouija informed us that Mason's men in Albuquerque were boarding a plane for Chicago that night, and that we could relax our efforts to keep Gayle from harm. This was the Ouija's last use of the syndicate subject in our involvement with the unseen world.
Gayle never mentioned her "brother," or her concern for him, again. I'm not sure that he ever existed.
That night, for the first time in several days, we were free to change the topic on the board. After the "syndicate" drama began, the spirit had actually controlled the subject matter. Up until the syndicate episode, we had been able to choose the topics we wished to pursue. We felt that we were back in "control" of the board again.
But the susceptible are never in control; the "leaders" only want them to believe that they are.
I returned to conducting my experiments with the board, beginning a new session by asking, "Is there a spirit in the room with us?" The response was, "Yes --- I'm over here by the door. There's a cool breeze blowing." We looked over and noticed that the front door had been left open. I walked over near the door for a moment. There was a cool air movement there that we had been unaware of on the other side of the room.
I continued at my place on the board for another hour or so, forgetting the spirit's remark about being over by the door. I got up to stretch and walked over to the door to get a breath of the fresh air. Another person took my place on the board, and the Ouija spelled out, "Would you tell Ben to quit walking on me?"
The humor made the spirit seem good-natured. We laughed. The Ouija's remarks helped break the tension we had all been under for several days.
During the days that followed, the spirits on the board professed that they had become quite fond of me, and offered to grant me new powers.
"The leaders like you." the spirit told me.
"We will give you the power to hurt anyone who has hurt you."
"Develop your E.S.P." they advised.
The spirits then began promising me that my life would be greatly enhanced in a material way if I would devote myself to an even greater involvement with them. I understood their term "greater involvement" to mean delving into astrology, tarot cards and other doors to the spirit world. They wanted me to become expert in all these departures from biblical teachings.
It had been over two years since I had left Dallas and the presence of those I felt had hurt me both emotionally and financially, and I was still struggling with my reluctance to forgive them. I pondered the possibilities of the demons' offer.
But the One I had relegated to the background of my life; the One who had promised me that He would never leave me nor forsake me, was keeping me closer to him than I would confess. It was the unmerited love that Christ had for me, I know today, that made it possible for me to ignore the offer the "leaders" had made me.
Had I accepted their offer, there is not a doubt in my mind that I could have arranged for the spirits to play havoc with the minds and lives of some of the people I had known. Nor is there any doubt that I could have been given riches and power by Satan in his attempted "bargain" with me --- at least until he had me firmly in his grasp.
I also believe that accepting the "leaders'" offer would have led me fully into the world of demonic possession had they succeeded stripping me of my faith in Jesus, which I believe was the demons' ultimate assignment.
The spirits couldn't seem to hurt me physically, though they were playing with my mind to the extent that I couldn't extract myself from my obsession with them. It seemed that the demons were handling me with "kid-gloves" until they could have me convinced that I could trust them to be my "guides".
I honestly believe that, because they knew that Jesus had intervened in my behalf when their leader had confronted me in my teens, they trembled at the thought that I still possessed enough faith and knowledge of His power over them that I might once again call upon The Name of Jesus.
I believe the devils thought that, if they showed me sufficient benevolence long enough to keep me involved with them, they might just methodically destroy my remaining faith, then my earthly life, then my eternal life.
I would be one of theirs if my belief in The Name could be weakened, then ultimately destroyed.
Up to this point, I had been captivated by the spirits, but not captured by them. It seemed that they were dancing all around me, but I was a wall-flower, not quite willing to accept their invitations to dance. I believe they were trying to change my obsession with them to my possession by them. They weren't going to give up easily. After all, I still hadn't done the one thing that would defeat them.
On the same day I was told that the leaders liked me, the Ouija told me, "Ben, don't go to that house tonight." The evil spirit knew what was in my appointment book, and would now began trying to prove to me that it could lead me out of harm's way --- that it could be my "spirit-guide"--- if I would just accept its leadership in my life without further reservation.
I decided to go to "that house" anyway. I had been invited to dinner at the home of a friend and his wife. He was vice-president of New Mexico's largest private corporation at the time. The house was up on the side of the Sandia Mountains in Tijeras Canyon, overlooking old Route 66 (now I-40), just east of Albuquerque. Not sure how long it would take me to get there, I arrived about ten minutes early.
While awaiting an invitation to sit down at the dinner table, I gazed out the home's big picture-window overlooking America's "Mother Road" just below me. About ten minutes after I arrived, the aftermath of a car accident littered the highway I was now looking down at. It happened at just the place I might have been at that moment had I not arrived at the house early.
It appeared that the uninvited spirit-guide had accompanied me and was now attempting to prove his value to me as my protector. Or, maybe the Ouija was trying to convince me that it had the power to prevent a similar fate for me, the one it had told me would come to pass on November 16, a date not too far off.
After having dinner with my friends, I began to tell them of the strange experiences I'd had since purchasing the Ouija board. They weren't that familiar with it, so I explained what the board looked like, and how it worked. Their understandable response was, "How can a piece of wood and plastic do those things?"
I told them how I had originally thought that the Ouija, because it was just wood and plastic, was only the subconscious mind at work, but was now more convinced than ever that the "game" harbored a more sinister character than was visible on its face; how that, although it was just a board and a piece of plastic, it was a doorway to an unseen world, and a summons to enter that world.
Willing to risk the loss of any credibility I might have had with my affluent friends, I proposed demonstrating a theory I had been entertaining by attempting to show how one might summon unseen spirits into their presence through the use of lifeless objects other than the Ouija board.
Not having the board at my disposal, I asked if they had a plastic glass I could use (like a planchette). They provided it. I turned the glass upside-down on their table and asked one of them join me in placing fingertips on the glass, using it just as I did the Ouija planchette. The glass began to move within a few minutes. We had invited a spirit into our presence --- without using the Ouija Board.
Not having a board on which the "glass planchette" could spell out words, I asked the spirit to make specific movements in response to questions only my friends would know the answers to. The "glass" responded as I requested. My friends verified the accuracy of the answers I then gave them.
We had, I felt, just verified that one could beckon spirits to reveal their presence by using another medium in place of a Ouija board. All that was needed was a willingness to invoke their presence.
Demons are anxious to reveal themselves to those they realize will look upon any medium as a simple novelty. I now had the ability to evoke spirits at anytime, any place; without consulting the Ouija board --- I had my own portable, plastic crystal ball.
The Saturday morning following my dinner with the couple, I went to the truck stop where I saw Bob, a burly cowboy friend of mine. Anxious to share with someone else the discovery of my new-found power, I began to tell him about the glass experiment of the night before. I offered to demonstrate my new "talent" for him. I asked the waitress for an empty glass. Bob placed his fingertips on the glass with mine.
Being a spectator at the local stock car races each weekend was one of my favorite pastimes. Looking forward to attending the races that night, I asked the "glass" who would win the main event. It gave me the name of a driver who had done poorly all year, so I found it hard to believe that the "glass" was giving me accurate information. The driver named by the spirit would have been my last pick had I not made the prediction using the glass, but its information had been 100% accurate up to that point.
That night, as the main event started at the races, I turned to those in the bleachers around me and told them that this certain driver would win the final race of the evening. I found myself joining in their laughter at my ludicrous prediction. They all thought I was joking --- until the driver named by the "glass" was the first to cross the finish line.
As if to underscore the accuracy of the "glass," the predicted winner had a tire blowout several laps before reaching the finish-line, but still won the race.
The "glass" spirit knew what the outcome would be, or possibly even influenced it, making the event even more memorable when the usually less-than-stellar driver won the race under almost impossible circumstances.
I then began to understand how my financial situation might be vastly improved by accepting the leadership of a spirit-guide. Friends began to see the potential in my ability to correctly predict the outcome of gambling events as a tremendous asset and encouraged me to use this new "talent" for my own financial benefit. I never succumbed to the temptation, maybe because I thought that having my life "greatly enhanced in a material way" would be a ratification of the spirits' offer. If I didn't already, I would then surely have one foot over the threshold of the doorway through which the demons were beckoning me.
After discovering my new talent to make predictions with any glass that was within my reach, I began making fewer visits to the closet to retrieve the Ouija board. A few days after correctly predicting the race winner, I took the board out of the closet, and the spirit on the board told me that it wanted me to stop using "the glass". When I asked why, it responded (presenting itself as a "good" spirit), "You'll contact 'evil' spirits that way."
Most likely, the spirits wanted me to continue using the Ouija, because the glass provided a slower and less informative access to the spirit world, and the Devil's agenda was for me to be on the fast-track.
I ignored the Ouija's "request," and continued using the glass.
Soon after the warning, I was at the restaurant conducting a "glass" party (instead of the usual Ouija party to which my friends had become accustomed). Gayle was present, as were several other people, as I concentrated on the movements of the glass. When I looked up, I noticed that she had disappeared without telling anyone goodbye. I glanced out into the parking lot. Her car was gone.
With a foreboding that something was wrong, I hurriedly excused myself from the group and drove to her house. Her car was parked in the drive, so I walked up to the front door.
There I saw Gayle standing wide-eyed and motionless, her body pinned against the open front door. She seemed to have her eyes focused on something occupying the hallway in her house. I couldn't get her to move or respond to me in any way. I don't recall seeing her eyes blink as she stared straight ahead. After several minutes passed, her body relaxed and she began to speak.
"What happened?" I asked.
"I don't know," she said; "I felt that I had to leave the restaurant. Something was beckoning me to come here. When I got here, as I walked in, it seemed that some kind of force came rushing down the hallway and pinned me against the door!" She continued, "I was paralyzed --- I couldn't move --- or speak!"
My mind raced back to when I was 16 --- to my confrontation with the devil that appeared to me in the form of a dragon. I could identify with the paralysis --- and with the inability to speak.
In spite of the inhuman attack on Gayle's mind and body, for an explanation we were drawn to the very source of the evil that was the cause of it, the Ouija board. I inquired of it, "What was the force that Gayle felt?" The Ouija replied, "It was the leaders --- They were mad because you used the glass against their warning."
Rather angrily I asked, "Well, why didn't they attack me instead of her?"
"You're lucky you weren't there, or they'd have gotten you, too!" the Ouija answered.
I personally think I wasn't there because the spirits didn't want me there.
They were aware that I still knew The Name, and that I wasn't so far gone from God's grace that I couldn't invoke It for myself under circumstances similar to those I had experienced in my earlier encounter with the dragon.
The spirits that had made me the offer attempted to present themselves to me as benevolent spirits. The spirit that warned me against using the glass implied that it was a good spirit trying to protect me from "evil" spirits. But it seems that these "kind" spirits were unable to consistently keep up their facade and, when they were displeased with me, couldn't resist showing their true natures.
It's worth repeating for those people who believe that they can conjure up "good" spirits at will: There are biblical admonitions against such practices. Good angels are not trivially accessed by asking them into our presence out of curiosity any more than Jesus would perform miracles just to satisfy the curiosity of the Pharisees. God is aware of the times we need Him, and acts according to His own good will, sometimes by dispatching angels. Whether or not to send His angels is His decision to make.
The angels of God, which already encamp round about them that fear Him, are the only "good" beings that are sanctioned by God. But we don't have to call on God's angels. We call on Him, the One Who knows best how to respond to our needs.
Frivolously summoning supposedly "good" spirits into one's midst may certainly invite angels into one's presence, especially if little heed is paid to the Bible's warning that the Devil also has his angels; demons, by their more familiar name, or evil spirits. Angels are, simply defined, messengers. They do the bidding of whichever master it is they serve. Conjuring up what one supposes to be a "good" spirit (or "familiar" spirit to those who believe that they know who their "guide" is), without doubt brings into a person's presence one which is at enmity with God. God will not send such an entity in contravention to His Own Word.
If a person has no regard for God, or for a true relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ, there's no reason to believe that God would generally send any of His true, benevolent messengers into one's presence. God can send a subservient evil spirit for His own purpose (read the account of Israel's first king, Saul), but without regard for a relationship with Him, any summons of angels we make, even if we're calling on "good" angels, may produce evil spirits (who will most likely present themselves as "good," unless the summoning is for an evil purpose).
God doesn't involve Himself, or His angels, in our lives for the purpose of providing entertainment, nor does He provide vengeful angels at the request of vindictive individuals. Vengeance is His alone. The Devil, however, is more than happy to answer such requests.
If these spirits that were flattering me were "good" spirits, what havoc might "evil" spirits produce?
The pretense of kindness the "good" spirits had been showing me was subtly being replaced by malevolence.
Yet, the actions of the spirits could be interpreted as a "good" thing for some of those involved.
To demonstrate this, there were at least two incidents that took place, the results of which I would not be made aware until several months after they occurred.
One involved a friend of mine named Kelly, a student at a university in eastern New Mexico. He had heard early on about the "experiments" taking place at my apartment and showed up one day with his girlfriend Jane.
Inviting Kelly and Jane to take a place on the board and ask questions, I became an observer of what the Ouija was spelling out, and began making a nuisance of myself by anticipating the words of the Ouija instead of letting it complete its entire message uninterrupted. Finally, the spirit on the board had enough of my interruptions and rapidly spelled out, "Tell Ben to shut up!" We all laughed.
After a few minutes had passed, I forgot that I had antagonized the Ouija and continued my interruption of its messages. The Ouija then addressed me, and this time started to curse at me. As it started to spell one of the unmentionable words, Kelly looked up at Jane and remarked, "Better close your eyes, Jane --- This isn't going to be pretty!" The Ouija stopped before the word was finished, and apologized, "Sorry, Jane." What an "good" spirit!
Knowing about the prediction the Ouija had made concerning my death, Kelly proceeded to ask the Ouija, "How am I going to die?" The Ouija answered him, "In a car accident at Clines Corners, on September 10, 1969." Clines Corners is a tourist stop on I-40 between Albuquerque and the university where Kelly was a student.
Kelly's predicted demise on that date was obviously a lie. I saw him again about the middle of 1970, after I was no longer involved with the Ouija. It was then that he told me he had, indeed, been at Clines Corners, New Mexico on September 10, 1969. "I had just turned south off I-40. Not until I made the turn did I see the huge semi in my rear-view mirror that seemingly came out of nowhere. He barely missed hitting me."
The perceived preservation of his life might have made Kelly think that it was because the "good" spirit had given him warning.
The other incident (of which I would not know the results until months later) involved a waitress working at the restaurant where I had first heard Mike tell me about the Ouija board.
Someone had told her that I, with my "powers," could predict the future. Knowing that, she approach me to ask a favor. "Would you find out if my husband is seeing another woman?"
I recoiled. "Oh, no," I told her, "I can't do that! The Ouija lies as often as it tells me the truth. If it told me that your husband was seeing someone else and I repeated that to you, it might not even be true. Then you could end up thinking he was guilty of something that was completely false."
"Don't worry," she said, "I just want to see what the Ouija says. I wouldn't ever take it seriously or confront him because of any information you gave me."
At her prodding, I finally told her that, if she would make me an absolute promise that she wouldn't take whatever information I brought to her seriously, I would consult the Ouija for her. She promised.
That night I asked the Ouija four questions that she had given me to ask. It gave me answers for each question. The Ouija told me:
Her husband was seeing another woman.
The woman's name was "Anne."
They were meeting at a club called "The Silver Slipper."
Their next meeting there would be at 4:45 the following day.
When I returned to the restaurant, the waitress eagerly approached me to see if I had any answers for her. I told her that I did, then once again extracted from her the promise that she wouldn't treat the Ouija's allegations seriously. She promised me that she wouldn't, so I gave her the information I had received. One final time before I left the restaurant, I admonished her not to take the information seriously.
She left her job at the restaurant shortly afterwards.
Almost two years would pass before I would see her working again at the same restaurant. Although I would no longer have ties with the world of the occult, the conversation that follows resulted from my dealings with the Ouija on her behalf two years earlier.
"Where have you been?" I asked her.
She replied, "I've been living in Oklahoma. I moved there after my divorce."
"Your divorce?" I responded, surprised; "You got a divorce?"
"Don't you remember?" she answered, looking at me as if I ought to know what had happened; "You're the one who told me what was going on!"
I struggled to recall what she was talking about, then remembered as she reminded me of what I had told her approximately two years earlier.
Then she told me the rest of the story that led to her divorce. "I went to the Silver Slipper at 4:45 the next day, just like you told me, and found my husband there in a booth with a girl named Anne!"
She had left her job at the restaurant shortly after I had relayed her questions to the Ouija and had given the answers to her, but had returned after having lived out of state for several months.
It's possible that the spirit giving me the information that led to her divorce did her a favor. I don't know, but she was probably convinced that her encounter with the occult was through my contact with a "good" spirit.
This incident, where the spirit knew the future location of the waitress' husband, and his girlfriend, and one involving a familiar spirit initiating a phone call to Gary's boss (related in the next chapter), indicate that a person doesn't have to be actively seeking the presence of evil spirits in order for subtle demons to be at work in their midst. They might not even believe that such beings exist. But if Satan can vex the Christian, he certainly has no problem finding a home in the presence of those who are more vulnerable --- those who don't have a personal relationship with the Name that he fears.
The difference is that these indifferent people are usually unaware of Satan's very real presence in their midst.
Familiar spirits using the telephone was something with which we felt we had been involved earlier, when the "mob" ruled, but Gary and I were to be involved in one more episode with that medium --- one in which the evil spirits would get even with Gary, making him pay for his animosity with the loss of his job.
This time a familiar spirit would involve someone who to this day is probably not aware that the spirit world "reached out and touched" him.
Gary woke up sick one morning and called Don, his boss at the service station, to tell him that he was ill and unable to make it to work that evening. "Don's" voice assured him that it was okay.
Later that evening, I stopped by the station. Don was working because of Gary's absence. Knowing I was Gary's friend, he angrily approached me with a message he wanted me to give to Gary: "Tell Gary he no longer has his job!"
Knowing that Gary was a good worker, I was a bit stunned, so I asked Don, "Why is that?" Don then told me that it was because of a phone call he had received from Gary that morning. I knew that Gary had called in sick and received "Don's" okay, so wondered what the problem was.
"Gary called me from the Indian Ceremonials in Gallup this morning," Don said, "and told me he wasn't coming into work --- that he was staying in Gallup for the night!" I told Don he couldn't have gotten a call from Gary almost almost150 miles away, because Gary had been in town all day, sick. Understandably, Don looked at me as if he thought I was trying to cover-up for my friend. He didn't believe me.
Returning to the apartment, I told Gary about my conversation with Don, and told him that Don had fired him.
No matter how hard Gary tried the next day, he couldn't convince Don that the "familiar" voice he'd heard on the other end of the phone line, "from the Indian Ceremonials," wasn't his.
Nor could Don convince Gary that his "familiar" voice never okayed Gary's being absent from work when Gary called in sick.
Neither had spoken to the other, but each of them had spoken to an entity familiar with both of their voices.
Because of the experiences we had with electronic "mediums" (the stop-light; the phone), I believe that other modern channels can open doors to the occult. Old-fashioned board "games" seem to have given way to the ubiquitous electronic games that now proliferate in the marketplace. Seeing how many of these "games" promote violence and anti-social behavior, I can't fathom them as being something that comes from the realm that promotes the benevolent nature of God.
Today's news often mentions how some of these new games might have been influential in triggering the minds of some young people to commit acts that prompt the secular public's cynical questioning, "How could God let this happen?"
I warn against these things, not because I know (as I do the factual events I have recorded in this testimony) for sure what their questionable influence will ultimately lead to, but because most of these modern "games" I have seen promote standards contrary to those that God would have us live by; standards that promote community cohesiveness (in spite of what the A.C.L.U. champions). If Satan can use simpler things to influence our minds, what might ultimately result from these intricate things that are specifically designed to produce the antithesis of God's character; "games" that our children can now hardly live without?
While many readers of these words may scoff at this observation, I believe that, in time to come, we will see an exponential increase in reports of these new-age "mediums" being classified, even by the secular press, as addictive, and their "players" increasingly antisocial (even described as "possessed"), and suicidal. I also believe, because of the way the Ouija originally communicated with us, that some caught up in the more recent "text messaging" phenomena may not be absolutely sure of the origin of messages they receive from their "familiar" friends.
At the time of Don and Gary's "conversation," I had been working as a commissioned sales representative. I had become so mesmerized by the Ouija that I was more often than not neglecting my work to the extent that my income had become barely enough to pay my bills. (I'm sure the "Leaders" knew this would make their offer of financial success more tempting to me.)
I hadn't been charging Gary for what was to have been a temporary stay at my apartment. Now, with Gary losing his job, and me being next to non-productive in mine, I rationalized that a visit to California, where I had relatives, would get our minds off the despondency I had allowed the Ouija to bring into my life. My involvement with the evil spirits had taken almost every minute of my waking hours, and sleeping hours in some cases.
Shortly after arriving in California I sat in the dining room of my brother's home, explaining to a teenage niece and nephew what had been happening to me. I was telling them how evil spirits needed only a willing individual using almost any medium available to invite them into one's presence.
Explaining how I had even used a glass to call forth the presence of spirits, I continued expressing my thoughts: "Evil spirits can be summoned using other mediums, as well." "For example," I said, holding my hand out towards the dining table, "I might reach towards this tablecloth and say, 'If there's a spirit in the room, touch my hand ---" I was going to add, " --- and I believe I could make it happen.'"
At that moment, and before I could finish my statement, even to my surprise, the edge of the tablecloth slowly rose several inches and touched my outstretched hand, then leisurely returned to its original, still position.
Shortly thereafter, Gary and I returned to New Mexico and I discovered that "automatic writing" was yet another medium that the spirits had made available to me. This involved holding a pen in my hand and allowing the spirit to control the pen and write whatever it wished on paper, or sometimes giving responses to specific questions I asked. It seemed that an unseen hand was guiding mine, and, my hand would begin to move involuntarily as it held the pen. Whether I was watching "it" write, or whether I would look at the paper only after my hand stopped moving, the words appeared. The handwriting didn't bear any resemblance whatsoever to mine.
Soon to reinforce my suspicions of the spirits using other mediums would be another "electronic medium" incident that would occur on the day I "died".
At the beginning of my experimentation with the Ouija, I had asked it how and where I was going to die.
My friends, especially Mr. and Mrs. Jones (whose "mother" had said "Doctor Jaramillo" was feeding me a bunch of hogwash), had been determined to keep me from being in Amarillo on the 16th of November when, I was told, my death would occur.
Although I am now assured that I will be leaving this earth only when The One Who gave me life exercises His right to take it, my experience with the spirits up to this point left me unsure as to whether or not I might die if I were in Amarillo on November 16th.
Recalling that the Ouija had emphatically told me "You will be there," I made a concerted effort to make sure, when I scheduled myself to be in Amarillo around the middle of November, that I wouldn't be there on the 16th. I checked and double-checked the date on the calendar. I would leave Albuquerque on the 12th and return on the 14th.
Comfortable with the knowledge that I wouldn't be in Amarillo on the 16th, Gary decided to go with me.
We left Albuquerque later than we expected to on the 12th, and it was nearly midnight when we found ourselves about 15 minutes west of Amarillo, listening to music on the car radio. At the conclusion of one of the songs, the same "familiar" voice of the D.J. we had been listening to announced the date and time:
"It is now 11:45 --- November 15th."
Goosebumps appeared on my arms and my face tingled.
Had I misread the dates on my calendar?
Because of our location on the highway at that time, we had no choice but to proceed on to Amarillo. If the "D.J." was correct, I would be in Amarillo on November 16, 1969.
Arriving safely in Amarillo just after midnight, the first thing we had to do was check the calendar.
It was November 13.
Did the D.J. mistakenly give the wrong date, or did a spirit "familiar" with the D.J.'s voice "intercept" the radio transmission (as "Ben Estein" had earlier intercepted Gary's midnight telephone call to me)? I believe the spirit was using the radio as just one more "medium" to get our attention and let us know that it was still in control.
Gary had told me the night the stop light spelled out the word "O-U-I-J-A" that he knew why I would die behind the wheel of my car. He thought that the Ouija would cause me to "see" some apparition and lose control of the wheel.
The last time I had "seen" anything from the spirit world was when the dragon appeared.
Now I was "hearing" things.
It seems that we were the victims of yet one more "electronic medium".
It was becoming more difficult to tell what was real --- and what wasn't.
In considering why the spirits would tell me that I would die on a given date when, after that date passed, I would know that they had lied to me, I have come to three conclusions:
--- They believed that they could have me completely under their power within three months of my invoking their presence, by November 16th, and that my surviving death beyond that date would be seen by me as the result of trusting a spirit-guide to protect me.
--- The relatively short period given from when I was first told of my impending death and November 16th might have been in order for me to consider the urgency of my "protection" by them.
--- Satan has no power to commission the angel of death for those under God's protection. He can only receive whatever power God chooses to grant him. God may sometimes grant him access to believers in order to test them. Job's ordeal is an example of this. (See Job 1:6-12.)
In legal terms, I suppose one could say that Satan was in the process of drawing up a contract between us.
He had made me an offer. To make the "contract" with him enforceable, in secular terms, there would have to be a complete meeting of the minds, consideration, and an acceptance.
He had been working on a meeting of our minds for three months.
Unfortunately, for him, the consideration was a different kind than his contract called for --- I would give consideration to how my relationship with Jesus had once been.
The acceptance wouldn't be of his offer --- it would be an affirmation of the offer that Jesus had already made me: Eternal life.
From the beginning, it seemed the demons were harassing those around me more than they harassed me. I think their dealings with me were based on the premise that, if they could cause me to lose my faith, they could take the eternal life that my faith in Jesus promised.
But they couldn't yet have me --- a small mustard seed of faith within me hadn't yet died.
My faith, as small as it was, was keeping me in the hands of One greater than "the Leaders of Hades".
The One who had already promised those in his firm possession through faith that no man could ever pluck them from His hand still had my one small seed of faith in His great palm. It would be a gross understatement to say that I had been a disobedient son, but I had never quit loving him; any more than the prodigal son had quit loving the father from whom he had estranged himself.
But there is something here more important to understand.
He never stopped loving me.
He was holding on to me, because He knew that I still believed in Him enough to remember that He was the One in whose presence demons trembled.
The devils knew that, too.
Satan began to lose his grasp on my mind about three months after his angels first presented themselves to me in the form of what many still believe to be an innocent game, just one of the many kinds I believe now exist in this "new age" atmosphere.
Bob, the brawny cowboy friend to whom I had first shown my new power with the glass, remarked as we were driving near the restaurant where I had first become enchanted with the occult, "Ben, your friends are becoming scared of you --- that thing is never going to let you go."
I had been wrestling the demons alone, trying to dislodge myself from their powerful influence. Had they been flesh and blood, I might have defeated them. But I was wrestling with what the Bible warns are principalities and powers. I was trying to extricate the demons by myself, without looking to the One I knew deep inside was my only hope of defeating them.
Before I could even think of how to respond to Bob's comment, my mouth confessed the One my heart knew to be The Answer: "Bob, I know a greater power --- His name is Jesus Christ."
Hearing my own lips confess the Name of The Lord once again is the time to which I attribute the chains with which I had been bound to the Ouija, and the evil forces it had unleashed, begin to loosen.
It wasn't an immediate victory, because, on a few subsequent occasions, I yielded to the requests of others who wanted me to demonstrate the power I "once" had. I seemed to be in the middle of a tug-of-war between God and Satan. But the outcome of the struggle was certain, because the Devil's defeat was predetermined when I exercised my faith and confessed, in belief, my complete reliance on Jesus.
The demons seemed to have trouble accepting the fact that their investment in me was being destroyed. They were still showing a willingness to come at my bidding, but the difference was obvious --- it seemed as if they were now responding to me like a lover who had slapped them in the face. It was as if they didn't really want to be with me, but their "boss" was wanting them to try and recoup his loss; and they were obliged to try, or face his wrath.
I believe that the moment I confessed The Lord Jesus Christ, believing in my heart the biblical account of His resurrection, the devils were served notice from Him that they had to release me. Until they were willing to accept their defeat, God was like a kind father who was helping his child beat an addiction. It's not unusual for demons to try to hold on to their prey. They even argued with Jesus when he commanded them, in person, to leave the tormented demoniac. The results were always the same; they had to abandon their quarry after He gave the order.
Finally, the Ouija informed me that, if I continued to neglect it, "it" would no longer answer me. Instead of being disappointed at this disclosure, my heart began to be more at ease and my mind more at peace.
When confronted by the fact that Jesus Christ had already arranged for my redemption, and that I was accepting His payment for me, Satan had no choice but to let me go. He wouldn't be allowed to take me to His domain. I had been bought by the Blood of Jesus Christ. I had been redeemed. I had been bailed out. I was off-limits to Satan because I had once again placed faith in my Advocate.
The last time I was on the board was, literally, the last time.
I placed my fingers on the planchette.
The Ouija no longer wanted to deal with me.
From then on, it would have to deal with my Mediator.
The chains were no longer just loose --- they had been broken.
Today I don't even remember what became of the board, the wooden door through which demons attempt to cross over the threshold into the soul of anyone inviting them to come and "play" with them.
The Ouija is just one of many such doors that will lead those enamored with the occult to the dark side of eternity --- one I might have easily slipped through had it not been for the faithfulness of a Friend.
A Friend named Jesus.
While Satan had to let me go, I'm not sure about those who were involved with me during the Ouija's reign. It seems that he wants to leave smudge-marks on this testimony by staining it with implausibility so that fewer people will believe it.
My witnesses are nowhere to be found.
If this were a legal matter, I would almost certainly lose my case. Yet, I will not appeal to my peers to consider me a character witness in my own defense, but to consider the existence of the evidence that God Himself presents in His Own Word.
That is the only truth of which we can be sure.
With so many others involved, it would seem that confirmations of the account regarding the Ouija could be furnished by me.
But there is an eerie summation of events that surrounded my dialogue with the demons, and it continues to this day, almost 40 years after that experience. Because of this, some readers will surely say that I concocted what they have read here. I hope those same readers will look to the Bible for the reality of those things I experienced, whether or not they count my report credible.
There were probably a dozen or more friends and observers around me during those months of my involvement with the Ouija, most of whom I saw almost daily. Some, such as Gary and Gayle, were deeply involved with me; others were basically onlookers.
Most of these people knew about the prediction of my death, which (according to the Ouija) was to have taken place in Texas on November 16, 1969.
Today I live only a few miles from where the Ouija parties took place, and can be found in the same places and on the same streets I frequented forty years ago. Yet, except for Gary, and Ron and Cherie, after a certain date passed I don't remember ever again seeing most of those people who were regular attendees at the parties.
Nor, to my knowledge, have any of them ever seen me again.
The date was November 16, 1969.
The date of my "death".
I may have seen Mike in 1970, but I'm not positive it was him. I was later told by someone that he became a preacher and was somewhere in Michigan.
I was able to visit with Ron and Cherie in the early 1970s. (I have not been able to locate them since.) I have no idea of how involved they became with "their" Ouija, or whether their "disappearance" had anything to do with its presence in their home. Ron apparently overcame his doubts about its reality. He and Cherie weren't just casual acquaintances; they had chosen me to be the godfather of their two children.
I saw Gary for the last time about 1975. He was with me on November 16, 1969, so he knew that I was still alive after that date. He had left Albuquerque for awhile, and was back in town for just a short period of time, but was soon in jail for carrying a sawed-off shotgun. I lost track of him about then, but was told, a few years ago by someone who has since passed away, that he was in prison somewhere in Florida.
I saw Kelly only one more time, when he confirmed his near-death experience at Clines Corners. Without seeing him again, I could not have recorded the outcome of his experience. (I never saw him again after that.)
The waitress I saw just one time after she returned from out of state and informed me that all I told her had come to pass. I would not have been aware of the final outcome of her experience had I never seen her again. (It was the last time I ever saw her.)
Gayle, her friend Dottie, and about eight others I had seen almost daily completely disappeared from my sight after the date of my "death".
I never saw Mr. and Mrs. Jones again.
Since these people apparently haven't see me, either, could it be that Satan has them convinced that I, in fact, died on that date in 1969, thereby establishing the trustworthiness of occultism in their minds?
Because of the assurance I now know in Jesus Christ, and from the only Spirit He promised would be our guide, the Holy Spirit, this astonishing finale to the Ouija experience causes me no personal anxiety.
I wonder, however, if, after almost forty years, Satan still vexes the minds of the people who were involved with me by causing them to believe that I did die on that November day many years ago.
If such is the case, these people are still believing one of the first lies that Satan told us when I began my journey into the occult. Their minds may still be under his influence.
One reason the Devil would want to keep his hold on them is obvious; he wants as many people as possible to continue in the lie that is the occult, the rejection of their Savior, and the dreadful consequences.
Another reason comes to mind: If these witnesses become aware of this written testimony and volunteer to come forward, they might be willing to corroborate my account of the events to which they were witnesses, much to the Devil's dismay. It's unlikely Satan wants this, because he wants unbelievers to continue walking the broad way to Hell, and to remain unaware of the One who is able to deliver them from the demons that beckon them to enter its gates.
Should any of those involved in this account be found, I would not pressure them to comment. It would have to be their decision. That is why their full names do not appear in these pages.
My hope is that, through believing readers sharing this testimony with others, those witnesses might become aware of this written account, recognize themselves, and realize that, after all, Satan didn't succeed in his plans for me.
Most of all, I would like for them to know what I neglected to tell them; that there is a Savior who can free them --- and keep them in His mighty hand.
I can testify that these things are true:
There is a great power for evil --- there is a real Devil.
But there is a Power much greater --- there is a real Savior.
His Name is Jesus Christ.
The first time Satan appeared to me, it was with an assault on my senses. He showed himself as a dragon (as I would subsequently find him described in the book of Revelation), and came to me uninvited. Had it not been for my newfound biblical knowledge and faith in Jesus as a young man, he would have caught me alone, without any defense against the terror he imposed. My encounter with "that old serpent," including his return the second time that night, seemingly lasted only minutes. He fled each time my thoughts turned to Jesus.
The second demonic confrontation began with the subtlety the Bible attributes to the "serpent". Just as he did with Eve, he entertained me with dialogue, and his purpose seemed to be to cast doubts on God's Word. A "harmless" game became his platform for a much more complex encounter, involving not only other people, but unleashing a number of evil spirits into our midst. Had I been in the closer spiritual relationship with Christ that I had once known, I might have been able to recognize these spirit "personalities" as minions of the Dragon --- and the evil spirits they would turn out to be.
Unlike the time had I immediately called on Christ to drive away the uninvited dragon, I would naively invite into my presence the Devil's angels, and they would make themselves at home in my life for months.
In some previous chapters, when relating what occurred over the three months or so of my involvement with the Ouija, I sometimes described the "thing" we were "talking" to by the name under which the "game" is sold, or as "the personality" (my description of how the Ouija would present itself to us at times).
The word "leaders" (of Hades) was supplied by the Ouija. Their own description of themselves might be a corroboration of what the Apostle Paul called "the rulers of the darkness of this world," indicative of principalities, and hierarchies, and confirming his warning that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers."
We often see common depictions of the Devil, or demons, in works of art dating back hundreds of years. Those renderings of his "physical" appearance may be the result of some experiences, similar to mine, that others throughout the ages have had. Because these are impressions imprinted on the minds of subsequent generations, people have preconceived notions of what these Satanic personalities look like. What I saw was a dragon, similar to the artful renderings that engross our children today. Because of the anti-Christian beliefs of many of those who create modern "entertainment" venues, many of these "otherworldly" icons are presented as benevolent. Do such creatures exist in reality? Maybe in Hell, but, there, one will discover that they are not so friendly. We deceive ourselves if we think that this is how Satan always presents himself to us. He may use this more repulsive presence to inject fear into us when it serves his purpose, but the Bible says that he can appear as an "angel of light". I think this is why so many people today are deceived by the more accepted concepts of demonic appearances. Without familiarizing themselves with, and acknowledging, the absolute foundation that the Bible provides, there is little to distinguish between those things we know to be true and from God, and things that will ultimately lead us to perdition. "Puff, The Magic Dragon," is hardly a revelation of reality. Nor do the macho tattoos of dragons worn by my Harley buddies reveal the truly fearsome nature of the Dragon at enmity with The Alpha and The Omega, especially when he takes the form of an angel of light.
As I began to recognize the characteristics of the "personalities" to be the same as those the Bible mentioned, the evil spirits that had tormented the minds (and bodies) of people in Jesus' presence 2,000 years ago, I called them what the Bible calls them; devils, evil spirits, or demons. I also referred to them by the name of their father, Satan, or the Devil, as it is at his bidding they do their work.
The characteristic that gave them away more than any other was the same as seen in the two demoniacs who lived in the tombs. The forces of darkness would become extremely agitated whenever Jesus appeared on the scene. They wanted nothing to do with Him. They recognized Him as the Son of God, the One having the authority that they had no other choice but surrender to.
After I had experienced this second confrontation with the Devil (via the Ouija), and his surrender after my confession of The Name, I became even more aware of his (and his agents') required obedience to the authority of Jesus Christ.
Once my involvement with the Ouija was over, I faced a bleak period of time. I had become financially destitute. Through this destitution it seemed, for awhile, as if Satan was trying to show me what a fool I was for not agreeing to let him give me the power and riches he promised me in return for my subordination to him.
God allowed the destitution to continue for awhile, possibly to test my sincerity, like a wise father might allow a disobedient son to suffer the hardship imposed by his own thoughtlessness. God isn't always into quick fixes. Some of His actions are to teach us lessons in faith.
Just four years earlier, I had been fairly successful for my age, from a material standpoint. As mentioned before, by age 24 I was purchasing and furnishing my first newly-built home. I had financed several new cars. One might say I had begun to enjoy the trappings of the up-and-coming middle-class. By age 28, before my encounter with the Ouija, I had become a successful representative in both the insurance and transportation industries. When the Ouija had finished it's business with me, I was out of a job.
Although, through faith in Christ, my spirit had not been broken by Satan, "broke" was an apt term for my financial condition.
Although I'd once had fancy business titles under my name, the economic bleakness that I faced after my ordeal with the Ouija made me more humble, and appreciative of any work I could find. I was finally hired at the truck stop restaurant where my friends and I had often gathered, and began trying to recoup my losses and get my finances back on track. Working as the graveyard shift manager, I was actually more of a bouncer (I had been a weight-lifter, and rarely weighed less than 240 pounds) for the drinking crowd that came in after the bars closed, breaking up maybe one or two fights each night. I washed dishes when the dishwashers didn't show up for work. I bussed tables and swept and mopped floors. I was thankful for the opportunity I had just to try and get my rent paid.
Then the phone call came. It was the general manager of the restaurant. After just a few days at work, I had been fired.
The young assistant manager who was scheduled to relieve me each morning had a regular habit of partying each night and oversleeping almost every day, expecting me to stay an extra hour or two to cover for his absenteeism on a routine basis. After a few times of extending him this courtesy, I advised him I would no longer work ten hour days for his benefit while he worked only six.
To protect himself against charges of incompetence when he was caught showing up late for work one morning, the young manager made it appear that I had agreed to stay and cover for him and didn't. The general manager didn't even want to see me face-to-face to discuss the matter; his mind had already been made up. I was no longer employed.
Later, when I had a talk with the young, street-smart, morning manager about how he was able to keep his job when I lost mine, he told me that the general manager was told by the company's vice-president to "fire someone" over the incident.
He then began to laugh, telling me that the general manager apparently knew the truth and had considered firing him instead of me, but changed his mind when he threatened to expose the general manager's homosexual lifestyle "by reminding him that I saw him in a gay bar recently."
The entire incident reeked of deceitfulness. (Ironically, the vice-president ordering the firing was the same executive who had invited me to his mountain-side home for dinner a few weeks earlier. The truck-stop was one of the businesses owned by the large corporation of which he was vice-president.)
Maybe Satan was trying to remind me of the power I had passed up in turning his offer down. Had I accepted the evil spirits' offer to "hurt anyone" that hurt me, I have no reason to doubt that I could have easily placed the young morning manager in peril for the problems he caused me. But I no longer entertained those thoughts. Both the general manager and the young morning-shift manager were new to their jobs. I had just met them, and neither knew of my recent occult activities, or of the evil that I might have unleashed in their lives had I accepted Satan's offer.
As it would turn out, the young morning manager didn't need an introduction to Satan's cunning ways, or the consequences of embracing them. I was employed out of town during the following year when the angel of death would summon him. I didn't hear of the tragedy until I had returned to work in Albuquerque, and people who knew both of us asked me if I was aware of what had happened to him.
Charged with severely mutilating a woman with a knife, I was told, he had been arrested and jailed. There were two versions of his death making the rounds. One was that he had attempted to escape his jail cell by tying bed sheets together and slipping through his cell window, several stories above the ground. They came loose, sending him to his death on the street below. The other version was that he had hanged himself. Because of the heinous nature of his alleged crime, it would seem that he had already made his own deal with the demons. He appeared to be in his late teens or early twenties when his life in the visible world came to an abrupt end.
At the time I lost my restaurant job, I had paid 34 payments on the two-year-old car I had purchased new in Texas. Seeing that I would be getting behind on the two final payments because of the time I spent with the Ouija and my loss of the restaurant job, I wrote to the bank in Texas that carried the loan on the car, asking for a two month extension so I could rearrange my finances. Having made 34 payments well in advance, I thought that I would be able to get a temporary reprieve. Instead, a few days later, I woke-up without transportation. The bank's vice-president had been a friend of mine, but a repossession was ordered, just two payments before the almost new car would have been totally paid for. (I sure could have used that new Mercedes the Ouija told me I would own about then!)
I had hit bottom. No transportation and no job. I then realized that I wouldn't even be able to pay the following month's rent on the down-sized, one-room efficiency apartment I had moved into. Then a young man who knew me well before my encounter with the Ouija learned of my predicament and came to me offering to lend me the money I would need to pay the repossession and tow charges and the two payments and interest charges I would need to get my car back from the auto graveyard.
"Jack," I responded, "I appreciate your offer, but I have no idea when I would be able to pay you back; I don't even know where my next meal is coming from." Jack replied that he appreciated my honesty and wasn't worried about not being repaid. I respectfully declined his offer, as it was, because meeting my obligations had always been important to me, and it didn't look like my hard luck was going to change anytime soon.
He then offered me the title to a 1959 Chevrolet he owned, saying, "Just pay me when you can." For the same reason I wouldn't accept a loan from him, I declined to take the old Chevrolet.
Jack then asked me if I were going to try to get my car back. I told them that there was no way I could do it. He then proposed another way that I might obtain transportation without me having to worry about future payments. "Tell you what," he said, "My wife needs a newer car. If you'll assign the right of redemption on your car to me, I'll give you the Chevy, and we'll call it an even trade." We made the deal.
I now had a car that one of my brothers, a Marine Corps sergeant, would call a "death-trap" after he saw it, but it was transportation, and it was paid for. I was thankful for it.
I still needed a job, but the death-trap wasn't a car that presented an image of the successful company representative I had once been. Culling the newspaper classifieds, I ended up in the office of a company that supplied security guards to various mines throughout New Mexico. I was hungry, and signed on with them. If I would take an out-of-town assignment, the company would furnish me a bed in a barracks, like I had in my army days. Since I wouldn't be able to pay another month's rent, I took an assignment at a uranium mine in Grants, New Mexico, and began earning the first minimum-wage salary paychecks I had received in years.
A few weeks earlier a Pentecostal Christian couple in Amarillo noticed that my shoes had holes in them and bought me a new pair. They said the shoes were a gift, but I promised I would pay them back.
From my first paycheck as a guard I put aside enough money for gas for my daily transportation between the barracks and the mine, then sent the kind couple the money I had considered a loan for my new shoes. Looking at the meager change I had left, I went to a grocery store and bought seven cans of spinach, one to open each evening for my daily meal until my next paycheck arrived.
After a few weeks in Grants the company seemed pleased with my work and reassigned me to a mine near the beautiful tourist town of Red River, New Mexico. For the next year, I lived by the river in a cabin the company furnished me, appreciative of the five-cents over minimum-wage raise I received with my new assignment. During my off-duty hours, I would supplement my meager income by taking my guitar into Red River where I sang country songs at one of the lodges in the quaint little resort town. I was paid with a meal and whatever change the diners placed in the "tip jar" next to the restaurant's cash register. The "take" was usually meager, and I often saw the owner of the lodge putting some of his own money in the jar to make my efforts worthwhile.
As the days passed, I began to feel that there had been a reason beyond my own benefit for having the experience with the Ouija. What had happened to me was something I felt I had to record, but I wasn't yet sure for what purpose. I only knew that I had to write it down, and that it had to be done while the experience was still fresh in my memory. I hoped that God would somehow use what I would record to alert others against becoming enticed to the world of demons, and let those already in that world know The Way out. I felt that the message I had received was given me to somehow pass on to others, although many years would pass before I would release the information in its present form. God would have more work to do in my life, but I still had to record my encounter with the demons.
While on the night shift at the mine, the hours between midnight and six provided a time-frame during which essentially no activity took place. Most of the guards that worked those hours alone were permitted to read magazines, watch TV, or otherwise entertain themselves. I began using that time to write down my account of the demonic encounters I'd recently had.
As I started recalling and recording the things that occurred during that three month period of a few months earlier, it seemed I could sense a "familiar," evil presence in the building that was displeased with me for what I was doing. With frequent chills coming over me, I continued my writing over several nights. The need I felt to produce the message became greater than the menacing entity that seemed to be close at hand. Though I seem to be doing something that annoyed it, I knew that I was being protected by a Power far greater. I continued to write, and it appeared that the entity could not interfere.
Finishing my handwritten account, I sent a copy to my oldest brother, the pastor of a church in California. I also made a copy and sent it to a kind minister friend in Irving, Texas, who had known me a couple of years earlier. I considered the probability that even those who had known me well might now think me insane, but felt committed to the greater need to alert others to the reality of the unseen world. I would tell the facts. Whether or not anyone would believe me was beyond my control. I had to risk being considered a fool.
Shortly afterwards I received letters both from my brother in California and the minister in Texas telling me that they had shared what I had written with the people in their congregations and that, as a result, several individuals in each congregation, especially young people, had received Christ as their Savior. My brother concluded reading the account to his congregation with the words, "I know these things are true --- this is my brother." His words brought tears to my eyes. Someone had believed me; someone who knew that I wouldn't have made up what I had written and entrusted to him.
My heart was touched knowing that I'd had a part in seeing new converts coming to Christ. Yet, at the same time, I was still wrestling with the hurt I had been allowing myself to carry since I had left Dallas over two years earlier. Continuing in my ruinous financial condition, instead of seeing my situation as a test of faith that God might be allowing me to go through after I had refused Satan's offer, I began interpreting the negative circumstances I was suffering as proof of my unworthiness to be completely loved by Him.
But, even though I didn't see His design at the time, God was lovingly weaving an intricate pattern for my life.
While at the cabin, living minimally, I miraculously saved some money from my meager income and upgraded my transportation from the '59 death trap to a '63 Chevrolet that my Marine sergeant brother had owned. It had been his "fishing car," but it became my main mode of transportation, a much better car than the one I had been driving. The highway between Red River and Albuquerque had been littered with recapped tire shreds from the '59. My "new" car had real tires!
After about a year at Red River, with the encouragement of a friend who worked at the Los Alamos National Labs, I began to feel that I could do better financially and returned to Albuquerque, taking a commission-only sales job. I excelled in it and, three months later, was approached by one of the partners of an American Indian Jewelry company who had known me when I worked in the transportation industry. He and his partner wanted me to work with them as a salesman, and offered me a good salary, a new car, an unlimited expense account and 1/3 of the company. Less than one year later, I bought the company from them. In nine months, I was able to pay them off in full, settle all accounts payable, and own free and clear a business that would pay me many times over any annual amount I had ever earned.
As my financial fortunes began to turn around, I began to frequent the restaurant from which I had been fired a little over a year earlier. There, in the same place so many of my negative experiences had occurred, I met a pretty, and especially sweet, 23 year-old Christian girl who would become the love of my life. I didn't give it much thought at the time, but I gave her the engagement ring on Halloween night, a night that seems to be of some significance now (especially after two more noteworthy incidents would occur on that date; possibly God's way of reminding me that the Devil's plans for me went awry). We were married in November, 1972, approximately 3 years after my "death". Our anniversaries periodically (and appropriately) fall on Thanksgiving day.
Not until later, when my beloved lady revealed a touching secret, did I realize just how much God had been looking out for me.
"I prayed and asked God if He would give you to me," she told me, "and He did." (To my knowledge, it was the first time a pretty girl had ever asked my Father for my hand.) After almost 35 years, each day is still like being on a first date with her.
Song publishing companies in Nashville began to sign contracts with me. In 1991 one of my songs was released on Mercury-Polygram Records and stayed on the national chart for a couple of months, was made into a music video on the set of "Be A Star" (The Nashville Network production promoted by the Opryland folks), and was performed on several different national television programs, twice live on Ralph Emory's Nashville Now. BMI continued to send me royalty checks for its performances after almost ten years, including its performances in other countries. The song was picked up in Ireland and recorded by one of their artists there as well.
God blessed me with more than Satan had ever promised me, with the exception of a vengeful heart. Instead, He placed within me the heart of forgiveness that I had resisted for so long.
The experiences I'd had with the Dragon and his angels, and God's providing The Way of escape (and the goodness with which my life was subsequently blessed), should have made me a devoted Christian. Yet I would frequently entertain thoughts that I'd been allowed to approach those demonic realms, not because God wanted to reveal His power to me, but because I was not as worthy a person as others I knew. I often believed that I must be closer to Satan's realm than those who'd never experienced such confrontations.
I didn't recognize the plan that God was weaving throughout my life for His own purpose during these times, but it seems now that He allowed all of these things to work together for my good (as the Bible says), so that I could share this testimony of His reality with others. Today I wouldn't change a thing that happened if by the truth of this testimony more people come to the knowledge of Christ's reality. For the price I paid (which can't begin to compare with the ultimate price He paid), He would eventually give me the thing I longed for the most. But He would lovingly fold the blanket of my experiences together in His own time-frame --- including what was yet to come.
Looking around as I traversed through my early thirties, though, I could see people that I perceived to be more moral and more worthy of God's love than me; people who did better works than me; people who surely earned and deserved greater favor with God by being closer to perfect than I was.
Had I stopped to think of why others seemingly lived lives more acceptable to God while I only felt more alienated, I might have realized that I could have traced my feelings of spiritual apathy back to the approximate time that I had ceased doing one of the most important things I had ever done:
I had quit studying, or even reading, the Bible. Confusion reigned. I had forgotten that God is not the author of confusion. I had been paying more attention to the entity who is "the accuser of the brethren."
Had I not wasted all those years leaning to my own understanding of what many of us think God requires of us, instead of what The Bible says He requires of us, I would have known what would eventually be revealed to me. I had needed more knowledge and wisdom, but was no longer looking to the Book in which those traits were to be found. God provides wisdom for those who ask, He says. (But we have no right to expect it when we fail to keep our part of the bargain --- seeking in the source from which it comes.)
When I was a young Christian, I often thought of how wonderful it would be to have a literal vision of Jesus. Instead, evil apparitions had appeared to me; once when I was a teenager, and again when I was almost thirty years old.
I never stopped to consider that Jesus had, in fact, appeared, not to me, but for me; not when I just wanted to see Him, but when I really needed him, during those times of severe testing.
He had appeared for me, not in human form, but in the form of The Word, and in the power of His Name. Yet, because I was neglecting the Bible, many years would pass before this truth would be realized by me.
Even though I knew that the faith I had accrued from reading the Bible years earlier was responsible for my knowing to call on Jesus to stand in the gap between me and the evil entities, I still didn't turn back to Him with my whole heart. Like many people I hear making the same excuses today, I just didn't have time to read the Bible (although I could always find time for entertainment, watching television, or reading newspapers, magazines and books that might enhance my secular knowledge).
Entering my middle-thirties, now, I had become successful, owning my own company, traveling and having other outward signs of success. I had the new Mercedes, and my wife and I owned two houses and stables on some acreage in the valley north of Albuquerque. We were able to pay that property off in just a few short years. Knowing that I had the ability to buy it, the owner of the lodge at Red River where I had sung for my dinner and tips just four years earlier offered to sell it to me.
God had allowed me to obtain more material blessings than I ever thought Satan was promising me, yet I gave Him little credit for my success. But these things would become less important than I always thought they would be. My heart still longed for something I knew to be greater than all the material things with which I had been blessed; the assurance of Christ's love for me.
Instead, greater feelings of unworthiness would engulf me throughout the remaining years of my thirties, and into my forties. I recalled how I had once planned to do such tremendous things for God, then realized how greatly I had failed. As each successive year passed, my sense of failing Him deepened, and each new year brought with it a greater feeling of unworthiness. I had wasted so many years; I would never really be able to "earn" back His love. These were my thoughts.
My perception of myself was that of a prodigal son no longer deserving to be of concern to the Father he had so long disappointed. I stood in my Father's fields and watched from afar as my brothers and sisters in the faith "earned" their spiritual inheritance. I had squandered mine.
Instead of looking on the supernatural experiences I'd had as an opportunity to warn others about the reality of Satan (as I am now doing), and telling them about God's providing The Way of escape, I let the negative experiences I recalled continue to reinforce my feelings of unworthiness.
I knew that God was perfect, and that His desire was for us to be like Him. Thinking that I had to be perfect by my own efforts in order to please him, and finding no perfection in myself, I continued to accommodate the feeling that I was one person who couldn't live up to God's expectations of me. I essentially quit trying to. He was the God of better people than me.
Still, I knew I loved Him, and would often talk to Him. I found delight in talking to others about Him, and even helping others get to know Him. I could find no fault in Him, but I could find so many faults in myself.
I just didn't think He could really love a person like me.
My eyes would get misty and my heart become tender when I recognized the goodness of God in the changed lives of others who placed their faith in his Son. When my mother presented me with a plaque having words that seemed to be written just for me, tears streamed down my cheeks as I tried to grasp their truth. Having seen me react this way before, when my heart was so touched, my wife just smiled and reached for the plaque, tenderly remarking, "Let me see what you're crying about this time." Turning the plaque towards her, she saw the words that spoke to my heart:
"I asked Jesus, 'How much do you love me?'
"'This much,' He said, and he stretched out His arms ---
--- and died."
(That plaque is in a prominent place in my home today, and my eyes still get misty when I read the now familiar and simple truth of those wonderful words.)
Yet, as I crossed the threshold into my forties, I felt that I'd been given enough chances to prove myself worthy --- and had blown them all. There were so many who hadn't even had one opportunity to know of God's love; why should I have so many? I had access to several Bibles, yet some people in the world would give everything they own to have just one. I had trouble believing that God could still love such a failure as me. If someone as great as the Apostle Paul thought of himself as the chief of sinners, how could I even began to think of measuring up to God's expectations? I still didn't understand the magnitude of His great love.
As I continued wallowing in my spiritual deficiency, the Bible I had once studied so fervently would be picked up periodically just so I could wipe the dust off of it.
I was easy for me to believe that God loved others, but I could no longer see Him loving me --- even though I knew I still loved Him.
I had failed morally, but I had never quit loving Jesus.
How implausible it now seems that my love for Him could ever be greater than His love for me.
On two occasions after my encounter with the evil spirits, both of them on a Halloween night, I came close to losing my life. While I won't speculate that the Devil was in the details, it does seem strange that both of the incidents occurred on what many consider his day.
The best I can pin down the first Halloween that I came near death, it was 1984, and a result of my own lack of common sense. On Halloween night of that year I was invited to a company party. Getting into the mood of the occasion, I indulged myself with several "Kamikazes" (another kind of pretty strong "spirits"). In 1978 I'd had an operation that resulted in an electrolyte imbalance. The extremely strong drinks didn't mix well with my electrolyte deficiency.
After a friend drove me home, I began to feel as if a vise were gripping my heart. Lying on my bed, I became semiconscious, barely aware of my surroundings. I heard my wife phoning for my brother, the minister, and my sister, both of whom then lived near Albuquerque at the time. They rushed over, and, at my bedside, began praying for me. They tried to speak with me, but I didn't respond. If they were praying for me to live, their prayers were answered.
On the same date, exactly one year later, I would "crash" again, but in a more literal sense of the word. It was suggestive of what the Ouija had told me would happen to me on November 16, 1969. If I didn't already believe that God intervenes in the lives of people, that perception would have changed on Halloween night in 1985.
A business trip made it necessary for me to leave the Albuquerque area just a few days before Halloween and spend a week in Scottsdale, Arizona. My young son had been convinced, more than his parents had, that people should start wearing seat belts, setting an example for us each time he buckled-up when we went somewhere. This was a time when people were debating the usefulness of the fairly new safety feature, many thinking that it was just another inconvenience that came with the trappings of owning a later-model car. Until I saw more guys wearing them, I wasn't going to let them get in the way of my machismo.
My sweetheart wife quickly gave in to my son's pleas for us to use the belts, but I didn't want the to deal with the annoyance that I considered them to be. I refused to use them even after months of my son, and then my wife, encouraging me to do so.
A year earlier, I had bought my lady a new Honda Accord. I had a larger car that I used in my work, but decided to take the Accord to Scottsdale. Being a smaller car than the one I regularly drove, she was more concerned than usual about my not buckling up, and made me promise that I would do so the entire time I was gone, even when no one would be around to see that I would keep my promise. I promised her that I would follow her orders to a "T".
I buckled the belt in our driveway, kissed my sweetie goodbye, and started on my journey, arriving in Scottsdale later that evening. When I reentered the Accord each time after stopping for fuel or a bite to eat, I faithfully re-buckled my seat belt as I had promised I would. It was, after all, I figured, a minor, temporary inconvenience to keep the promise for someone I loved so much, as well as making my son, who was initially responsible for me having to deal with the indignation, happy.
Each time I entered the car in Scottsdale, I would buckle-up. This went on for a week, but I was consoled by the fact that I had told my wife, just before buckling up for the trip, that I had no intention of continuing this ridiculous feeling of being corralled in a car seat once I returned home. I would only wear the seat-belt until I pulled up in our driveway after my trip, but no more. She didn't press the matter.
Nor would she have to, after that.
Around noon on October 31, 1985, I would buckle myself in for the last day of my trip. I was happy knowing that my ordeal with the confounded strap would soon be over.
Shortly after leaving Scottsdale, I stopped and got a can of Coke. I temporary placed it on the top of the dashboard and forgot it was there. Coming to a sudden stop, I spilled it all over the dashboard, the seats and the floor of the Accord. I hated messing up the little car, and cleaned it as well as I could, but knew that my cleaning expertise wasn't that up-to-par. And I knew the sweet nature of the woman I married. She would just listen to my tale of woe, then say, "Don't worry --- I'll take care of it."
In Grants, New Mexico, I stopped for dinner, then proceeded east on I-40. It began to rain, hard; so hard that I couldn't see but a few feet in front of me. I knew that, if I stopped on the shoulder of the road, or even slowed down, I chanced being hit by another driver who wouldn't see my tail-lights until he was almost on top of the Accord. I knew that it was several more miles before I would be where I could safely stop without being in danger of being rear-ended.
Night was closing in fast, but the darkness, instead of being another visual hindrance, would actually help me see how to continue my journey in the heavy downpour. The answer to my dilemma was to follow a large truck that came zooming past me with a tail-light that was dangling off the right rear of its cargo box. I knew that, if I could keep that light in sight, I could keep going, and go even faster than I would if I didn't follow it.
Keeping up with the truck, I followed the light for miles. Its driver took the exact exit that I would use to go home when it reached Albuquerque, and I was pleased with the progress I was making. I would soon be in the driveway of my home just a few minutes north of that exit and unbuckle the bothersome seat-belt for the last time.
The truck turned north. Unfortunately, it was into the southbound traffic lanes of a major boulevard. I followed, thinking, as the trucker obviously did, that we were in the north-bound lane of the usually heavily-traveled road. Oddly, though, there were no lights coming my way, so I had no "Oops, I'm going the wrong way!" moment. Had I seen other headlights coming my way, I could have done a quick 180 on the wide road and avoided what was to come.
I usually drive in the right-hand lanes unless passing another vehicle, so I pulled over into that lane. Since I was driving in the wrong direction, my actions placed me in the fast lane of southbound vehicles.
The ramp that vehicles use to exit I-40 when heading west, then south, was just ahead of me. The truck driver, and the dangling light, was by now past that exit, having just missed the Chrysler that I didn't see exiting at the ramp until there was a split-second glare of headlights before we hit each other on the bridge spanning I-40.
It would have been headlight to headlight if the Honda hadn't been a smaller car.
The Chrysler was probably about 50 percent larger than the Honda. We must have crashed within less than a second of the time we saw each other. Both of us were in the fast lane, and neither one of us had time to take evasive action.
Eternity comes that fast for some who die.
Without stopping to realize that I was still alive, I unbuckled my seat-belt and jumped from the Accord, quickly rushing over to the Chrysler where the woman driver was still in her seat. "Are you alright?" I asked her. Probably thinking that I was a drunk, she responded, "What's the matter with you?" She probably wanted to add, "you idiot!"
She was okay, but more bruised than I was. One of the officers on the scene asked me if I had been drinking. I jokingly told him that I had stopped for dinner in Grants, but hadn't had a drink; that, if I had, I probably wouldn't have been where I was when the wreck occurred. He laughed, and that added to the calm atmosphere that seemed to permeate the seriousness of what had just happened. The lady in the Chrysler, after realizing that I had also been somewhat of a victim of circumstances, actually became friendly. The officers were all friendly towards me, as well, and one called my wife to come and retrieve me from the accident scene. Both cars had to be towed away. Maybe the splattered Coke wouldn't be such an issue after all.
My wife arrived at the scene and hugged me. In spite of the seriousness of the occasion, she was smiling. On the way home, she began to tell me what she had been doing just a few minutes earlier.
She had been praying for me.
She told me that she had been doing her usual routine around the house when, suddenly, she had an overpowering urge to pray for me. She said that, never, in all the years she had been a Christian, had she felt a specific and urgent "call" to prayer as she had that night. It wasn't just an urge to pray, but an compulsion to pray specifically for me, and at that precise moment; as if I were about to face a severe test. The best we could figure, the time she felt the need to pray for me was just before the wreck.
I was no more physically hurt than if I had stumbled, then rose and brushed myself off. The next morning, the only reminder I had of being in the wreck was a mark across my chest where the seat belt had been.
That mark would remind me of the wisdom of using the seat belt that probably kept me from being thrown through the windshield of the Honda, and of the importance of having kept my promise to the lady who prayed for me.
More importantly, it would be a reminder that there is such a thing as God's involvement in our lives beyond what we might imagine.
Yet, even with His latest intervention in my life, I still couldn't understand how He could love someone like me as much as He was constantly proving He did.
That God couldn't love me wasn't true, but I would be approaching the half-century mark of my life before I would have an experience that would bring The Truth home to me in a way I never would have expected. (I think God loves to surprise His children as much as we do ours.) I would soon learn that His written Word is more than sufficient to convey His message.
God had used much more than the proverbial thousand words to convince me of His love for me.
It seemed that He would have to draw me a picture.
I would finally start using my seat belt, faithfully.
But I was still a spiritually reckless son. I needed an anchor, a spiritual seat belt, one might say.
God was getting ready to put me back into the infant seat.
It was the night of the dream.
It was a dream that brought home a truth already existing, and it would be engraved on my heart and mind like no other image I've ever seen. It's the only dream I've ever had that I not only remember, but remember vividly, as though it appeared only moments ago.
In the dream, my arm was resting on the roof of a 1957 Chevrolet. Someone I knew to be a close friend of mine stood beside me, yet I didn't recognize him. My attention was then drawn to the skies, and my eyes became riveted there, for there I saw that a magnificent artist had created a masterpiece. He had used the entire sky, from horizon to horizon, to engrave a picture. It was as if I was looking at the underside of a great dome on which the artist had rendered his etching.
The artist's hand had etched a peaceful scene on what appeared to be scrimshaw, in black and white, showing many types of animals. A wagon with what seemed to be vertical "bars" was the only other thing in the picture. For awhile, I could only describe the wagon as being like one that might be seen at a circus.
Staring in awe at the stunning, intricate black and white scene, I found myself asking, in a rather laid-back manner, "Jesus, Did you do that?"
I wasn't addressing the man who was standing beside me, but someone I was looking for among the beautiful scenery above me. I had been considering the person standing beside me a stranger, even though I knew him to be a friend whom I hadn't yet acknowledged.
As if providing a positive answer to my question, the spectrum of animals suddenly began changing into extremely beautiful colors, coming to life as I watched. Then they began to move across the sky, and the wheels of the now multicolored wagon began turning.
Then, lost in the absolute wonder of the scene, my attitude became one of seriousness. "Jesus," I then said, humbly, "If you did that, write, 'I love you, Ben.'"
I thought that, if He would just write those words in the sky, then I could believe them.
A kind voice then simply answered, "I already wrote that."
Immediately, as if a great clap of thunder had commanded my attention, I understood why I had been living without the assurance of God's love. In the dream, I began to weep uncontrollably as I stood beside the friend I hadn't recognized.
As I lay in bed, I was apparently weeping with the same intensity as in my sleep, and the sound of my own sobbing awakened me. Unable to stop or control the tears, and not wanting to wake my wife, I slipped from our bedroom into the living room of our home where I fell to my knees and continued to cry, grateful to God for what I had just been shown.
It wasn't just because of the beauty of the dream that I wept; it was that the beauty of the truth I had been missing for so many years had just been revealed to me. I realized that, even if Jesus had granted my request and had written those words I asked to see in the sky to assure me of His love, they would be no more true than what He had already written in His Word.
His Word had already told me that I wasn't unworthy, in spite of my failures, because my faith in Him had made me worthy. I needed to recognize and accept His work, and His Word, regardless of contrary external influences. We don't make ourselves worthy
--- He makes us worthy.
The dream was not the evidence of His love for me. What He "already wrote" was the evidence.
What He wrote, almost 2,000 years ago, was the declaration of His love for me, and all mankind. That declaration of love was enveloped and sealed with His own blood; the atoning blood that stained the rugged cross God erected for the world that He so loved. God's only begotten Son willingly cancelled our debt there. That is what makes us worthy, by faith in Him, to be in the presence of His Father.
I was made to see that, had Jesus written (in the sky), "I don't love you, Ben," that would not have been true, because such a statement would have been contrary to what He had already written. He would have written nothing conflicting with His own Word. The inability to lie the only limitation I know of that He ever placed on Himself. If He contradicted Himself, He wouldn't be Who He is.
I saw that I could implicitly trust only His written Word.
I then realized that my faith, and therefore my reassurance, had been weakened because I had, over the years, cut myself off from the words, already written, that were designed to nurture my faith.
The words that are already written say, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God."
I saw that neglecting the Word would result in failure to develop the spiritual knowledge available to us, and that such neglect would contribute to doubt, unbelief and faithlessness, in that order. Indifference to His Word by non-Christians is a fatal mistake. Neglect of His Word by Christians can lead to the fatal mistake of losing faith, the spiritual necessity by which we overcome the trappings of the god of this world. God had been speaking to me all along, but I hadn't been listening. (I finally got the picture.) My neglect of The Word over the years had made me "easy pickin's" for Satan's attack in 1969. But God was faithful in honoring the request that I, as a young Christian, had made of Him --- to bring me back to Him, "whatever the consequences," if I ever lost my faith. He loved me enough to intervene even before Satan could completely destroy my faith.
The wondrous dream was so intense that, to this day, tears often come to my eyes as I recall how beautiful and profound its message was.
Considering the other events in my life that had given me a glimpse into Satan's deceitfulness, I was initially concerned about whether or not the dream I received was of God. It was only after His written Word gave me the answers to the following questions that I could confidently share the dream with others:
(1) Was it God who permitted me to have this dream?
(2) Did God, in fact, already write "I love you, Ben"?
(3) Did something positive result from the message of the dream?
The respective answers to each of these questions were positive, since:
--- Nothing happens without God's permission. God had certainly allowed the dream. Even if the dream were only a dream, and not a divine revelation for me, there was certainly no reason to disregard its truth, especially since it was in agreement with His written Word.
--- The fact of His love for me was committed in writing, almost 2 millennia ago, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Whosoever included me.
--- The message of the dream sent me back to the place where I began my relationship with God --- to the Bible --- where He "already wrote that" He loved me, and the rest of the world.
I had rediscovered the source of the faith I had known as a young man. When I considered that the old man who had dreamed the dream was once the young man who had seen the vision, I recalled the words of the prophet Joel: " --- your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions --- ". While this prophecy most definitely pointed to the day of Pentecost, Joel's prophecy stated, "after that," which may indicate that those of future generations might also experience what he prophesied. All I can say it that I experienced the vision as a young man --- and the dream as an old man, and both had profound effects on my life.
Having no presumption that I am an interpreter of dreams (other than my own understanding of the dream's verbal message of personal assurance I received to dispel my own doubts), I nevertheless wondered about the appearance of the visual parts of the dream. Why had any of those odd things been chosen to convey the message of assurance?
For a long while, no answers were forthcoming, and there continued to be little meaning in the seemingly unrelated components of the dream. Such a strange array of things would seemingly be fodder for those who might want to debunk the message I received. When I began writing this testimony, I did not entertain any presumption of the meanings of those things, as I had no explanations, nor do I claim to have any now. Possible meanings of those components began to come to me only after I began to write this testimony. It is left to the reader to determine the importance of the possibilities I have considered here. They may, themselves, arrive at others.
I think the "unrecognized friend" who stood beside me was probably Jesus --- the Friend who stood beside me throughout all the years I had failed to recognize His amazing love for me.
The unchangeable nature of etching in scrimshaw may have been used as the Artist's means of conveying the irreversible nature of things done by the hand of God, especially the writing of His Word. It cannot be erased or altered.
The simplicity of black and white art may have been to convey the thought that his design for our lives is not as complicated as we might picture it.
The multitude of different animals covering the heavens seemed to suggest the truth that God gives no preference to one individual over another. All who receive His Son are equally eligible to become a part of His family through faith in Him.
The beautiful changing colors may have been to call attention to the fact that God doesn't want us to see His creation divided into black and white; all colors (races) are included in His eternal plan.
There were two especially confusing things in the dream.
The second most baffling thing was the wagon. I couldn't think of any reason why, among all the living things I saw, only one lifeless component of the picture would appear in the sky. I couldn't identify it other than describe it as a sort of "cage" on wheels.
Then, after I first began writing this testimony, I bought a book from Reader's Digest, copyrighted 1998 (long after the dream appeared). When I turned the pages of that book, my eyes fell upon the picture of an object that is the closest thing I've seen to what I saw in the dream. The caption below the picture read: "The ark of the covenant rendered in stone; from the ruins of a 4th-century synagogue at Capernaum in Galilee."
The ark in the photo appeared to be sitting on a four-wheeled cart, as if it was being prepared to be moved. (The wagon's wheels began to turn in my dream.) Its appearance in the book looked as if it were one complete unit, such as I saw in the dream. Vertical lines in the picture appeared to be the "bars" I saw. The carving of the ark was, according to the book, rendered in stone, having an appearance similar to ivory, the material used for scrimshaw art. Just above the picture in the book are the words, "sealed into a covenant relationship with him."
Although the ark of the covenant is a treasure of the Jews, lost when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C., it is significant to me that the carving was found in Capernaum, the headquarters of Jesus' earthly ministry. Wherever the ark was found, from the time of Moses to the pre-Diaspora period, it was the place the Israelites would meet God on earth.
As a Gentile who believes in the promise that God made to Abraham, that "--- in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed," I am aware of no other descendant of Abraham, or son of David, from the time the ark disappeared over 2,500 years ago until now, other than Jesus, who has ever qualified as the prophet Isaiah described Him --- "God with us."
What other physical object comes to mind when one considers the word "covenant?" What better object could God have used to illustrate that He had a covenant with me, and with all those, of all nations, who become believers in the Promise made to us through Abraham (Jesus Christ)? While the picture of the ark of the covenant showed it "rendered in stone," God's covenant with the believer is rendered in His even more enduring Word.
The most puzzling segment of the dream was the 1957 Chevrolet. While its appearance in the dream was not a part of the artwork, but something on which I leaned as I observed the beautiful artistry unfolding above me, it was a definite part of the dream. Its presence was the most confounding element, and would initially cause me to me to question the dream's source. Why did this "modern" fragment of the dream seemingly be entirely unrelated to the rest of the dream's imagery? Its presence seemed to only add perplexity to an otherwise overwhelming conviction that this was no ordinary dream.
Only recently did I come to the realization of why a 1957-era automobile might appear in my dream. The Bible had been the vehicle that God had earlier used to bring me to the knowledge and need of a Savior. I had once leaned on it. Although I had read it some during the 1960s, and only periodically opened it afterwards, it was a few years earlier that I had quit my Bible studies, and my "leaning" on the Book where it is written, "I love you, Ben."
The year was 1957.
Some who read or hear this testimony will dismiss the unseen things of which I testify as nonsense. They could be right about their choice of words --- if they place a hyphen between the words "non" and "sense".
The physical world is one of "sense;" touching, seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting. For some, anything outside the sphere of substance, matter or feeling is "non"-existent. Comprehension for these comes only with an appeal to the senses, making anything outside the physical realm "non-sense". Many intelligent people who lived in the 1800's would never have believed possible the technological wonders we know today, because their minds couldn't see beyond self-imposed or accepted limits of knowledge.
If what I have written in the foregoing chapters is true, then the following comments and questions are worth considering:
There are two worlds: The obvious, in which we exist and can "sense" the world around us, and the unseen spirit realm that our senses don't grasp, and about which we know very little. For many people, the latter is a "non-sense" world, because they can't utilize their senses to detect it. For that reason, it is also "nonsense" to them.
Jesus said that, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God." While this verse conveys the necessity of salvation, it also suggests that one who hasn't experienced this spiritual conversion is unaware of spiritual realities. Paul said as much in his first letter to the Corinthians when he said, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
Not accepting, or not being able to accept the possibility of an undetected world undermines the skeptic's ability to reason about spiritual things. His argument against the existence of things unseen is based on his concept that what can't be seen, or tested by known physical laws, eliminates other possibilities. If one argues against that which is beyond his ability to perceive, or willingness to consider, he is ill-equipped to present an honest argument.
As there are two worlds, the seen and the unseen, there are two kingdoms in the invisible world. These two kingdoms are antithetical. The Lord of one is our Creator, Who truly cares about us. The leader of the other is subordinate to the Creator of all beings, against Whom he is in constant rebellion. His purpose is to spiritually devour, like a hungry lion, those for whom Christ died. One Kingdom is of light; the other is of darkness. Both are eternal. The former is of Heaven --- the latter is the province of Hell, a place that Jesus says is real; where the most luxuriant thing a person who enters there can hope for is a drop of water.
The One Whose Spirit is promised to lead those who believe in His Son has given us detailed written instructions which, by heeding, we will enter into His Kingdom. The other "Leader" has no written plan for us; but he does have a veiled plan for us --- if we will simply pay no attention to our Creator's revealed Word.
God's plan is one of love for us, a love that He showed by requiring of Himself the sacrifice of His most beloved possession. His adversary, Satan, lures only by trickery, promises, and lies, those who might otherwise come to the knowledge of The Son of God. He has been envious of his Creator since he was exiled from God's presence, and snatching souls that God gave His Son to save is his way of slapping his Superior in the face. By our allowing Satan to use his deception to its ultimate conclusion, we will cross the threshold into his horrifying kingdom.
The Bible confirmed for me that what I saw was real. I know of absolutely no other book of antiquity that can account for the experiences I have recorded in these pages.
The Bible says of the One Who created all things, "God is a Spirit." He is the Holy Spirit Who created all souls, the human and the unseen.
Omniscient. Omnipresent. Omnipotent. These are powers attributed to the Creator. To a relatively minor degree, compared to what the Bible says are God's supreme capabilities, I witnessed the less significant spirits' demonstrations of powers that exceed those of humans.
Omniscience: The evil spirits knew things that were beyond the knowledge of humans.
Omnipresence: They simultaneously coordinated events miles from where each of the "players" were at the same time.
Omnipotence: The spirits had powers beyond those that humans possess.
If these lesser spirits, which are subordinate to their Creator, exhibited some of the uniqueness ascribed to Him, though to a lesser extent, what does that tell us about God's magnificent power?
(Humans who've accepted Satan's offer of "power" may exhibit similar powers, but as an extension of demonic powers. Some may even mention Jesus as having a hand in their supernatural abilities. This is why the Bible says, "Try the spirits, to see whether they are of God." One cannot compare such "spiritual" attributes if they are not familiar with the Book that warns against anti-Christian practices.)
Jesus told us to learn of Him. I'll be forever grateful that I did.
Where do we learn of Him? God has made that so easy for us.
Is there any other book, other than the Bible, that foretells, with such awesome accuracy, hundreds of years before Jesus was born, the credentials that the promised Messiah would present? Jesus fulfilled every one of those things that the prophets said He would.
If He is not the One we acknowledge as Our Savior; the One we confess to others, the One we believe in our heart that God raised from the dead, there will come another to provide access to our destiny. If we neglect this great salvation, there will be no escape.
Jesus said if you do not believe that He is the One, you will die in your sins.
That is not God's will for you.