Joni Parsley Daydream Believer
Saturday, July 09, 2022

Well, what can I say?! This year’s Dominion Camp Meeting was unlike any other for me. Forty-plus years ago, when we held our first events on our former campus, they were quite different!

Before we occupied the building we are currently in that can accommodate the crowds, and before we were married, I served in children’s ministry during Camp Meeting, we were in a tent with mosquitoes and bugs (and I’m not talking about the kids, either). I loved kids, but at the time, five consecutive hours challenged my salvation! This was back in the days when great Bible teachers spent two hours on a message and either they or an assistant spent two hours promoting various products. Those were also the days of books, mini-books, cassette tape series, and products where prices compared to the day after Thanksgiving sales! People fought over series where few copies remained—dangerous and scary! Altogether a great time, nonetheless!

After four hours, restless kids, and exhausted volunteers smelling like bug spray, we decided that desperate times called for desperate measures. We brought out the water guns and let the kids go wild since it was so hot and miserable. Plus, since their parents had been inside in the air conditioning being blessed, I thought it was only justified that we sent them home soaking wet! I was 19 to my early 20s and have grown some since then, but I loved working with the kids!

This was all so new to me. The wildest we got in my church as a kid was Vacation Bible School. We were just a bunch of college-age kids loving Jesus and wanting to serve. We had such fun and made lasting memories writing skits, learning to be puppeteers, rehearsing, and putting our all into it. And yes, I can do puppets! I had a lamb puppet with long eyelashes cleverly named Baaa-Sheepa! This can be added to my many stage talents!

To us, our work mattered. We held rehearsals and writing sessions weekly. We took that season of life God had granted us seriously. (Even if we did have a shoestring budget—wink, wink!) We were all volunteers; just about everyone was in those days. We were one big, happy, excited family!

Now one would think, if one were dating the single pastor, one would rather perch herself on the front row looking adorned in the finest “pageant-like” look, to be noticed … and there my aversion to stereotypes began to surface. I was not rebellious, but thinking about how women were treated in the church overall. I never cared about “being seen” over doing what each season of life brought with it. I am odd, I admit it! Honestly, if you have God’s attention and blessing by doing as He has asked, why do you want any attention from a crowd? We are all servants simply and differently gifted. Some people will like you and some won’t, but our confidence can’t be shaken! Hebrews 10:35 tells us, “Do not fling away your FEARLESS confidence for it has great and glorious compensation of reward.” Confidence causes us to be fearless! I like that and I need that!

There I was in my Kingdom Clubhouse gear: jeans, t-shirts, and permed, pulled-back hair. Not a stunner for sure, but I was there for God and the service. I loved those precious kids that are now grown with kids of their own, and I learned a great deal about the innocence of childhood faith. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a total hippie; I had my moments to dress up as we used to—as we were taught—for church. (We need to get back to that training—another story.)

After we married, I loved my role as a pastor’s wife because of the people in our church, schools, staff, and beyond. I just wanted to be me: real, available, and approachable. I have met some of the most historic men and women of the faith both on and off the pulpit. I could go on, but I’ll save it for my memoirs—haha!

I have also hated the role that placed me on display with other peopled drawing their own conclusions about me—and they were very vocal! But, in those early years, THE HOLY SPIRIT SAID, “You have only one set of footprints to follow,” and He told me to be like Him. More was said that I’ve previously shared, but that was a transformative moment and I have never looked back. I am still a ministry misfit. I am still me just trying to be more like my Savior still so many years later.

Obeying what God told me to be with my husband’s agreement, we went forward and as he became more well known, the attacks increased. Suddenly, I thought maybe this was not for me. That was my immaturity. I was reacting out of my soul where my mind, will, and emotions reside instead of my spirit being strong enough to sustain all of our infirmities (Proverbs 18:14). The main focus we should have is continuing to strengthen that spirit-man in every way we have been taught: To know the weapons, power, and life-source of God‘s Word. We must get back to the Bible and away from social media and YouTube; only watching preachers and singers and thinking that is our devotion rather than coming away with Him … alone. No person or thing is a replacement for His life-giving Word and loving presence.

Fast-forwarding, now as I have grown past 60, I have a point of reference. Every time a storm came, I had protection, provision, shelter, and love. Sometimes after a shipwreck, things still don’t go quite the way you thought. Faith is a process and trust is the ultimate testing ground. Sometimes God doesn’t send a yacht to pick you up—a row boat will do when you’re stranded! I told someone the other day, “You will get stronger and closer to God when you have to totally depend on Him.”

I love what I heard our dear Medina Pullings say: “God may not choose it, but He will use it.” Well, I was faced with such a dilemma on the Friday night of Dominion. I had been preparing for weeks, and it was my husband’s night to bring his hallmark message. He had put in countless hours for more than a month in his study which is like a priceless museum—no one can touch a thing since the disorder is all in his order. But we all know that he takes this opportunity very seriously and prays for the message God wants him to deliver for the moment. Not to brag, but what a moment it was!

I was so excited for the City Harvest Network dinner on Thursday evening before the weekend began. I was elated to see people that I had been unable to see for more than three years due to the pandemic, so it felt like a warm family reunion. It was just wonderful! I was ready for more!

The next day, I woke up, glanced blurry-eyed in the mirror, and walked downstairs to let all the dogs out. Coming back upstairs (I am not too proud, to tell the truth), I noticed that my face was covered in welts and I just got a pit in my stomach!

Here I was: Fourth of July weekend, no doctor I could see, and I refused to spend all day in the ER. I wasn’t sure anyone could do anything anyway. My dear friends came to the house with all the things we could think of to try to help. I was in tears, yet trying to stay calm so it wouldn’t get worse, but it did continue to get scary! (It’s much better now. It was apparently an allergic reaction.) Was it vanity that kept me away, I wondered? I didn’t want to scare poor children and embarrass anyone or myself if I’m being honest.

I wasn’t going to give up and continued with all of our remedies, but nothing was working. My face was so swollen that I looked like the bride of Frankenstein. Had we been doing the Master’s Welcome play (that we do around Halloween), I would’ve been great as one of the characters!

I kept believing and thought for sure Sunday morning, I was going to wake up fine. I didn’t, so my husband tried to console my tears. I just couldn’t comprehend what happened and why. I missed everything and everyone and was having quite a pity party all weekend. It was 6:30 Saturday night and I had my moment!

Finally, I was reading some scriptures and God reminded me of my previous post, WELCOME TO YOUR MOMENT! He showed me all I was talking about was me, myself, and I—how could this happen. My focus was on me and getting to hear the speakers, participating in the worship, being blessed, getting everything I could get, and having my moment. The Holy Spirit said, “I know you have prayed, but going forward, I want you to pray that every person has their moment whether it is there in person or on the way home or at some other point. Pray that every person has their own transformative moment. It will come! If their heart is open to it, it will come.”

I realized that “the joy of the Lord is our strength.” It comes because we do the heavy lifting of burdens for one another with a glad, compassionate heart, just as our Savior who came as a servant to Earth. Serving others brings joy and strength!

The heart of a servant will keep us humble and reinforce that our jobs are not on stages, or in looking “the part.” There is never a place one can’t serve His glorious kingdom. He uses us all and it is with the heart of the servant “we abandon our personal pursuits and reclaim our authentic state” where God "renews us in grace and great love," in the words of the great Abraham Joshua Herschel. He is enabling us, is with us, and blessing us through it all. He’s a proud papa!

I missed you. But I was with you and prayed for you. Now, I can’t wait for the stories! Thank you to EVERYONE that made this as heavenly a weekend as possible. We love you. You are family. Dominion is always like coming back home!

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About Joni

Thanking God for blessings too many to list. He is my all and my always-the glory and the lifter of my head... He never fails.

Why the Name

"For a child, it’s as easy as blowing out candles on a cake, or wishing upon a star. But as for one of those 'grown-ups,' 'No dream comes true until you wake up and go to work.' " ...