What Does it Mean to Dwell?

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“If the Word does not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us.”
John Owen

What does it mean to dwell?

We dwell in our homes, we dwell on our thoughts, we dwell on our past and we dwell in our physical bodies.

What does it mean to dwell on God?  It means to sit down, settle, remain, and inhabit.

He who dwells (sits down, settles, remains and inhabits) in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty—Psalm 91:1

Four years ago, my husband accepted the call to ministry and we temporarily relocated to Chicago from Phoenix.   I quit my job to accompany him; but I had every intention of seeking employment in the Chicago area.  However, God had a different plan!

Ronnie attended the School of Ministry at Living Word Christian Center under the direction of Pastor Bill Winston. It was a new chapter in our faith journey and God was faithful through every step.

Throughout that year, Ronnie continued his dialysis treatment for end stage renal failure.  He had lost the use of his kidneys 5 years ago as a result of stage 4 lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes).   Despite having to endure having his blood removed from his body, cleansed by a machine then returned to his body,  he never missed class and completed all of his assignments! God strengthened his body and his spirit.   He completed his studies, graduated in June 2015 and received his ministerial license the following year.

Ronnie delivered his first public sermon a week after graduation at New Creation Church Ministries in Milwaukee.  The message title was “Faith–It’s About Trust”.   Our plan was to return to Chicago and prepare for our trip back to Arizona in a few months.  However, God had a different plan!

We never made it back to our apartment in Chicago.  Ronnie had been on the kidney transplant list for two years and little did we know, his new kidney was on the way!  The morning after he delivered his sermon,  Mayo Clinic called asking how quickly he could get to Arizona to receive a kidney transplant! We quickly left Milwaukee and drove to Chicago Midway Airport to get the next flight to Phoenix. We arrived in Phoenix late that evening and Ronnie was in the operating room about midnight to receive his new kidney!

We left everything in Chicago including one of our cars at the airport parking lot!  I thank God for my daughter and her two adult children. When we notified them that we were on our way to Phoenix for the transplant, they, without hesitation, took on the monumental task of closing our apartment, packing what they could and giving away what they couldn’t and driving both of our cars back to Phoenix!

The year Ronnie and I spent in Chicago was a time of great sacrifice but it was also a time of “extreme dwelling”. Since I was not employed, I spent my time studying most of his classroom lessons and listening to the class recordings. We spent time discussing what Ronnie had learned and sharing each of our insights. We did not know that God was preparing us for a great victory over the enemy!

But Jesus looked at them and said,“With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.” So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.– Mark 10:28-30

One of the classroom assistants had given each of the students a worship CD. There was no information about the artist or even the name of the song but there was an opening prayer that spoke about dwelling in God. It became my soul’s cry!

There is a place prepared for you.
There is a realm available to you.
There is a realm where the yoke will break, where the things of old will become no more.

There is a place reserved for you—a higher place for a higher call.

Anyone can receive His grace and enter in and win the race.
There is a place that belongs to you—a place of glory this is true.
A supernatural realm, a heavenly sphere.
That place is not way up there, it’s here.
Enter in and wave goodbye to every failure and the stain of sin.
Come in and watch your past instantly diminish; it will not last.
Come in and allow the balm to heal your heart.
Come in to this realm and allow Christ, the anointed One to take the helm.

Let the wind of God blow in your sails and surely, you will prevail.
Don’t look up and say He’s beyond the sky and don’t wonder or ask the question why.
He is not up there that you have to bring Him down.

He’s not below, He’s not even around.
He is within and He is upon.
Come in says the Spirit of the Lord and drink freely with one accord.
The weight and the burden will fall by the wayside and the things that used to bind will no longer be able to hide.

You’ll say I went over to the river and I gained from the Lord victorious liberty.
I went in depressed but I went out with joy.

You’ll tell about God’s mighty ploy—how He spoiled the devil, hell and the grave; how victory and blessings to the church He gave

You will tell it, you will preach, you will prophesy, you will teach!

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Count It All Joy!

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Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect and complete work that you may be perfect and complete lacking nothing–James 1:2-4

What is Joy?

Joy isn’t like happiness which is based upon happenings or whether things are going well or not. No, joy remains even amidst the suffering. Joy is not happiness. Joy is an emotion that’s acquired by the anticipation, acquisition or even the expectation of something great or wonderful. (adapted from an article by Jack Wellman on Patheos.com)

The joy of the Lord is your strength–Nehemiah 8-10

After relocating to Arizona, I began watching my Milwaukee church online.  I prayed that God would lead me to a local church.  I started visiting multiple churches but I never felt “satisfied”.  I always found something that I didn’t like about the ministries.  I guess I was comparing them to my church in Milwaukee–that’s never a good thing because God had told me He would do a “new thing”!   One Sunday I decided to visit a church I had passed on multiple occasions as it was about 2 miles from my home.  Living Word Bible Church was a nondenominational, multicultural assembly.  I have always loved praise and worship time and they had one of the best worship teams I had experienced since moving to Arizona.  After several months of “visits”, I finally joined.  I began to feel connected to a church family again and I believed this would be my new home!

Ronnie’s last day at work was April 30, 2008 and he was placed on a short-term leave of absence.   Over the next couple of months, Ronnie was on the couch with a hoodie pulled over his head–he was always cold!  Sleepless nights became his pattern.

From April to September, Ronnie struggled with one health “issue” after another–it was relentless!  He was prescribed multiple drugs for pain–they didn’t help and two  hospitalizations for kidney failure.  Despite these “interventions”  still no diagnosis.  I prayed and refused to believe the enemy’s lies.  His voice was echoed from the most unusual places–well-meaning friends and family!  I stopped taking calls or talking to anyone who did not agree with God’s word!   I asked my church family to pray for his healing.  One Sunday, I went to the altar for prayer and was given a prophetic word that Ronnie’s sickness was not unto death and that there was much work for him to do–thank you Jesus!!!  I found comfort in that word and it sustained me!  I used it to encourage Ronnie too!

One night in September about 2am, I heard a loud crash–I jumped out of bed and found Ronnie slumped on the floor.  He said he became dizzy while walking to the bathroom, fell against the wall then hit the floor.  I enfolded him in my arms as he asked “what is wrong with me?”  All I could do was cry and pray.

Shortly after this episode, Ronnie could not sleep at all and one night his body just “passed out”.  While he was out, he started dreaming.  Here is an excerpt from his e-book, My Testimony: My Journey To and Through God’s Healing, of his account of what he experienced:

One night, after a couple of days with NO sleep at all, not even restless sleep, I just sort of passed out on the couch. While I was out, I started dreaming. I was back on the plane over Holland, looking at the same, city, canals, greenhouses, and that HUMONGOUS supertanker, belching black smoke as it plied the Atlantic.

In my dream, however, Sharon was sitting next to me and I was pointing out the sights. Earlier in this testimony, I shared with you that Sharon was not with me on that trip to Europe. She was in Hawaii. In my dream she was on the plane sitting next to me.

Suddenly, the plane began to soundlessly split right down the middle of the aisle from the pilot’s cabin back. Just as suddenly, there was no one on the plane but Sharon and I. I started telling her to try to guide her body toward the shoreline and maybe splash down in shallow water and not harm herself. She never said a word and didn’t panic. I didn’t panic either. I turned around to check the plane. When I turned back to Sharon, she was sitting on the other side of the aisle that had split.

The plane finished splitting apart and Sharon’s side silently banked away. My half of the plane turned upside down and I fell out! I was hurtling towards the earth at tremendous speed. (My mind flashed back to Wiley Coyote, of the cartoon Roadrunner series, where Wiley miscalculates his attack on the Roadrunner and bounds off a cliff of several hundred, maybe a thousand feet. As he falls, the earth seems as if it is “rushing up” to meet him. That’s how I felt!)

As I was falling, thinking “Okay, this is it?” Then I prayed, “If this is your will, God, let it be done.” I had been praying that for a couple of months trying to find peace with my illness.

Suddenly, almost unbelievably, I heard, “I WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU.” My fall started slowing down to the point that I was almost floating in the air. I saw a church steeple with very heavy ropes, much bigger than one could find on any sea vessel, all around the top. I “floated” down to the steeple and landed on the ropes. The landing was so soft, it was like being gently laid down on a bed of cotton. I could hold on without any problem. I looked down and saw a bald old man in bib overalls, with a handkerchief hanging out of his back pocket, putting up a ladder and coming to get me. THEN I WOKE UP.

Ronnie later told me that after his dream, he was not afraid of anything and had no doubt that God would take care of him.  While he wasn’t getting any better, he knew that he would get better eventually and that his life would be spared.

Joy is a permanent possession while happiness is fleeting. Joy stays, happiness comes and goes…(adapted from an article by Jack Wellman on Patheos.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That Which You Are Seeking is Causing You to Seek

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My intention is to grow spiritually and whenever I visit a bookstore, I say a silent prayer that God will lead me to what I need to learn.  One book He led me to was “That Which You Are Seeking is Causing You to Seek” by Cheri Huber.  The title was intriguing and as I began to read my spirit began to “think”, “see” and “feel” the authenticity of the words!  It spoke answers to my questions!!  People always say that God works in mysterious ways but HE REALLY DOES!  God is not a religious entity,  He is not a denomination or a doctrine–He is the Creator and He is both omnipotent and humble.  He is diverse and inclusive!  God met me in a bookstore and spoke to me through a book that I would probably never had read.  The author is a Zen Buddhist and I’m a believer in Christ but God used her words to elevate my thinking.  When the student is ready, the teacher will appear!

A few insightful nuggets from the book:

  • Joy is not the product of getting what you want; Joy is compassion turned inward.  It’s the end of struggle and the end of competition!
  • Stay flexible…everything changes, all the time
  • Letting go is opening the hand.  Acceptance is what the open hand receives
  • The two sides of the coin of control:  guilt/blame
  • To end suffering, stop identifying with the process that is causing it
  • The quality of our lives is determined by the focus of our attention
  • Always choose your beliefs over your experiences
  • Whether life is seen as a struggle or a gift depends on your attitude, not on your circumstances
  • We define who we are by what we accept or reject

My questions:

Who am I?  What really matters to me? Who is the real me; the authentic me; the me at my core; the me that’s left when I strip away the masks; the me that resonates when I listen to my inner voice; the me that emerges from the pit of my stomach?

God’s answer:

You can only know you by knowing Me!

We have all asked the questions “who am I” and “why am I here?”  Our search for identity began as soon as we became aware of our own presence.  God knew we would search for the answer because He put the question in our DNA–that which you are seeking is causing you to seek!

Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born, I set you apart…For I know the plans that I have for you, plans for good and not evil, plans to give you a hope and a future–Jeremiah 1:5; 29:11

Webster’s dictionary defines identity as “the same, not different in every possible circumstance; exactness, similar, copy.  We recognize this sameness in our physical resemblance to our parents and siblings.  Comments like “you look just like your Mom” or “you and your brother could be twins” are commonplace.  Similarly, this sameness can be seen in character traits such as stubbornness, patience, assertiveness or charisma.

We have all suffered from “identity confusion”.  Mistakenly,  we have concluded that our identity is determined by things outside of us–material possession, relationships, careers, money, sports icons, political icons, entertainment icons.  With the invention of social media, we can become further confused with memes, avatars and emojis.  All of these things can change; they can disappoint us; they are temporary.  Is our happiness determined by what we do, what happens to us, how we feel or is it determined by how much truth we know?

“I am that I am” was God’s response to Moses when he asked “Who shall I say has sent me?” His question was about God’s identity–who are you God?   I understand God’s answer–He is everything to everyone; He is everywhere at the same time; He is timeless and He offers us an unending supply of love, peace, understanding, joy, provision, health and divine appointments!

Be who you are and say what you mean because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind–Dr. Seuss

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so the necessary can speak–Hans Hoffman

 

 

 

 

God Always Has a Plan…

“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard,
Nor has it entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 

After our homebuying visit to Phoenix, we returned to Milwaukee knowing we were on our way out of Wisconsin.  Staying was no longer an option.

Ronnie continued to suffer with one sinus infection after another. Or was it really a long, single attack with rise and fall?  No matter what, we were committed to getting out of Milwaukee!  We returned to Arizona to close the deal on our new home.

I continued praying and meditating on Genesis 12 and Mark 11:23-24.  My faith was growing deeper and God’s command to Abraham to move away from his home and go to a land that He would show him became our command.

Meanwhile, our house in Milwaukee showed no visible sales activity.  Nevertheless, I believed God that our house was on its way to a new owner.  I had prayed that God would send a buyer who would need a home for their young family.

One Sunday in August, we were doing yard work when a family drove by and saw the for sale sign.  They inquired about attending our next open house.  We invited them to come in and take a look.  As they walked through the front door,  they were calling the house “my house!”  I agreed with them in prayer and two weeks later they became the new owners!   We closed on the Friday before Labor Day.  The next day,  we started on our journey to a new life in Arizona!

Our first year in Arizona was exciting!  There were so many new places to explore and people to meet!  Two months after our arrival, I began working at Arizona State University.    Four months later, Ronnie accepted a position at Maricopa County.   We experienced God’s Word become our reality–He had answered our prayer and we believed we were in the right place at the right time!

Ronnie’s health greatly improved–no sinus infections, no pain.   We began enjoying life again.  Eventually, we embraced the idea that Wisconsin’s humidity was the cause of Ronnie’s suffering and those days were finally at an end!

We did not miss Wisconsin’s weather–we had abundant sunshine everyday and although it was “HOT”, it was not humid so the heat was bearable.  We learned about “snowbirds” or people from the midwest and Canada who spend the winter months in Arizona.  We didn’t know that our condo complex was snowbird central, especially for Canadians!  We also met people from Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan.  Our first winter in Arizona was extraordinary.  Sunny days, cool nights–no coats, boots or gloves.  And, more importantly, no “wind chill factors”!  As we became fond of saying, “you don’t have to shovel sunshine”!

Unfortunately, our idyllic existence and comfort was short-lived.  In June, Ronnie had his first sinus infection since leaving Milwaukee.  The infection lasted one week; not too bad!  In December,  Ronnie bean to experience flu-like symptoms–body aches, fever and sneezing.  Again, this “illness”  lasted about a week and he recovered.  We weren’t concerned because he always had colds in the winter.

But in February, strange things started happening. Ronnie had a problem digesting his food. He would come home and collapse on the bed– which is where he would be for the next twelve hours.  This pattern continued for several days before he finally made a doctor’s appointment.  The “diagnosis” was that he just needed a strong probiotic.  He began taking them; they did not help–the pattern continued.

Over the next eight months, Ronnie entered what I call the suffering zone.  He could not work, he could not eat, he could not sleep.  He also began vomiting several times daily and had diarrhea continuously.  On two occasions, Ronnie was hospitalized for kidney failure.  He underwent seven different biopsy procedures on his kidneys and groin.  He had surgery for the removal of his gallbladder and a colonoscopy.  Despite all of these tests and procedures, nothing changed and the medical professionals had no answers or diagnosis!

A friend told us about how a naturopathic practitioner had successfully treated him for “heavy metal poisoning” so we decided to visit a naturopathic clinic in Scottsdale since traditional medicine had no answers.  They ran a battery of blood tests and determined that Ronnie had a cancer marker called  “Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance (MGUS).”  She explained that it didn’t mean he “had” cancer but she referred us to a cancer specialist for further examination.  Ronnie was again poked, prodded and biopsied–this time of his bone marrow.  The results of these assaults on his weak body were inconclusive.  However, she also discovered the “monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance” cancer marker.

We went back to the naturopathic clinic where he was treated with electrical hydrotherapy; physical therapy, blood and stool tests, lead tests, and more.  Despite these “treatments”, Ronnie’s  physical body showed no improvement.

Every night he would sweat through two, sometimes three, changes of pajamas.  His body,  especially his hands, felt as if  he was continuously warming them over an open flame.  Eating very little, and eliminating from both ends all the time,  Ronnie lost sixty pounds. His groin was swollen inside both legs.  The “health care professionals”  ordered body scans and tests at various hospitals and clinics in the Phoenix metro area.  The result:  no diagnosis, nothing changed!

Despite what we experienced, we refused to believe satan’s lies! We knew God had led us to Arizona and He would sustain us through these trials.  We continued to pray God’s Word and believe for the impossible!