Forty years is a Biblical generation, and it is from the vantage point of 40 years that I now look back at the Jesus Movement and how it has affected and shaped my life. Nailing down my personal history seems wise as I seek to know the "measure of my days." Psalm 39:4 and looking back gives clarity as I look to the future. The Preacher of the ancient book of Ecclesiastes says that God has set eternity in our hearts, and I want to have the wisdom to search out that which is eternal.
At first glance, it might seem that the Jesus Movement was anything BUT eternal. It was a short-lived spiritual awakening that took place in our country roughly between the late 1960's until early 1980's. Like all revivals, it ignited hearts and burned brightly for a short season. Man has never learned to manage revival fire and all attempts to do so are destined to put it out, and then, mysteriously, it leaps up again in another place and time. "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit." John 3:8 I hope to see it leap up again on behalf of my children and the next generation.
This is my story. In the early 1970's I was a good church kid. Although I wore tie-dye shirts and elephant flares, I was never a hippie nor did I aspire to be one. Sundays, you'd find me at the Baptist church playing hymns on a huge organ for the congregational singing. At some point, I started tuning in to the radio on Sunday mornings while I was getting ready for church. It was WOW radio out of Omaha, 590 AM and from 8:30 to 11:30 they aired the "Scott Ross Show."
I had a shoebox cassette tape player and I sat it in front of the radio and taped the program. During the week I'd replay it again and again, savoring the testimonies that Scott Ross shared but especially reveling in the music. That music became a part of me, and to this day there is a chord deep within that resonates when I hear it. For some reason, a snatch of lyrics from Phil Keaggy's As the Ruin Falls has had a lasting effect on me: "I never had a selfless thought since I was born. . ." It was years later that I would discover C.S. Lewis and his writings, and by serendipity learn that those lyrics were taken from his poetry.
In 1974 I went off to Bible College, a straight-laced midwestern school that required me to wear dresses and nylon stockings. The bell bottom jeans, smock tops, and tie-dyed shirts were packed away but on the week-ends I'd sometimes go home and don them--my alter ego?
I remember one warm fall week-end, I got wind of a youth gathering in Shambaugh, Iowa. Shambaugh was a teeny-tiny rural community, it had a population of about 200. It was within driving distance of where I lived and I decided to check it out. Etched on my memory forever, there was something special about that night. Hippie-types converged from every direction, many were barefoot and had long hair and they were streaming to the church in large numbers. I knew very few of them and suspect they came from all of the surrounding rural communities. Once inside, there was a young man (who?) sitting on a stool, strumming a guitar and crooning a Larry Norman song, I Wish We'd All Been Ready. I don't remember anything about his musicianship, which is remarkable because I tend to always be critiquing. I don't remember much else about the evening at all, but the one single thing: Jesus was there. The Holy Spirit was living and active and so palpable that I was caught into the timelessness of eternity.
I had tasted Him, and that single taste would set me on a journey to find a spiritual community where I could find Him continually. Little did I know then where this journey would lead, but looking back I can trace the edges of His ways. He has unmistakeably lead me in paths of righteousness, and in future installments I'll share the next leg of my journey.