I have noticed as I share the unusual events of our lives face to face or over the telephone, that life exits my being that is not always quickly restored. Although it is intoxicating to share what is new and wonderful in a more personal way, please accept this letter as our gift and our way of saying, "Thank You" to all who encourage and pray for us.
I love it whenever God pours me out by providing an audience for the stories He has put into my treasure chest. There are those times, however, when my humanity is screaming and I am unable to respond in a personal way to phone calls, letters and visitors that wish to have a slice of our time. After saying all this, let me share with you a few of the highlights of recent weeks and then devote the rest of my letter to a most significant and life-altering event.
Last week a group of young people came to stay with us. They are what we might call, “the next generation of Joshuas and Calebs who are to cross over the Jordan and inherit The Promised Land.” They were a part of a group called “The Master's Commission.” They are young, have made a radical commitment to serve Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and are not afraid to speak out and blow the trumpet for Jesus. This particular contingency of saints came from Las Vegas, Nevada. While they were here, they went to the Overlook, a place that allows travelers to pull off highway 160 as they come down the western slope of Wolf Creek Pass into our valley. We all prayed over the valley below and the entire Pagosa Springs area. We blew the shofar and stretched out my prayer staff and prayer bone over the valley below.
My prayer bone has these words written on it, “Prophesy to these dry bones.” Do take time and read what is written in the Book of Ezikiel about the Valley of Dry Bones. (Ezikiel 37:1-14). Can you picture a bone that weighed 7 pounds when first purchased at our local market? It measured 17 inches across. We had to borrow the largest pot available at the Pagosa Lodge to boil the bone. It covered all four burners of our stove.
Another significant, recent event was triggered by our Spring 2000 newsletter. I asked God to multiply the 1500 copies we had printed like the loaves and the fishes. And, indeed, that is what is happening. A visitor from Albuquerque, New Mexico picked up one of the newsletters at Pack & Mail, Etc. next to City Market. After reading the article “About Anger and Much More,” she was compelled to call and ask if she and her husband could come and visit us. The visit turned into a spiritual bonanza.
Let me tell you about this bonanza. Our visitor had major problems with her eyesight, which made reading the Scriptures and other books very difficult. To be healed was very much on her heart; but to be able to get closer to the heart of Jesus was even more of a priority. She was willing to pray what Catherine Marshall called the “Prayer of Relinquishment.” It goes something like this, “Lord, whether or not you heal me of tuberculosis (you may want to name your own pain or need here), I promise to love and serve you all the days of my life. And I will not grumble any more about being an invalid.” Those of you who have read her story “Beyond Ourselves,” will remember the outcome of that prayer. I will not reveal the outcome in the hopes that some of you will read the book or read it again in case you have forgotten how Jesus answered her prayer.
Let me continue. I asked our friend if she had tried to listen to the Scriptures on audio cassette tapes. She answered in the affirmative and added, “The voices of the readers do not touch my heart. I have a hard time listening to them. But I hear the Father's heart in your voice. If you would read the Scriptures for me, I would surely be blessed.” I pondered this unusual request for a moment and replied, “I will read the Scriptures for you and will be glad to read the version that speaks to you the most. But I do need some help. I need to have some good tapes and some good recording equipment.” You may rejoice with me. I am all set. Both the tapes, the equipment and a copy of “The Message” the New Testament in contemporary English by Eugene H. Peterson are in my hands. My heart is jubilant. No assignment has filled me with more joy than this one. But now let me focus on the deep work God did in my heart just a few days ago.
Since I grew up in a war ravished Germany where the Jews were hauled into concentration camps, to be Jewish was almost a certain death sentence. And when I came to America in 1946, I quickly became aware of the anti-Semitism in this country. It just made sense for a young, sensitive boy of 13 to go underground with his Jewish heritage. And even now at the age of 67, I would never admit I was Jewish. I always said, “I have a Jewish mother.”
In recent months a number of people have placed items into my hands that are what I would call strictly Jewish. It all started with a tekhelet, a Jewish prayer shawl. Another friend placed a book by Sid Roth into my hands, which I literally devoured. It is called “They Thought for Themselves.” The book is a compilation of ten testimonies by Jewish men and women who recognized and accepted Jesus as their Messiah. Then I was given a golden bookmarker that had the menorah, the Star of David and fish symbol on it. Another person was prompted to give me a book called “The Hem of His Garment” by Dr. John D. Garr. This book explains the prayer shawl in great detail. All of these items reminded me of Israel and my own Jewish roots, which I had acknowledge reluctantly and with much pain and shame thus far.
Thirty years ago I had a life changing “Road to Damascus” conversion like the apostle Paul in which Jesus became the Lord and focus of my life. Like the apostle Peter, I was able to say, “Thou, Jesus, are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” while at the same time I was ashamed of Jesus, the Jew. By doing so, I cut myself off from my roots, all my ancestors and a very rich heritage. I also caused much grief to the heart of God as I denied Jesus a second time. How very blind I was. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, but I rejected Jesus, the Jew.
One day, two visitors came by. They were new faces in my life. Very quickly did they sense my pain and shame in regards to my Jewish roots and offered to pray for me. I gratefully accepted their offer. I was anointed with oil and prayed for with great tenderness and insight. There was no dramatic, immediate breakthrough. I felt loved; but I did not feel any different. However, my healing would not be far off.
Two days later our friend Sandy stopped by. She saw Rebekah working in the yard as she drove by and swung into the driveway to say hello. Before going her way she came into the house to say “hi.” And that's when God pulled the plug on my painful past. I barely mentioned to Sandy about our visitors, what they had discerned and how they had prayed two days earlier. When I did, Sandy began to weep with great anguish. All the tears of a lifetime I had not been able to cry, she cried for me. That's the true heart of an intercessor. Then she said, “Peter, I see four things that are keeping you in chains. I see a spirit of shame, a spirit of offense, a spirit of bitterness, and a spirit of rejection. If you want to, you can let these spirits go now.” And by the grace of God I was able to do that.
Rebekah was sitting on the couch while this was happening. At the same moment as my enslaving chains dropped to the ground she saw a sea of Jewish faces, all my ancestors from the beginning of time. They were walking towards me with outstretched, open arms, welcoming me home. They came to embrace and kiss me and before long I had vanished amongst a sea of my ancestors all dressed in their black, Jewish garbs while Jesus was standing to the side in his white garments. Then she saw others go off in a different direction to prepare a great feast. It was a very holy moment. She was able to connect to a progression of the vision for the next several days. The prodigal son had come home.
Now I could powerfully feel the difference. What freedom! What joy! I had been able to forgive my tormentors. I had forgiven those who had driven my ancestors and me into hiding and killed many others. I had forgiven those who had rejected me. The bitterness was gone. The shame was gone. And instead of pain, there was compassion for those who live with prejudice and hate in their hearts toward the Jews. A few days later I remembered a painting we had stored under a bed for the past 16 years. I found it and put it where all our friends and I can see it. It is a painting of Jesus by Beth Sweigard looking down from the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Jesus is wearing a tekhelet. His hand is gently placed on the shoulder of a rabbi who is praying. I am that rabbi, connected to my Jewish roots once more. I am healed. I no longer have a need to reject who I am and who my ancestors are. I no longer have to hide. I have come home.
And suddenly I am able to see how many others reject or are ashamed of their roots. May you be healed as you read this account. May you be able to accept all your ancestors who are waiting to welcome you home. May you be able to connect with your roots and be healed. That is my prayer for you as I say good-bye. I love you so very much..