Sometimes, his office walls dissolve, John Paul Jackson says, and he glimpses scenes from a person's past or future.
At night, signs and omens fill his dreams, and voices occasionally wake him with whisperings of things to come.
Jackson is a fortuneteller of sorts, offering advice about relationships, careers and health. But he wouldn't be caught dead with a crystal ball or Tarot cards.
When he peers into someone's future, it's strictly a religious affair. Jackson and others like him claim to practice a 1990s version of the prophesying found in the Bible.
The phenomenon has electrified charismatic Christians across the country. Stories are told of angels appearing to large crowds, freak power surges and Jesus riding shotgun in a 1950s Lincoln.
But the prophecy movement has also stirred controversy, a whiff of sexual scandal and scads of plain old disbelief. Some critics say the seeming accuracy of the predictions can be explained psychologically. Others suspect outright fraud.
At Anaheim's 4,700-member Vineyard Christian Fellowship, where the 41-year-old Jackson works as an assistant pastor, he and associate pastor Jack Deere discuss prophecy's rise. With his piercing, Old Testament eyes and graying mane and beard, Jackson could be the phenomenon's poster child. Deere, 43, a bespectacled ex-professor of theology, is considered one of the movement's scholars.
Both admit the whole thing is "weird"--the visions, the voices, the ministers who claim to even \o7 smell \f7 God. (The deity's scent is like roses or honeysuckle, Jackson says; sin smells like sulfur.) But \o7 weird\f7 doesn't necessarily mean \o7 untrue\f7 , says Deere.
Their story begins with a couple of earthquakes and a silver-haired celibate from Texas named Paul Cain.
In late 1988, Cain--prophecy's reigning heavyweight--was scheduled for a Dec. 3 visit to the Anaheim Vineyard. When asked for a "sign" that the message he would deliver was true, Cain reportedly predicted a local quake for the day he arrived and a big jolt elsewhere in the world after his departure.
Sure enough, a 5.0 temblor rumbled out of Pasadena before dawn Dec. 3. And when Cain left four days later, a 6.9 quake flattened Soviet Armenia, although it actually occurred some hours \o7 before\f7 he departed.
That won over Vineyard leaders, who took Cain on a world tour that eventually captured the attention of everyone from "The 700 Club" television show to Christianity Today magazine.
Strange tales followed. In some cities, angel sightings accompanied Cain's visits; in others, mysterious electrical surges reportedly melted fuses, tripped fire alarms and fried video cameras as he spoke.
And then there is Cain himself.
As recounted by several sources, Cain's story was weird even before he was born: His mother was 44, pregnant and dying of tuberculosis, cancer and heart disease when an angel supposedly appeared, told her she would be healed and would give birth to a boy, whom she should name after the apostle Paul.
She lived another 60 years and Cain, at age 8, began logging angelic visits of his own.
One night during the 1950s, when Cain was engaged to be married, Jesus reportedly materialized in Cain's Lincoln and said he was jealous of the prophet's fiancee. The apparition then asked Cain to remain single and celibate. Cain managed to keep driving but ran several red lights and was pulled over.
The Lord, of course, conveniently disappeared, but the Santa Maria policeman who stopped the car turned pale when he approached the driver's window and shined a flashlight inside.
"Where's the other person?" he asked.
After the incident, Cain prayed, asking God to "change his chemistry" to remove all sexual desire, Deere says. A few years later, another supernatural encounter led Cain to abandon his successful ministry and await further instructions. He didn't resurface for nearly 30 years.
Although such stories undoubtedly intrigue many rank-and-file Christians, the real attraction is the possibility of receiving a personal message from God.
It can be intimidating.
When Ann Harrison of Orange attended a Vineyard prophecy conference in 1990, she felt "a mixture of fear and desire" when speakers called to audience members with what they said were messages from on high.
"Part of you wants to hear from God directly," she says, "but part of you is afraid of being publicly accountable for what he tells you to do."
Others plunge in. Paul Thigpen, a Florida writer, says he has a 100-page notebook crammed with forecasts about geographic moves, new jobs, finances and family--many of them already fulfilled: "It's a lot easier to hear from God than people thought."
So it would seem. In recent years, all sorts of prophets have popped up.
A few, like Cain, mostly work large crowds--calling up selected listeners and identifying birth dates, addresses or personal secrets as ostensible proof that the subsequent predictions are from God.