It never occurred to me that I could take a sleeping pill and sleep all night. Taking pills had always been a second best solution to dealing with almost any kind of a problem, although I did keep aspirin handy for pain.
Starting somewhere in 1978 my sleep pattern began to be violently interrupted two or three times a week. I would wake up with a jolt around 1:00 a.m. Fear, lust, confusion, anger and delusions threatened my sanity. My only option was to get dressed and rush to a meadow near our house. Rain, snow or cold could not persuade me to do otherwise. The battles lasted several hours before my mind calmed and a reasonable amount of sanity was restored. The next day I felt like a whipped puppy. Rebekah never questioned my unusual behavior. She always treated me with unusual kindness after these marathon prayer marches.
The meadow had a dirt road running through it with ruts that could easily swallow half a tire and my feet if I did not watch where I was going. I was always grateful for the light of a moon to guide my feet. The meadow had been subdivided into 2 to 4 acre parcels years earlier. Purchasers of the property had been waiting for utilities to be installed and a passable road to be built. Fortunately those improvements were not made until my battle for sanity came to an end in 1996. I often compared those difficult years to fighting Word War III single-handedly. Before it’s all over, most of us will be fighting such battles inside of ourselves. The enemy is not “them,” it’s us! He is in and or all around us.
I write about this some fifteen years after the battles ended. I do so not to solicit sympathy or admiration for going to hell and back. I write about this to encourage those who fear for their sanity, those who may be ready to point a gun to their own or someone else’s head. I bare my soul for the benefit of those who may be asking, “Will this insanity ever come to an end?” I bare my soul for the benefit of psychiatrists, counselors, pastors, priests, and care givers who are looking for a better way to help those who are hurting on the inside.
The battles I fought were not always to preserve my own sanity. At times I knew beyond a shadow of a reasonable doubt that they were for others we invited into our home. My heart was profusely poured out to the misfits, the misdiagnosed and the misunderstood of the world; and as a result, we attracted our share of them. I recall one incident of long duration that culminated in a most unusual way. I will describe the essence of the battle here but direct you to the more complete story entitled: Especially for Fathers.
Rebekah and I were awakened from a deep sleep one night. Our Upper Room guest was banging cabinet doors in the guest apartment adjoined to our home. Rebekah was scared. She locked herself in the bathroom. I did not know if I was to confront our guest and her bizarre behavior or had what it took. I was confronted by an unknown that I had unsuccessfully wrestled with for many years. Dealing with demons was not my specialty, probably because I had my own closet full. For some twenty years I had tried to extricate our guest from her bizarre, unpredictable and self-destructive lifestyle. I knew how to be nice, but I did not know how to be firm. The father of her child was in prison for murder. She died of breast cancer before I saw victory. I was not to be her rescuer, her savior, her counselor or doctor. I finally learned the hard way that Jesus was the only one who could heal and sanctify her delusional mind or mine. Only He knew how to do it, when to do it and through whom it was to be done. Some five years later I was compelled to write: To Whom It May Concern – a warning to anyone who tries to deliver someone from demons or what psychiatrist diagnose as schizophrenia.
I hurriedly got dressed and rushed to a nearby meadow and prayed like I had seldom prayed before. When I had prayed through – became calm again by dealing with the spirit of fear in and around me – I went home. Everything was calm and quiet when I arrived. The next day I spoke to the guest and asked her what had happened to her during the night. She replied, "Demons were scaring me and trying to torture me. The only way I could drive them off is by making a big racket; that’s why I slammed cabinet doors again and again." I believe I warred with these demons in the meadow – I hurled the name of Jesus Christ into the camp of the enemy and after a while they scattered – at least for a little while.
Rebekah and I have attracted a variety of visitors from the day we were married in 1973 – people with a lot of questions and a lot of needs. Some of them turned out to be like leaches that we had to flick off. It took a while before we learned that they were leaches and had learned to manipulate others and us. Every person who visited us, but especially those who ate at our table and slept in our home, became our teachers. Many, but not all, became our friends. We learned many things the hard way. There were a few times we came to a point where we asked ourselves if we would ever respond to another knock on the door, another request for help? Some untold bizarre stories are still bottled up inside of me waiting to be told or written.
Some visitors drove me into the meadow during the middle of the night. The following account is recorded in the epistle: Portrait of a Heart. The essence of the story can be summed up in a few words. This man, a hulk of a man, drove all the way from Florida to get answers to life. He was stalked by the spirit of insanity and ready to commit himself to an institution. At one point in his stay with us he evoked a fierce rage in me by his unruly and demanding conduct. I rushed to my meadow once again and cried out to God, “Lord, if you don’t do something right now, my life will be undone because I am ready to do something that will cause everyone around me to challenge my sanity.”
It seemed as if I had a machine gun in my hands and heart and was ready to blow the head off of our guest. At this crucial moment when my own sanity hung in the balance, I had a vision of a little boy. He was drowning and had just enough air to reach his little hand above the waves one more time hoping someone would see it. I believe “that one more time” was equivalent to our guest coming all the way from Florida for help. God replaced the anger in my heart with incredible and unconditional love. I was no longer afraid of our guest or the bullies he was manifesting. I was able to couple gentleness with firmness in the way I spoke to him the next day. This time Jesus did use me to confront very real demons of rage in someone. At the same time I was able to recognize the spirit of murder in myself and repent. We are still in touch after 21 years. And we love, respect and enjoy one another.
Another time a guest propositioned me and our son while Rebekah was out shopping. She quietly walked into my writing room. She was bare-breasted and heavily perfumed. She said, “Peter, I have prepared myself for you. Come to bed with me.” She also propositioned our son. I was stunned and told her to get back to her room and get her clothes on. In her professional life she had been a counselor. Another guest had the nerve to sneak his girlfriend up the outside back steps. She drove all the way from Denver to meet up with him at our place. We had to call the police to get them to leave.
Bloody wars are real and they will continue unless every individual is willing to fight his own World War III and do their own housekeeping. It seems that every few years there is a certain amount of blood letting to diffuse the anger, rage, lust and greed inside of human hearts. Riots in the streets help to diffuse anger for a little while but in the long run little or nothing is accomplished. The real wars must be fought and won inside the hearts of men. Prisons, mental hospitals and streets are full of casualties. Wars so far have never cleansed the human heart of greed, lust or rage. Repentance for our ungodly actions is the only thing acceptable to God. Forgiveness is available for those who ask for it. No extra charge for these words! Psychiatrist, priests, pastors and counselor, please pay special attention to these words.
As we drive by homes in respectable and well kept neighborhoods, we have no idea what might be going on inside these homes. There could be strife or there could be peace. And when we look at others, we often have no idea if the heart is filled with lust or love, greed or generosity. Most of us have done a pretty good job hiding the “uglies” inside of us, but not always successfully. Every person has plenty of their own “uglies.” Only when we are willing to deal with our own “uglies,” will wars and backbiting stop. And they will stop quickly.
There is a show on ABC that entertained us for many years. It’s called, “Extreme Home Makeover.” Rebekah and I have enjoyed many episodes. In fact, a friend who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico was the beneficiary of an “Extreme Home Makeover.” But what all of us need more than an “Extreme Home Makeover” is an “Extreme Heart Makeover” – mine included.
My own “Extreme Heart Makeover” took place during the middle of the night as I walked and marched like a soldier in the meadow near our house. It’s a good thing that I was alone and unobserved. The violence and the delusions rampant within me made me unpredictable to myself and others. But somehow I knew that Jesus was permitting these battles and that He was with me. I knew I would not only survive, but that I would eventually be victorious if I continued to fight. The four biggest giants that I faced over and over again were anger, fear, an accusing spirit and an exalted opinion of myself similar to how King Nebuchadnezzar might have seen himself.
I had no idea that anger was such a big giant until a certain individual threatened my authority. I am just now reminded of the time and can picture him. It was not the only time that someone slipped by our gate of discernment. Without asking our permission, he brought in his rock music, placed it in our tape player and blasted his music into our living room. This was a minor infraction to our gift of hospitality and we were able to deal with it quickly. Nevertheless, it let me know that anger was my Achilles tendon. Whenever someone usurped the atmosphere in our home via the strength of their personality, spoken or unspoken, I felt like a caged animal. Caged animals are unpredictable and dangerous. Enough said!
How does one handle such a thing without being ugly or arbitrary? I remember the time someone snuck her grandchildren up the back steps to the Upper Room violating the purpose for which we had built it and our instructions before she came. I remember the time that someone caused a fire and slipped out without telling us what happened. I remember the time someone brought an angry spirit into our home that caused us to walk on eggshells. These things infuriated me. All I could do at first was to stuff and bluff my emotions. At first I did not know how to handle them; however, they did expose and made me aware of my own ugly and explosive nature. Becoming acquainted with my own uncrucified nature was the beginning of healing for me. Today, many years later, it is only on rare occasions that someone can bully their way into our life or violate the boundaries we have established.
Fear stalked me most of my life; but it was not until the loss of our home was imminent that I came face to face with the giant called fear. I handled it by working diligently and by talking to God. I did what I could do and then left the rest to Jesus as best as I knew how. Asking anyone except Jesus for help was never my strong suite. Asking for help had always been difficult for me. The source of being unable or unwilling to ask for help can be but is not always pride, a very sneaky demon to spot and hard to get rid of.
At one point in 1980 we were three months away from losing our home. I was desperate. What could I do? I had the novel and inspired idea of walking once around Lake Pagosa where we still live today for every thousand dollars we needed while praying my heart out. After sixty-six laps around the lake a peace came over me that let me know that I had “prayed through.” My marathon walk covered nearly 250 miles. A few days later a man knocked on our door. He said, “Peter, Jesus has not allowed my wife and me to sleep.” He said, “We are to do whatever is in our power to help you stay in your home.” He said, “No one but you and Rebekah are to live in your house.”
Paying the mortgage became an obsession. The harder I tried to make the payments, the harder it became and the greater the anxiety became. Anxiety is a mixture of both anger and fear. I had made a god, an idol out of paying the mortgage and forfeited the presence of God in the process. But one day in 1993 I had a breakthrough. It was not a financial breakthrough. The breakthrough was the revelation that I had made an idol out of paying the mortgage. I wrote about this in one of our Stretcher Bearers for Christ newsletters. I called the story: The Turning Point. The fear of being unable to pay the mortgage began to wane after I repented. In 1999 the mortgage was paid in full – seventeen years before it was due.
I dealt with the fear during many marathon prayer marches in the meadow. I remember one pivotal conversation with God after “arguing” with Him repeatedly about our financial woes. Finally I was able to say and mean it, “OK, Lord, if it takes this mortgage to make a man of faith and courage out of me, keep it on me for however long necessary and I promise You I won’t grumble or complain any more. Six years after that conversation and commitment the mortgage was miraculously paid in full.
Fear was also and always associated with going to the doctor or dentist. I was not afraid of the pain associated with these visits but the cost. I repeatedly asked for prayer to have a hernia healed. I was not afraid of the pain associated with the operation but the pain to my pocket book. When I learned that as a veteran I was eligible for free medical help, I made an immediate date at the Veteran’s Hospital in Albuquerque to have the problem taken care of. There were similar instances associated with getting dental care. On numerous occasions I adjusted my partials with a chainsaw file and sandpaper. Yes, fear is a giant that still tries to stalk me. I cannot afford to let my guard down.
The giant that I have heretofore never made public is called “the fear of man.” This fear stalked me longer than any other fear. I became aware of it in a most unusual manner. In 1970 I had a vision right around Easter. And let me say this, “I am not prone to have visions or unusual dreams.”
Early one morning, as I was in the garden by our house, I saw a young boy about twelve years old walk through an empty field. He had a rooster clamped under one arm. Then, suddenly, I was translated in a vision to the crucifixion of Jesus. I was one of the apostles. I was the apostle Peter and had denied Jesus three times just like the apostle Peter did. I was shaken to the core of my being. The denial tormented me day and night for years because I believed that I was the reincarnation of Peter.
I went to the Book of Luke, chapter 20 and read these words that Jesus spoke to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not; and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” I held onto these words for dear life. Jesus said that He was praying for me. Those words kept me from despairing. I am disclosing my own humanity and how Jesus revealed Himself to me in order to unmask the crippling label of schizophrenia and to strengthen the brethren
I was hospitalized. I was put on medication. I lost my job and was put on disability. I lost my wife and children. I finally thought and said to myself, “If the world says I am crazy, I’ll just take their crazy money.” I took the world’s “crazy money” for the next 38 years. I hope everyone who has the power to label and disable someone with a label is listening. Just as an aside let me say that I never heard voices like so many schizophrenics do, but my thought-life and emotions were very compelling and reckless at times. By the grace of God, I only acted out a few of them. I did not do it in public. I applied my fury by splitting firewood and breaking a few things of little value.
I have hinted to others what happened but never let anyone know specifics until now. I owe it to Jesus who healed me and to others still in captivity to speak and write what happened to me. The first thing that roused me out of the delusion of being the apostle Peter were these words gently offered by my former wife Josephine, “Peter, are you aware that there are mostly people in mental institutions who believe they are significant heroes or villains of the past?”
Those words helped a lot; but the journey that challenged my delusional world was a very long and arduous one. It was fraught with great anguish and laced with many tormenting thoughts and sleepless nights. I gradually was able to accept an answer that had a semblance of sanity. I can be like another apostle Peter or some other high-profile person, but I can never be them. And even identifying myself with another person so completely, whether that person is alive or dead must put me on high-alert. I fell into this trap because I was raised with a hodgepodge of religious beliefs – reincarnation was one of them. I also began to realize that in my private thought-life, I toyed with an exalted opinion of myself. My dear Mother who loved me very much had put me on a pedestal from the day I was born.
Those who have never done something that they are terribly ashamed of have no idea how I was tormented or how the apostle Peter must have suffered after he denied Jesus. I kept the words “And the cock crowed … And Peter went out and wept bitterly” in front of me as a constant reminder of the denial. We are told that he wept bitterly and so did I. In my head I knew that Jesus had forgiven me; but my heart could not receive these words for the longest time. Finally I was shown that Satan was the accuser of the brethren; and that it was he who did not want me to forgive myself or accept Jesus’ pardon. It was he who wanted me to have an exalted opinion of myself. It was he who continued to use the denial as a sledgehammer to accuse and torment me.
There are many who believe they have committed the unpardonable sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. I have met some of these individuals and have felt their torment. The sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit is a very real sin. I have always wondered if the psychiatrist committed this sin who wrote that my speaking in tongues was gibberish? I choose to believe now that he wrote those words because of ignorance. We do a lot of things out of ignorance. I am able to say in my heart and mean it, “Father, forgive this man for he knew not what he was doing. Forgive my pastor because he knew not what he was doing. Forgive my therapist because he knew not what he was doing.”
My prayer language was my preferred weapon of warfare during my midnight battles. When confusing, angry, delusional and fearful thoughts would taunt me, I prayed out loud in tongues as I marched and warred like a soldier in a great battle. Peace was often not restored to my frazzled mind and emotions for several hours. Then, all of a sudden, when I blurted out these Scriptures “The battle is the Lord’s” or “The Lord rebuke you, Satan,” peace would instantaneously be mine again.
Over and over I asked God to heal my tormented mind and allow me to sleep at night. I asked Him why a simple prayer or the right prescription drug, diet or exercise was not the answer for me. Finally He replied with these words,
“These battles build character, insight, compassion, perseverance and many other qualities that a courageous soldier and a compassionate physician needs. Peter, you would not have a story to tell if you did not have to battle for your sanity. Because you have been in this lengthy conflict with hell, your uncrucified ego, and the lust of your own flesh, I can trust you with keys and weapons of warfare that you can use and also pass on to others.”
The above words in italics are a part of a small booklet called The Purple Pamphlet. It can be downloaded or read on line on our web site.
I am still on guard and must continue to be on guard. During the past fifteen years I only had to rush to the meadow one time. It was a quick fix this time. I nipped the anger in the bud. The anger that drove me into the meadow dissipated in one hour and has not returned with such ferocity again. I still wake up in the middle of the night from time to time. I still wrestle with ungodly thoughts and emotions; but they are negligible compared to what drove me into the meadow for over sixteen years. When I am engaged in spiritual warfare now, I often know why and for whom. That in itself is a big relief. My job now is that of a coach who teaches soldiers how to recognize their enemy, how to persevere and how to overcome him. My job is to remind others that we are not wrestling against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places. My job is to remind recruits that the weapons of our warfare are never to be carnal weapons. My job is to remind others that without the name of Jesus and the power that is in that name they are dead meat. I have asked Jesus to let me write a prayer that will make warriors out of wimps and winners out of losers. Here is a copy of that prayer posted inside of Rebekah’s painting called: The Sword of the Lord – Strongholds are Coming Down.
I will be glad to take others to my meadow or show them where it is, but only those who are ready to defrock and castrate their own demons with Jesus’ help. I will show them where the bleached demon bones are scattered along the path I walked, marched and prayed. I will be happy to show anyone how to fight; but every person must do their own fighting. Please do not wait to come here to engage the enemy in battle. Ask Jesus to show you your own personal meadow near your house and He will. Go to this web page to learn more: Who Will March with Me? Go for it!
I thank you Jesus for restoring my mind like you restored the mind of King Nebuchadnezzar after he repented for exalting himself above the Living God of Israel – See Daniel, chapter 4. I also thank You for sending troubled souls in our direction and to our web site so that we can encourage them with our victory.
In the name of Jesus – the Great Physician and my Commander-in-Chief.
Lord Jesus – I give you the glory for my healing and victory. I receive your pardon. You showed me how to fight and fight I will and fight I must!