I was created for a purpose. So were you. This life is not an accident, and the major events that mark our journey are not random. However, it is not obvious to us because we often see it and try to explain it only through the physical realm or what author Randy Alcorn calls the “Shadowland.” Music is a good example of this. You hear it through the physical dimension of the ear, and can understand the theory of it in your mind, but the essence of the sound penetrates to a deeper level that cannot be explained. Music quiets the savage beast. It is a healing thing. There is a bible story found in I Samuel 16:14-23 about David and King Saul. This took place before David had killed Goliath. In verse 23, “And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.” So, just as music is deeper than its’ physical and scientific components, life is the same. Science can help us understand a lot about people, the earth we live in and the universe, but it cannot explain the origin of life, the miraculous things many of us experience or what happens when we die. Those things have to be viewed through the spirit, or another way of saying it is through the eyes of our heart, which can only be opened by God. When I look back upon my life, I can see how God was drawing me to Him along the way, but a lot of the time I was blind to His actions just as I often am even now.

Throughout my life, from as early as I can remember, music grabbed me at every opportunity. It is impossible for me to ignore it. I have always been unable to treat it in a passive manner. My parents saw this fascination and when I was six years old they bought a lap steel guitar for me and I began my journey. At first it was simple, the sound of the guitar was enough to keep me occupied for hours. Later a teacher introduced me to the logic of music notation and other mental doorways opened revealing many puzzles to be solved. This wasn’t an intellectual or aural game for me, however, but a pathway that I felt compelled to follow. Guitar, string bass, tuba, piano, jazz band, orchestra, wind ensemble, music theory, composition, arranging and improvisation all became my passion and my world.

The music was so much bigger than I originally thought and was so full of order that it forced me to look closely at the world around me. If I had the ability to create music from nothing, was it also possible that there was something or someone responsible for creating everything from nothing? It was impossible for me to intellectually accept the theory of evolution taught in science classes, but I had no religious background or spiritual foundation either. I remember visiting churches with friends on occasion as a boy and I vividly remember a Billy Graham Crusade in Denver when I was in junior high school. His message was very compelling and caused me to think a lot, but nothing really took hold at that time and I kept searching in a variety of ways.

I am a child of the 60’s and each of us from that decade retains the stark images of political unrest and intense contradictions. On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his famous I Have a Dream speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. One month later on September 15, a bomb planted in a church in Birmingham, Alabama, which killed four little girls, dramatically answered his message of hope and liberation. To put an exclamation mark on it, a sniper’s bullet cut short the life of president Kennedy on November 22 and the nation watched two days later as the suspected assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was gunned down on national television by Jack Ruby, a Dallas night club owner. Viet Nam raged eventually taking the lives of 53,193 American soldiers. Folk singer Barry McGuire recorded The Eve of Destruction written by P.F. Sloan in 1965, and the lyrics resonated loudly with young people.

You’re old enough to kill
But not for votin’
You don’t believe in war
But what’s that gun you’re totin’
And even the Jordan River has bodies floatin’
But you tell me over, and over, and over again my friend
Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction

Bob Dylan, the poet laureate of the 60’s told everyone the times they are a-changin’.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

The antithesis of the violence of the decade was found in a rapidly growing peace and love movement. We were looking for answers outside of traditional politics, economics and religion. I didn’t want anything to do with a culture that produced racial inequality, prejudice, wars and hatred. Where was real love? Why couldn’t we give peace a chance? The philosophers of psychedelic rock music seemed to have the best ideas. I hadn’t cared for most rock music prior to this, but suddenly the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, the Who, the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane burst into my consciousness. George Harrison really floored me with the sitar and tabla used in some of the Beatles tunes and to me Hendrix was a blues man from another planet. I heard the Dead in Denver in ’68 in City Park at a “Be-in” in what could only be described as a tribal atmosphere certainly similar to what happened the following year on a larger scale at Woodstock. The same year I also heard Ravi Shankar and Alla Rakha and tenor saxophonist Charles Lloyd with a young Keith Jarrett, Ron McLure and Jack DeJohnette. I could hardly contain my joy in finding such amazing sounds that I never knew existed. In addition, the philosophical and spiritual dimension to the music was very apparent and gave me refuge from the grim realities of the time. Messages in the cover art and the lyric content of a lot of the songs made me extremely curious about drugs and Eastern philosophy. I was looking for the answers to life and the Something behind music and was really searching.

My first experimentations with marijuana and hash opened me up to another way of looking at life and making music. However, it wasn’t long before I realized that the new thing wore off and it was impossible to maintain the original high. There was something else, something I needed to find. I was honestly searching for meaning and wanted answers. A musician that I knew turned me on to the teachings of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi through the discipline of Transcendental Meditation. The Beatles were into it, so it had to be cool. I went through the initiation in a hotel in Boulder, Colorado where I brought an offering of fruit, flowers and a white handkerchief and was given my personal mantra. The initiator had me repeat the mantra over and over and I went out, it was like the first time I smoked pot. After what seemed like a very long time, I came out of a long, deep trance and that was the start of my period of regular meditation. I met the jazz flutist Paul Horn when my trio played at the National Intercollegiate Jazz Festival held in St. Louis in 1969. He was very deep into TM and I figured it confirmed the direction I had chosen was a good choice. I meditated by chanting my personal mantra for twenty minutes in the morning and the evening and for a while it really helped me focus my life. However, after a few months one particular session totally freaked me out. I met a very dark spiritual being. I had unwittingly been calling his name with the mantra and he finally began to answer. It felt like I was in a nightmare and couldn’t wake up. Something or someone was coming very close to me and I definitely did not want to make his acquaintance. When I finally came out of my meditation, I was panting, sweating and very afraid. I don’t know if anyone else ever experienced something like this, but at that point I parted company with Transcendental Meditation, never to return.

In the spring of 1969, probably due to my TM experience, I felt very frustrated and hemmed in. Even though school was going well and I was playing regularly, I had this insatiable desire to leave. In fact, I needed to escape. With very little planning, I bought a one-way ticket to England determined to find myself and maybe God. But when I landed at Heathrow Airport the customs officer would not let me in the country. He could see the problems that a young American hippie would get into once the money ran out and was not going to let me even try it. I was put on a plane back to the states immediately and I felt like a total loser. When I got back to Colorado, I decided to drive to L.A. I don’t even know why, I just felt compelled to run. When I got there, almost immediately I fell in with some people who were into Buddhism. I knew nothing about it. But these people believed it was truth and I thought it was worth investigating. I went to a meeting and various people stood up and told how amazing things had happened for them after chanting the phrase nam yo aren que kyo over and over. To me, the chanting of any kind of mantra felt like TM all over again, and I was not about to return to that place. I had driven a thousand miles only to realize that I had brought my problems and my childish naiveté with me, and this was not going to work. I drove home as fast as I could, went back to school and dove deeper into drugs.

Timothy Leary was espousing his theory of tune in, turn on and drop out, the Beatles had created a fantasy with Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and I was ready to begin the trip. My best friend, Duane, who had taken me to see Billy Graham came to visit me in Greeley and had brought several hits of Acid with him. In the summer of 1969, LSD was readily available and very potent. Owsley Stanley was the original chemist involved in mass distributing LSD, and his chemical brew, which was called either Owsley or Orange Sunshine, along with Purple Microdot and blotter paper could be found in most parks and college campuses. I was reluctant to try it for the first time, so I just went along with Duane and a buddy to a local park. Warm weather, splashing around in the water, laughing and having a great time, I didn’t see either of my friends doing anything weird or unusual, and they encouraged me to join them. So, I did. It was like the first time you do anything. I had nothing to compare it to. It was a shattering experience. Is this what Hendrix meant by Are You Experienced? This is what I was looking for, or so I thought. I began to trip a lot. It took me away from the mundane day-to-day reality. Cosmic consciousness, with acid as the bridge linking my mind with the universe was a very real thing to me. Now that sounds trite and rather nostalgic of the period, but at the time it was a serious deal. I was still playing music, but it was definitely not the main focus of my life. There were gigs, rehearsals, and I was still practicing, but I spent way too much time tuned in, turned on and dropped out. I had a band then that was made up of two guitars, vibes, percussion, bass and drums and we played mostly original music. We were chosen as the outstanding combo at the Intercollegiate Jazz Festival regional competition held at the University of Utah in 1970. The band performed at the national festival held at the University of Illinois and so did our big band from the University of Northern Colorado. I had written a piece for electric violin and big band entitled Euphoric Desires and our combo played one of mine entitled Sweet Peace. Bill Frisell was the other guitarist in our band. He was chosen the outstanding guitarist for the festival and I was chosen outstanding composer.

I am forever grateful for being introduced to Lareen, the woman who would soon become my wife and very thankful that she didn’t allow my lifestyle to turn her off. She was an oboist and I saw her a lot at school. We were both in the University symphony orchestra, the local community philharmonic and the opera orchestra. I was a little reluctant to ask her out, she was a couple years older than me, beautiful and I had kind of a poor self- image when it came to girls. We wound up together at a local tavern and began talking and talked just about all night. I knew on that first night that we were supposed to be together, and I believe that God arranged the meeting. We married on May 31, 1970. My life was so wrapped up in drugs that I smoked hash in the church bathroom immediately before the wedding ceremony. I was in a cloud the whole time. But I thought I was cool.

I worked a lot around Denver and with really good musicians that summer. I was playing in a rehearsal big band, worked with trios and quartets and continued to write music. Part of the honor for receiving outstanding composer at the Intercollegiate Jazz Festival was a commission by the Kennedy Center to write a piece for big band to be performed at the 1971 festival. Although I had had no classes in arranging, I had been looking into orchestration books and decided to write a multi-movement suite for the commission. The drummer in our band and his wife had a baby that year, so I titled the composition Ian’s Original Awakening. For me this was a double entendre relating birth to the awakening I had received from drugs. I worked hard on it and came up with a piece that I liked a lot. Of course, I featured myself, so that I could play guitar on the concert at the national festival held again at the University of Illinois. In retrospect, it was an attempt to write something that would be like Jimi Hendrix playing with Don Ellis. The Don Ellis Band played mainly in odd time signatures and I loved his music. I was so happy when they chose the Towson State College big band led by Hank Levy to perform my work. He had written odd time signature charts for Stan Kenton and his band would play my music well. The concert was a success, and the music was well received. I was encouraged by guitarist Mundell Lowe and Chuck Suber, who was publisher of Down Beat magazine, to really go after it. But when I got back home, I just never got around to sending the score to Down Beat or making plans to do anything more than stay high and play music, in that order.

Jimi Hendrix died on September 18, 1970. I was devastated. Janis Joplin died a month later and Jim Morisson the following spring. The psychedelic bubble had burst with the deaths of these major figures. I was still very involved with the drug lifestyle, but it was not like it used to be. The freshness was definitely gone and I felt like a slave to its demands. The band I was in at this time had a few gigs and a guy with some money backing us. Everyone decided to live together so that we could practice a lot and Lareen and I moved in with the band. While living there I purchased a new motorcycle, which was great fun until a car pulled in front of me and I hit it full force. Oddly enough, my wife had become friends with a woman she was teaching with who later told us that when she heard the sirens that day that she knew she needed to pray and ask God to save and heal the accident victim. Later she found out it was me. After they dug the glass out of my eyelid from my glasses and patched up my cuts and bruises I went back to the band house and we had to cancel the upcoming gigs. God was merciful and allowed me to live through it, however another blues and rock hero of mine, Duane Allman had a similar accident a few months later and was not spared. In the summer of 1971, we moved to L.A. to give it a go there, but the band broke up and I spent the fall and early winter of 1972 trying to pursue music and feeling totally uncomfortable in L.A.

Lareen had a job at a bank on Hollywood Boulevard and I would walk there from our apartment to meet her for lunch. One day, a few guys stopped me to talk about Jesus and gave me a little booklet. It was like God had been searching for me since I was a kid, like the bloodhound of my soul and I was too asleep to really hear His call. We both were interested but a series of events happened to cause me to run from L.A. back to Denver. An opposing spiritual force had countered once again to block this spiritual hunger. Rainbow Bridge was a movie about a young woman’s search for truth and had a live concert and some interview time with Hendrix. Well, it had only been a year since his death and I needed to see this. At the beginning of the movie, the young woman has flown from New York to L.A. and there is a scene where she is in the middle of some Jesus Freaks as the Christian hippies were called, and the movie shows it as a harassing kind of scene. As I looked closer, the people talking to her were the guys who had been witnessing to me about Jesus on the Boulevard. I couldn’t believe it. It so messed with my head, that we made immediate plans to leave L.A. and go back to Denver. Running again. Still searching.

The summer and fall of 1972 were hard financially for us. Gigs were not paying the bills and I was not happy with the waitress jobs Lareen had to take. In the midst of this turmoil I had a bizarre nightmare that pushed me to question everything and even threaten my sanity. It was very similar to the TM encounter, but much more threatening. In my sleep, I could feel what I now know to be a demonic presence. Without waking up I leapt out of bed and began physically fighting with what was after me. I punched holes in the walls and bloodied my fingers and toes beating and kicking on the floor. Lareen jumped on me, trying to wake me up and finally I came out of it. I could not shake the feeling of being watched and almost tracked. Since I really needed someone to talk to, we called the pastor who married us and who Lareen had known since she was a child in Sunday school to see if he had any answers. Unfortunately, he was not really aware of how badly I needed the truth, and he saw it as an opportunity to get a guitar player in his church band. It did help to have even a little bit of spiritual direction in my life, but I was far from grasping the reality that God was real and there was a way to know Him.

Musical employment being as haphazard as it was, I decided to check out another way to make consistent money and still be a full time musician. Several friends that I had known in college were playing in a military band stationed in Colorado Springs and even though I had a high draft number and Viet Nam was still happening, in October 1972, I made the decision to enlist in the Air Force to play guitar in the NORAD Command Band. Goodbye peace and love. This was a very strange and out of the blue decision given my view of the military and the happenings in Nam. After boot camp, we continued to live in Denver because I had been offered a great gig at a Vegas style showroom called the Warehouse. This was weird. I joined the Air Force and now was beginning to get good work in town. I had a tendency to make my move too soon. God is still at work with me developing patience. I had a guitarist friend who would sub for me when NORAD toured, which was usually one week or so a month. The band opened for headlining acts such as Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, Ike and Tina Turner, Carmen McRae, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Jimmy Smith, Mongo Santamaria, etc. I worked there from February to July, rehearsing with the NORAD Band in the mornings in Colorado Springs and rehearsing afternoons at the club in Denver and playing two shows a night, five nights a week. Combine that with my drug habits and my individual and married life were on very shaky ground.

June 1973 was the turning point in my life. It was my Crossroads. Unlike the blues legend, however, I made a different kind of bargain for my soul. One afternoon Duane and I were driving in south Denver and we noticed a big tent being set up with a bunch of hippie folks wandering around it. Curious, we stopped to find out what was happening. Jesus Freaks. A group of hippie evangelists were preaching about God’s love and had set up a tent to have revival services. We were interested in their message, bringing a rock band and almost a Woodstock vibe, they were certainly different than the congregation of any church I had ever been to.

That night for the first time I heard the simplicity of the gospel message. Or, maybe I had heard it before but had been deaf or asleep to it. The good news was that God the Father wanted me to become part of His family and Jesus, the Son, walked this earth fully man and completely God, without sin and was crucified in order to pay off the debt of sin that the human race inherited from Adam’s original sin. Jesus did not stay in the tomb, He was resurrected after three days, proved His reality to the disciples as well as hundreds of others and when He did return to heaven He left a promise that He would send the Holy Spirit back to us. To step into God’s kingdom and have Him take up residence in you is a choice of the heart. All you have to do is confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead and you will be saved (Romans 10:9). This is the new birth that Jesus told Nicodemus about in John chapter 3. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) I knew immediately that this was the truth, and that drugs and eastern philosophy were only a charade. Just as there is a beautiful order in the world and music, and as there are physical laws of the universe, there is also order and laws in the spiritual world. Jesus is the way to God. There is no other name given under heaven whereby men might be saved. I got baptized in the tent and shortly thereafter, Lareen who could not believe the immediate change in me also prayed and asked Jesus to forgive her and make her a new creation. We asked the Lord to show us a church to grow in and He led us to a community of believers in Colorado Springs called Shalom Christian Fellowship. It was just what we needed: great bible teaching and a church full of people with similar backgrounds as us. Since I had a full time job in the Air Force, I stopped working nights and spent a lot of time studying the bible and my four year hitch turned out to be just what I needed to ground myself in God’s word and become good friends with Him.

Our lives were totally different. For the first time, I felt complete. I also knew that I had nothing to do with it. I had done nothing for God to save me. No amount of cleaning up or chanting or meditating or whatever could make me pure enough for a relationship with God. It is only through the sacrifice of Jesus that my sins could be washed and forgiven. God sees me through Jesus. I am an adopted child of God and brother to my Lord Jesus.

Have I lived a perfect life since then? Of course not, I have failed many, many times and gotten off the path and made mistakes and wrong decisions, but at the end of my rope each time the Lord has been there to forgive me when I ask Him and give me a new start. May 2001 was another turning point in my life when I made Him Lord of everything in my life. God reveals Himself more and more as you are willing and ready to receive. My own life, my family, music, my university position, all that I have I laid at the feet of Jesus. I am determined to stay on the path and not follow detours put in front of me by my own choices or be ripped apart by strategically placed landmines planted by the enemy of my soul. I want this for you too. Jesus loves you and is waiting for you to accept His free gift of salvation and eternal life.

Lareen and I have been married for 34 years, have four children and have lived in L.A., Denver, Ohio, Nova Scotia, Montreal and Denton, Texas. However the truth of the matter is we are aliens in this shadow land, citizens and residents in God’s kingdom. We walk with Him now in the spirit, but a time is coming when we will be given new bodies and will forever be at home with Him and all of His other children. You can have that assurance by making the choice to believe and follow Jesus, the Messiah.