Joni Parsley Daydream Believer
Wednesday, January 08, 2014

At the beginning of a new year, we seem to look inward. Starting fresh seems to equal a renewal of disciplines we’ve allowed to slip or have ignored altogether. It’s time to start a new diet, work-out, read devotionals, drink a gallon of water, watch less television, spend less time on phones and Facebook, and swear off fast food forever all while we walk on a treadmill! We decide to change behaviors all in an attempt to answer that annoying inner voice that’s nagging us to be better.

To be honest, I quit making New Year’s resolutions because the list barely made it to March before it ended in the trash! I set my goals so high that an Olympic athlete or Mother Teresa wouldn’t have been able to succeed. I decided to set one goal daily - to be better than the day before at something. I’m not talking about huge feats of greatness but little adjustments even if it’s in my attitude…um, maybe that’s a huge feat, after all! If I can improve at being a Christian, in some capacity, then I can have the discipline it takes to do some of the things I don’t like doing.

The odd thing about Christianity is that it takes an ability to look both inward and outward in order to grow. To be better we have to look inward but to be even better we must look outward. The only reason for self-improvement is to be ready and able to serve others. If we are striving for “the mark of the high calling of Christ” then we are striving to be like Him…a servant. I promise it’s in the Bible and I didn’t make it up!

We live in a world that is flooded with self-serving, self-absorbed and thus, self-sabotaging messages and unfortunately, it has crept into our churches. Self-sacrifice is meant for our new year’s lists but never makes it to March - it sounds good in theory but not in practice. Why? BECAUSE IT IS HARD!

It’s hard to deny SELF! It wants cookies not carrots! It wants mind-numbing television with someone’s reality that looks better or worse than our own. It wants a soothing gospel that costs us little instead of the one that costs us everything. Self is like a hoarder that wants to keep the junk so it can keep the excuses but it’s time to clean out the garage, the closets and the storage room. It’s a great winter project - empty out the trash and then, maybe God can have some breathing room!

We all want “more of God” but we have to do the work to make “less of me”. It won’t happen overnight but making it a priority will yield better results than all the starvation diets I’ve been gone on combined!

Saint Francis said, “You are that which you are seeking.That said; let’s ask ourselves every day, “Who am I?” The answer should be fairly obvious.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

This was the easiest and hardest title to choose. Since I’ve been staring at the screen for awhile, all I’ve seen is the blinking of the cursor. I felt like it was taunting me and saying, “Go ahead, just try and move me!” It’s not the only thing that’s taunted or maybe, haunted me. My laptop is in a bag, which I keep in my room, where I do most of my writing. I’ve walked by said bag countless times. I’ve stared at it and swear it’s been mocking me too, “Go ahead, pick me up and at least move me from this spot!” I moved the bag by my favorite “writing chair” and decided it clashed with my décor of all things!

Yep, I’ve had it bad! I’ve had a severe case of writer’s block that’s been accompanied by a severe case of excuse-making to myself, God or anyone else that has asked. Speaking of excuses, my phone is ringing! See how busy I always am?! Hmm…That was my husband telling me he was hungry as if I was to magically do something about it over the phone! See how distracted I always am?! I’ve had two calls, seven text messages, and two dogs interrupting me (I don’t mean my husband either) but see how hard it is to get a minute of peace?!

If I’m being honest, I haven’t wanted to write. I couldn’t bring myself to settle my mind long enough to string some thoughts together because none of my thoughts were making much sense. I try too hard to figure things out; there has to be a reason for things or some answer. I will contemplate and analyze a situation for combined hours. See how preoccupied I can be?! However, some things cannot be explained. What can’t be explained requires something from us…trust in someone that has the explanation. Where there’s a student, there’s always a master. I think you know where I’m going with this. In the case of being a Christian, we are always the student because Jesus is forever the Master.

Once we accept our station in this relationship, it’s a sigh of relief. We don’t have to do the heavy-lifting, know everything or shoulder the responsibility alone. In a world where uncertainty abounds, it’s so comforting to have the Lord to depend on. Every time I’d stare at this computer screen, I kept thinking that I needed to explain the last three weeks. A lot has happened that has profoundly affected me, not the least of which was the sudden death of two people I cared about. I have no answer for that. I have no reason for it either. I can’t find the logic in people mourning the loss of loved ones…I can only feel hurt for them and myself, for that matter. What I can find is assurance. What I do know is that God is always there when answers aren’t.

It really is okay to just show up and whisper His name – showing up is sometimes all we can do. He gets it and He gets us. So often, we make it harder than it has to be when all we need to do is trust. Trust says I’m here and I know You’re there. Trust says I don’t know but I know You do. Trust is silent but it speaks volumes. Trust just says yes.

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Friday, June 07, 2013

Perhaps it’s just me but does anyone else have their fair (or maybe unfair) share of difficult people to deal with! I’m surprised I have a tongue left since I have to bite it so much to keep from saying what I’d really like to! Oh, the conversations I’ve had or the speeches I’ve rehearsed to these people…all in my mind and after the fact, of course! It’s in moments where they’ve said or done the exasperating; where attempting to engage in a rational conversation, about the issue at hand, is as impossible as eating chocolate for every meal and staying a size 2! (And if you can do that, you’ve just made my list of difficult people!)

Okay, don’t start wondering who I’m talking about…I’ll never tell! Let’s face it; all of us encounter difficult people in a day. It can be anywhere from someone you know to someone you don’t. You know the ones-the rude cashier, the discourteous driver, the impolite server at a restaurant and let’s not start on those who work at the BMV! I’d rather get a root canal than go to the BMV- it’s much less painful! More and more people have offensive behavior and so the offensive list goes on. The key word is offense. If we’re not careful we can be the ones to get offended and carry around quite a “chip on our shoulder”. Our guard goes up and our walls don’t come down.

There is one solution and I don’t always like it...but I need it. There are times when I want to “say a thing”! Not long ago, I was checking out at a store and the cashier was so rude. It was one thing after another and topped off with, “I can barely read your name on your credit card; I’ll have to see your ID.” Not usually a big deal but she took my driver’s license and examined it like the FBI and held up the picture to my face to make sure we were a match. I was getting embarrassed since it looked like I was a suspicious character trying to use a stolen credit card. Finally, she gave me the okay and then complained that she couldn’t hear me along with a few more things when I asked for a receipt. Yikes, as if! I thought for a minute and looked at her. I wanted to tell her how rude she was and that she should get a job as a prison guard or something! But then I wondered what her life could be like. Was she angry, was she tired, was she in a bad marriage, did she have teenagers (that could make anyone cranky!), was she verbally or physically abused, did she have financial problems? Moreover, could I have compassion instead of anger? Sigh…what would Jesus do?! We know the answer. We may not like the answer but we know it, nonetheless. So I kept my mouth shut, thanked her and wished her a happy weekend. Then I left and remembered the sage wisdom of a friend who told me to “always answer with prayer".

Prayer has a way of adjusting our attitudes. It’s when we approach God that we're reminded that He is love and we were made in that image. We were made in the image of love. In prayer, we open our hearts to receive Him and in His presence so consequently, bitterness, negativity, and offenses can’t remain. Those gloomy feelings melt away in the warmth of the light and love of His reparative presence. If our Redeemer said our sins are cast into “the sea of forgetfulness” then we only have one choice. We have to allow those offenses from others to drown in that sea of redemption and forgiveness too. Where would we be without our Savior’s redemption? (I don’t even want to know!)

Oh, but sometimes this forgiveness thing is so hard! We’re hurt, injured, upset and feel like throwing that offense a life-preserver before it drowns! We need it to stay around a little longer in order to justify our words or actions…um, I admit it-guilty! On the other hand, I’m not saying to be a doormat but we do need a filter not a fit! When we just stop a minute before reacting, we can let the God in us overpower the “us” in us!

There are times we can tell someone that they’ve said or done something hurtful, especially those we know and have relationships with. It still can’t change our response in the end. We may not get the “I’m sorry” that we want or deserve but we don’t get a “get out of jail free card” either. Our right to be right ended the day we asked Jesus to be Lord; we had to give up the throne!

Yeah, yeah…I get it but but what about my hurt feelings? Well, well, well…Your feelings matter because YOU matter. He loves you through that hurt and harm and tends to your wounds and bruises. We must quiet down long enough to think of how we need Him so then, we can let Him. To let means to let go…let it ALL go! God has big shoulders and He can bear anything!

People can be thoughtless and careless for many reasons. Praying for these difficult people keeps our hearts right and therefore, ready to receive from God. I was hurt just this week, by someone I care about, (and isn't that the hardest kind?) While I was driving, I began to pray and this scripture came to me,“Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10 English Standard Version) It worked!

I’ll tell you what happened next week! We’ll also find out who’s doing the fighting in “The War of the Roses”…tune in next week for Part Two!

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Well…here I sit and sit and sit as I enter week two of post-surgery recovery! My day has little variation and I can always be assured that there will be sitting! One exciting highlight is my ride in the car to therapy! Once I get there, however, the torture begins! Friday, the Dr aspirated my knee with a needle that made me nearly fall off the table! I now have a whole new level of compassion for anyone that’s gone through this. It’s not fun but not serious so I don’t want to sound like a whiney baby! Other than sitting, however, I can walk with crutches which is worthy of You-Tube…it’s a little comical at times!

Now, perhaps you can see why I’m bored! Nonetheless, I promised I’d use my time wisely. I’ve been able to read and do a lot of thinking. Naturally, when something is taken, I realize how valuable it is. It’s like when the power goes out, I realize how I take electricity for granted. Being able to move around, and have the freedom to do what I want or need, has been compromised. I walked around my kitchen today wishing I could cook. Then, I wandered into my laundry room longing to do some laundry! (I know I’m strange!) I wanted to drive my car, leave my house, or go somewhere….AAAHHHH!!!

l trudged back to my room, hooked back up to the ice machine I have to use on my knee, and watched the beautiful, fluffy snowfall. I had a choice to get sad or get busy…I chose the latter. After all, I’m thankful to have a house to be in and grateful that my surgery wasn’t serious. Sure, to be honest, I feel crummy but this has an end. “The sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun!” Yes, I’m singing it too!

Anyway, with resolve, I did what I could do and realized the many advantages to having this surgery and recovery. My body wasn’t the only thing needing it, my spirit needed recovery too. The freedom that I felt was taken, had really been given instead. For weeks, I’ve huffed and puffed through days and weeks wishing for quiet time. I’d look at the books on my nightstand, which had gone untouched, and longed to give them my undivided attention. I realized my books weren’t the only things needing it either. Having time to really talk to God made me see how He was getting my attention but it was divided…some here, some there, and some in-between.

I was reading “Come Away My Beloved” and one of the daily readings posed this question, ”Does God have my affection.” I thought further and asked myself, “If he has my affection, does He have my time?”

Don’t we give our time to what we love or whom we love? If something or someone gets ignored for too long something happens, or doesn’t happen, to let us know. There are times when we’re searching for answers when we only need to ask questions. If we’re honest with ourselves, those answers can usually explain a lot. If we unravel the mystery, the clues are often pointing at us. Simply put, we can see what we’ve committed by whom we’ve omitted.

Many years ago, Frances J. Roberts wrote the aforementioned book. I’ve had several copies of that classic that I’ve given away. But just like God, a dear friend bought me a lovely pocket devotional that sits by my bed or in my purse. For now, it’s bedside so I can read it methodically because the words are so deep and meaningful. The author described her writings with profound words that brought tears to my eyes and understanding to much of life’s major or minor ordeals.

Just a few words described her work, “Forged in the crucible of life.” Just a few words describe my reply, “Forge Ahead!”

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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.