I trailed Jeff around the State and learned while he lived out loud. We hiked, preached, ran, prayed, crusaded the city, grew a healthy youth group, and kept busy with activities, mostly church based, that satisfied my craving for connection with God in all I did.
I devoured my bible. I read it cover to cover. I memorized the first few chapters of Romans, the Roman Road, and all of the key salvation texts in the New Testament. My bible was dog-eared and underlined.
I went around the city apologizing to the people I had stolen from, offering financial restitution. I wrote to the stores I stole books and ski equipment from in Anchorage, confessing my kleptomaniac relationship to them, offering to pay back what I removed.
Only one store took me up on my offer: Campbell Sports. Mr. Campbell wanted a complete debrief of how I managed to leave his store with a few thousand dollars worth of bike parts, racquetball rackets, and running shoes. When I finished my detailed debrief he asked me why I wanted to come clean. “Because I am a Christian now and feel I need to right the wrongs I have done, as much as possible, to honor God.”
For the next three years, I paid Mr. Campbell 50 dollars per month, making the final payment to his widow after he passed away from cancer in 1990. She was just as intrigued with my payments as he was and asked me to repeat my story. I’m pretty sure the whole family quit their affiliation with Mormonism and became Christians.
A lot of apologies were in order and I was making rounds. One of them, at the Police Department ended with me in jail. I asked the clerk for a print out of my driving record. Looking over her bifocals, she asked me to please wait for a moment. She had the look of an irritated grandmother. About 30 seconds later A State Trooper had me in handcuffs headed to his car, then to jail. All those speeding tickets I bunched up and threw away came back to haunt me. Ironically, this was the first day I had decided to fast in order to concentrate on my relationship with Christ.
Laying on the steel bed, I added to the graffiti in my prison cell some declaration of love for Christ. I skipped dinner. Prison food wasn’t going to be how I break my very first fast.
Despite the sense of expectation and faith I met each new day with, my sleep was usually scarred by dreams of defeat by Satan or the torment of an evil spirit. Sometimes I dreamt that I was the Devil himself or that Christ was defeated by evil. Waking with a cold sweat I had to remind myself who I was and who my Lord was. This fight for my subconscious went on for about 6 months.
In church services I stopped sitting while I sang worship songs but stood instead, eyes closed, embracing God as best I could in my minds eye, oblivious to the stares of those good folks behind me (I always took the seat in the center of the first row.) who sat for the second half of the worship set.
Edward Hughes, the gracious Senior Pastor of First Assembly, received a lot of complaints about me. Instead of being pressured to curb my zeal he nurtured it and channeled it in positive ways. Instead of asking me to sit when the rest of the congregation sat, he said with his grandfatherly voice, “son, I like your enthusiasm, but can you take it to a side aisle instead of the center of the church?” I realized that my fervor was a distraction to some and gladly shifted left.
On nights when I found myself alone at mom’s trailer on the hill, I would stick a Christ For The Nations worship tape in the stereo and dance a charismatic two-step while singing along with the tape. With Beads of Sweat on my forehead, arms raised and eyes closed and angled up, I would reach out to God with my whole heart. No distractions then, just a boy in love with God.