I must continue to unload my cargo ship filled with stories collected on my “see-going” journey. All I need to do is to sit down at my computer, and memories begin to rise to the surface from a deep, seemingly inexhaustible reservoir. This morning, as has been my custom for many years, I lit the wick of a small oil lamp that keeps on burning until Rebekah or I extinguish the last light of the day. The flame draws oil from an abundant reservoir. As I lay my fingers onto the keyboard of the computer terminal, memories of long ago rise to the surface. I am compelled to give life to them for the benefit of an unseen audience waiting in the galleries.
As I scan the landscape of my life, I can now see the many defining moments that have inexorably brought me to Israel, to Jerusalem, to “The Stone Table,” and now back to my safe harbor in Pagosa Springs, where I am unloading my cargo ship filled with stories.
Before going to Israel, these defining moments were like twinkling stars on the landscape of my mind, representing the events, now etched into my memory, that time and troubles could not erase. I call them my eternal and defining moments. They were like the little “white stones” mentioned in the fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel. These “white stones” eventually allowed the children who had lost their way in the forest to find their way back home. I believe that all of God’s children have defining moments and memories that allow them to find their way back to the Father’s House.
At “The Stone Table,” I was suddenly able to connect all the twinkling stars in my life and see the big picture. And when I saw the picture, I could see the invisible Hand of God that had been directing my life from the moment I was conceived and even before. I could not see my guardian angels, but I knew that they had never left my side; even in the darkest moments, they had been keeping me from harm.
A dream has suddenly arrived at the gate of my mind, a dream I dreamed repeatedly when I was a child.
I was walking through halls of glory. I marveled at the beauty of it all. I was so very much at home there. It was so natural to walk through these halls. I remember being alone. I remember being so very loved. I do not recall any angels or people or playmates. Then I found myself wandering through a gate. The buildings on each side of the road were very beautiful to begin with, but as I kept on walking, they shrunk in size and magnificence. Eventually, the buildings became like the ordinary homes to which I was accustomed, and the street became a dusty country road.
When I awoke, I was desolate because I did not know how to find my way back. The dream never left me. It is as real just now as it was almost seventy years ago. I can still feel the pain of waking up in a country that did not feel like home.
Without knowing how or why, I have tried to find my way back all of my life. Yes, today I am on my way home and know it. And I invite you to come along. The dream reminds me of the movie, The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy left the city of Oz and suddenly saw herself amongst familiar surroundings again. This might be a good time to ask, “What is the spiritual significance of the movie?” I found a number of answers; maybe you have also. The movie is far more than a movie. It is one of those “white stones” that the Holy Spirit has planted along the dusty journey of our lives. It is the mystery of heaven veiled inside a fairy tale. Or is it a fairy tale?
Even though I grew up in a war-ravaged land, the memories of my childhood are pleasant, more like an adventure than a trial. It was not until World War II was a part of history that my Jewish mother let me know that my ancestors on her side of the family were all Jewish. She kept that a secret until the war was over and Germany was defeated. During those war years, we played hide-and-go-seek. We hid while the German Secret Police tried to find us. They never did, although other relatives and friends were not as fortunate as we were. My guardian angels did a great job, don’t you think?
It didn’t dawn on me until we came to America that there was anything wrong with having Jewish blood running through my veins until I met Josephine, my bride to be. I was totally protected from experiencing any kind of persecution or rejection until I met my future parents-in-law. When they learned that my mother was Jewish, they tried to prevent their daughter from marrying me, but the flames of love and lust were burning so brightly, that they were unsuccessful. But after fourteen years of marriage, they may have added the straw that broke the camel’s back when divorce shattered my life.
I was like Moses, kicked out of my comfortable, royal, and seemingly secure lifestyle. All my badges of honor and accomplishments became like worthless trinkets overnight. Yes, one night I awoke in a mental hospital and suddenly became an outcast and a “has been”. Whether or not I was correctly diagnosed may forever be a matter of conjecture.
Being sold out to Jesus is no longer considered politically correct. Wherever Christians are in the minority, they are subject to persecution. This is certainly true in many countries. The media in America is beginning to agitate in that direction.
Here is an interesting twist. I saw it on the CBS evening news. New York City police were being trained to recognize perverts and troublemakers by being shown paintings of well-known masters. When asked what kind of impression a painting made upon them that portrayed St. Francis of Assisi, one man replied, “He appears to be a mentally deranged person.” Another painting showed Jesus with a whip in his hand as He was driving the moneychangers out of the temple. When asked how this man should be dealt with, the reply was, “He appears to be a troublemaker. We would probably take him in for questioning.” If you think I am exaggerating, turn to the evening news of October 19, 2005.
The honeymoon phase of my life lasted for fourteen years. Two wonderful children, two boys, were a gift of God from this union. Being both Jew and Gentile – my father was Gentile, did not become a real issue until I started my first job after graduating from college. One day, another employee in my department volunteered these words: “We have a great department. There is not one Jew working in it.”
Those words became one of those defining moments for me. From that day forward, I hid my Jewish roots as best as I could. Many years later, while in Jerusalem, I had another defining moment. I have already mentioned it, but will mention it again for emphasis.
I engaged a Jewish man in a conversation. After a while I asked, “Are you comfortable with the name of Jesus?”
He replied, “I appreciated it that you did not bring up His name.”
What is a person to do who is both Jew and a Gentile, who believes that Jesus is indeed the long-awaited and promised Messiah? There is no way he can cut himself apart and give half of himself to the Jews and half of himself to the Gentile Christian community. Again, that was one of those defining moments recorded in the annals of eternity.
And then there was that defining moment in my marriage to Josephine. My soul was in great anguish. I not only hid my Jewish roots as well as possible for fourteen years, but had also tried to hide my transforming experience when Jesus became real to me and I could say alongside the apostle Peter, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
It was inevitable. The reality of my conversion would eventually surface, or more accurately, explode out of my mouth. It had to surface. I was prepared for the moment. I silently slid out of bed one night and cloistered myself in a part of the house where I felt safe and alone with God. I prayed with a might and a fury that surprised me. As I prayed I was reminded of the fairy tale, “Sleeping Beauty”. I was the valiant prince who was chosen to pierce the thorny hedge of briars and awaken “Sleeping Beauty” with a kiss. As I prayed (and yes, I prayed in my heavenly prayer language that was so offensive to many, even mocked as “gibberish” by some), I saw myself holding a mighty sword in my hands. I was holding the hilt of the sword securely in both hands. I saw myself cutting through the briars, and as I did, I saw the briars as Josephine’s intellect guarding the way to her heart. Time was no longer a dimension. This world was no longer a dimension. It seemed that I broke through and pierced the thorny hedge. A great peace and calmness came upon me when I suddenly felt Josephine’s hand upon my shoulder.
As I walked with her into the family room, I noticed two men standing there in white uniforms. At first I had no idea who they might be. My strange behavior had awakened and frightened Josephine. She called a psychologist and a pastor, explaining my behavior to them over the phone. The psychologist was a both a counselor and an instructor at the University of California at Los Angeles. He had counseled me on several occasions, and I liked him. It was probably close to midnight. They both agreed that I was a candidate for a mental hospital.
I vividly recall the last words between my wife and myself before I was taken to General Hospital in Los Angeles. Josephine said, “Peter, you are acting in a very strange way. You claim that Jesus is your Lord and that He is now number one in your life. There is no way that I can or will try to compete with someone I can’t see, someone who is not real to me. If you had cancer or a broken back, I would nurse you until the flesh drops off my fingers. Tonight may very well be your hour of decision between Jesus and myself.”
I replied, “Jesus is my Lord. He is number one in my life. I cannot choose otherwise.”
She replied, “This could be the end of our marriage.”
At that point she motioned to the attendants, and I was escorted to an ambulance parked outside. I allowed myself to be taken. I even witnessed to the ambulance drivers on the way to the hospital. What was happening did not escape the eyes of heaven. I was merely following orders. I sensed the peace and protection of God upon me on my way to the hospital and while I was there. I was only kept for a few brief hours this time. I was never formally admitted. It was a long wait before someone finally talked to me.
A psychiatrist examined and questioned me as it was already getting light. The examination was brief. He said, “I can’t find anything wrong with you. You are having family problems. You need to find yourself a good family counselor.”
I called a friend from a pay phone who picked me up and let me sleep a few hours at his apartment. I then asked him to take me to my home. The door was locked. There was no one at home. Josephine had taken the boys and gone to her parents. I had a key to the house and went in. I picked up a few things, including one of my favorite chairs, put them in a station wagon, and proceeded to drive to San Diego where my parents lived. On the way I was left stranded halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego because my car overheated. A non-denominational church near the garage offered me their hospitality. A number of other young people called it their temporary home. They were all on fire -- “Jesus Freaks” like myself.
I had one of those defining moments while at the church. I asked God to favor me with the same anointing and boldness as was demonstrated by the apostle Peter. The young people laid hands on me and prayed for that to happen. What a journey it has been since then. It took forever, or so it seemed to me, to realize that God took the old Peter, a real wimp, and formed and shaped him into the new bold Peter. A few months ago the Holy Spirit reminded me of the request and said that it had been granted.
After the wonderful hospitality and the prayers, I continued on my journey to San Diego. Three days after arriving at my parents’ home, I was served divorce papers. It is painful for me to record the nightmares that caused me to be exiled from my own modern-day Egypt as I already did this more than twenty years ago. It is recorded in a book that was self-published in 1983. It is called, “To Hell and Back.” Please contact the author to obtain an e-book. There is no charge.
The book includes many defining, eternal moments. They are best memorialized in a monologue excerpted from the movie, The Ten Commandments by Cecille B. DeMille. Yes, the old Peter died; he had to die before the new Peter with Jewish roots could be resurrected.
“Into the blistering wilderness of Shur, the man who walked with kings now walks alone: torn from the pinnacle of royal power, stripped of all rank and earthly wealth, a forsaken man without a country, without a hope, his soul in turmoil. Like the hot winds and raging sands that lash him with the fury of a taskmaster’s whip, he is driven forward, always forward, by a God unknown or a land unseen; into the molten wilderness of Zin, where granite sentinels stand as towers of living death to bar his way.
Each night brings the black embrace of loneliness. In the mocking whisper of the wind he hears the echoing voices of the dark, his tortured mind wondering if they recall the memory of past triumphs or wail foreboding of disaster yet to come. Or whether the desert’s hot breath has melted his reason into madness. He cannot cool the burning kiss of thirst upon his lips, nor shade the scorching fury of the sun. All about is desolation. He can neither bless nor curse the power that moves him, for he does not know from where it comes. Learning that it can be more terrible to live than to die, he is driven onward through the burning crucible of desert, where holy men and prophets are cleansed and purged for God’s great purpose. Until at last, at the end of human strength, beaten into the dust from which he came, the metal is ready for the Maker’s Hand.”
Like the apostle Peter, I have wept bitterly over my sins. For years I despaired, wondering if I could or would ever be forgiven. I was my own god for many years, and even after it was revealed to me that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah, I denied Him three times. But when I read that Jesus interceded for Peter’s soul even prior to his denying his Lord, I was greatly comforted; eventually, I was able to receive His forgiveness. The door to past failures and transgressions no longer need to be revisited. Jesus shut those doors forever, and I have not tampered with them again.
Yes, Satan and self gave me enough rope to hang others and myself. By the Grace of God, that did not happen. Yes, the phrase, The Grace of God, is much more than words for me. A prophetess of God spoke this word concerning my journey into the “far country” where prodigal sons learn valuable lessons.
This is for My son Peter, who must know My Love for him.
There was a time when I called out to you in my Love: “My son, My son, where art thou? Come hither unto Me, for thou art mine alone.” But you were lost in a desolate world and could not hear My voice. I created thee to know Me, love Me and acquire mine attributes, to be holy and sanctified, so that thou would be a worthy bride unto My Spirit.
But lo, thou turned away, leaving My heart empty and grieved. I willed to call thee unto Myself in intimacy. So, I took all that was not of Me away, never to be part of thy life again. I made thee to hunger and thirst after Me alone, and if thou didst search the entire universe over, thou would not be satisfied, except in relationship to Me. Thou art My precious treasure. In thee I live and move and have My being. It is thou I cherish, for thou now has a heart after mine own.
Once thy life contained absolute nothingness; then, your wandering in the Valley of Search was over, and your journey unto Me began, for all begin in the creation of the longing of My Love, and all will return unto Me. I began anew in thee, reconstructing and molding thee from dust to clay to Spirit. For I AM God, and thou art My creation. As soon as thou turned thy uplifted face to behold Mine, in full submission to My will, prostrate before Me, I could begin to reveal myself to thee.
O, what joy abounded in the heavens as holy angels rejoiced at our reunion! Heaven and earth stood still as I embraced My beloved once again; and thou became mine forever.
Continue ye in thy love for Me, and pray without ceasing unto Me. I wilt not disappoint thy heart ever again, nor wilt thou ever be far away from Me. For we are as one mind, one heart, and one spirit. I AM well pleased to call you son, and thou shalt have an anointed place at My right hand. Thou shalt call Me thy Father God, and I shalt call thee My best beloved son, and I shall name thy name in the Book of Life. We will always know of our love for one another, one Spirit, singing praise in perfect harmony, rejoicing in our love forevermore.
These words were not only spoken into the life of this Peter, but into the life of every prodigal child of God, past, present and future. I am called via this narrative, to bring them forward to this and future generations. They are a part of the treasures in my cargo ship.
At the “Maagan Holiday Village"
On the Sea of Galilee