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Trust Me Yet?

Have you ever been in one of those situations? The kind that you have to trust God to take care of you and get you through the insanity that is being presented to you?  The kind that you could literally never get through on your own, even on your best day?

I have.  In fact, I’m in the middle of one of those situations right now.

This year is only barely halfway through, and yet this year has been filled with so many moments I didn’t see coming.  I never thought I would be paying for grad school out of pocket.  Sure, I knew if I needed to get my Master’s degree then I would have to pay for it; I just assumed I would pay it back, not pay it up front.  And let me just tell you, this one thing has caused so much stress and strain, but it has also tested my faith.

Don’t get me wrong!  I’m beyond blessed to have made it through an entire year of graduate school with zero debt from it.  Literally only the Lord could be responsible for how He has orchestrated that.  Literally.  Only the Lord.  And I praise Him every day for helping me get this far.

I never thought I would be planning a wedding during a long distance engagement, while I was in grad school.  Now, I know this was all my idea and I’m the dumb one who did this to myself.  I take FULL responsibility.  Well, half.  I’ll take half of the responsibility.  I’ll put the other half on Brandon.  …Poor guy…  Anyway, that has a whole other set of craziness that I will not delve into at the moment.

I never thought I would be living more than just paycheck to paycheck.  I don’t even currently make enough to support the expenses I have right now.  Not to mention that the Lord has called me to step down from one of my jobs, so I will have even less money coming in each month.  Yes, this is kind of my fault, but I think it’s more God’s plan than anything else.

I never thought I would be letting go of so many things I held dear…

Remember how I said that the Lord told me to step down from one of my current jobs?  Yeah… In my head, that wasn’t supposed to happen until I moved and got married and all that jazz in May of 2018.  However, as I have often found in life, God had a different plan.

So, here I am.

Tomorrow is technically my last Sunday on staff at the most incredible little church.  I loved being a part of this church family even before they somehow decided that I was the person they wanted to work with their kids.  After I took the job as children’s ministry director, my life changed forever.  Literally.

Each child in that ministry is like one of my own.  They have taught me and continue to teach me so much more than I ever knew I needed to know.  They showed me such unconditional love, such agape love.  They accepted me so fully and allowed me to be a part of their lives.  They have a piece of my heart and I pray that I did right by them.  I pray that they saw me as a servant and vessel of the Lord, not as a woman seeking praise or favor.  I pray that they learned something and felt God’s love in a way that they will never forget.  I pray that they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are valuable, chosen, loved, and prayed for extensively.  I hope I was able to light up their world just a little bit with the love of Christ.  I just hope they know that they are loved so thoroughly by so many different people and by a God who died to know their name and carry their burdens.

I hope…  I pray…

I have been thoroughly blessed by the people in my church.  They have supported me when I literally had no clue what in the world I was doing.  They encouraged me when all I could see were my flaws and failures.  They have kept me positive when all I knew was the negative.  They are literally the best people on the planet.  I thank God for them every single time I remember them.  I know the Lord put them in my life to help me not only survive, but thrive in my growth and experience while working with the kids in my church.  I couldn’t have done it without them.  And that’s the honest truth.  Thank you for everything.

The number of people who volunteered time and time again to help me serve the kids is astounding.  All of the volunteers I worked with had a heart of gold and the love of Christ shining from within them.  They have served beautifully and relentlessly.  They blessed me beyond anything I had ever known.  Children’s ministry isn’t for everyone, but those who serve the little ones are such a blessing.  They have taught me so much about loving on God’s precious little children.  Thank you for your time and heart.  I pray the Lord blesses your socks off!

My friends and family who have supported me through each and every crazy, insane, chaotic step of this journey…  You.  Are.  Phenomenal.  Thank you for not giving up on me and walking away from my waves of negativity or tornadoes of chaos.  Thank you for supporting me and showing me nothing but love.  Thank you for talking me down when I was so riled up.  Thank you for your endless prayers and countless texts and phone calls.  You have blessed my socks off.  (Literally!  I don’t have any socks on right now!  You blessed them right off!!)

I don’t even know where to begin with the prayer bunnies…  Literally.  There are NO WORDS that could ever express my gratitude and love for each of you ladies.  Knowing that you are always there, ready with a prayer for me when I need it most as well as when I forget just how much I need it.  I pray the Lord blesses you beyond all measure.  I know each of you has so many crowns awaiting you in Heaven.  I also know that you will relinquish every single one of them before the throne of the Father, even as you have done on this earth.  You have turned every blessing that He has poured out on you into the sweetest incense of praise.  May the Lord drop prayer bombs of blessings on each of you.

Now, to the absolutely phenomenal and incredible woman who is taking my place.  You’ve got this.  The kids will accept you and love you with more love than you ever thought you could receive.  They will welcome you with open arms and they will teach you things you never knew you didn’t know.  You will be incredible.  Seriously.  Don’t freak out.  You’re more qualified for this job than I am!  God used me and blessed me for the time He wanted me there, but it’s your turn now.  God will use you so fully if you allow Him to (and I know you will).  The kids will test you and they will drive you insane sometimes, but you know that.  But let me just say, the insanity and chaos is nothing compared to the love and joy and even peace you will find while ministering to those sweet kids.  You’re awesome and you’ve got this because God’s got you and He is putting you in this place for His good, pleasing, and perfect will.  And you know I’m not going anywhere yet!

The Lord has been so good and blessed me through all of the insanity I’ve faced throughout my life.  I know He will be with me during this next year and the year after that and the year after that.  I know He will be right beside me and before me and behind me.  I know He will help me plan my wedding and pay for grad school.  I know He will walk me across the stage at graduation and down the aisle at my wedding.  I know He will place me exactly where He wants me for my clinical fellowship year.  I know He will help us choose our first home and help us organize our things within that home.  I know He will help us love one another through the first difficult year of marriage and every other crazy year after that.  I know He will give me the perfect job with great coworkers.  I know He will be there every single step of the way.

I can hear the Lord now: “I’ve helped you through so much in the past.  I’ve shown you My love.  I’ve taught you My ways.  You’ve never been in need before.  Why in the world would I stop providing now?  Why don’t you just trust Me.  I’ve got this.”

I know God is using this insanity to help me see things more clearly.  Being perfected, molded, and purified aren’t pretty and they are also pretty painful.  However, with that in mind, it is necessary to go through the refiner’s fire if I wish to be used by the Lord.  So, into the fire I go.  Knowing the Lord walks before me and beside me and behind me, each step of the journey.

So here I am.  Trusting God to provide all of my needs.

Thank you all for your prayers, supports, and intercessions.  I feel them more and more each day.  You are all incredible and I pray the Lord heaps blessings upon each of you.

Gentry Bass

Sufferer

Hi, my name is Gentry and I am a sufferer.

If I could look you in the eyes and ask you if you have ever experienced a moment of suffering in some way, shape, or form, I’m sure that you would hurriedly respond with an emphatic, “yes!”  The truth is, we all suffer in some way.  Another truth is, we all suffer in different ways.

The thing is, it all sucks.  Suffering is never fun.  Ever.  But you can’t go through life judging other people or looking down on other people because they suffer differently than you do.  God’s got us all where we are for some reason, don’t disparage that.  And even if our suffering is our own fault, God can still redeem it and use it for good.

Currently, I just so happen to be in a season of suffering.  It’s ironic that a little over a month ago I helped teach a Bible study on suffering at our church’s summer camp.  God does have a sense of humor, you know.  The lesson focused on defining suffering, understanding why we suffer, exploring how you personally suffer, discovering how the Bible suggests that we handle that suffering, and experiencing the result of suffering.  I know.  That’s a lot of suffering.

The thing is, while I’m sitting in the middle of my suffering, I have two choices: I can whine and groan and become angry at God because He let this happen to me, or I can choose to suffer well.  It’s my choice.  It’s your choice.  While at camp, I jokingly told each kid to “suffer well” as I handed them a bookmark after each session.  The bookmark has three pictures on it, each having a verse or quote written on it.  Here’s how our suffering bookmarks read:

“Suffering produces Endurance.  Endurance produces Character.  Character produces Hope.”  -Romans 5: 3-4

“After your season of suffering, God in all His grace will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”  -1 Peter 5:10

“Don’t get the feeling that we signed up for suffering when we received Jesus.  Beloved, we live in a fallen world where every human being suffers to some extent.  The difference is that our suffering need never be in vain.” -Beth Moore

Great words of wisdom, I know!  It’s one thing to sit on the swing at camp and teach those kids about suffering.  It’s a whole other thing to sit in the middle of suffering and read those words and do your absolute best to believe them.

While I taught those kids, I was suffering to some extent.  I was achy all over (a lovely never ending side effect of a chronic and progressive genetic disorder like VEDS), the sun was hot, I had a million and one things running through my mind and no time to even think about all of them (a camp in two weeks I was directing, a VBS in a month I was still writing curriculum for and didn’t have enough help for, relationships that weren’t going as smoothly as I’d hoped, etc. etc. etc.), and my heart was heavy for some people I knew who were going through a really rough time.

Sure, I was suffering then, but let me just tell you: that moment in my mind seems like a walk through the park compared to what I am dealing with now.  I mean, I’m sure that’s how it always feels.  Once you move on from that season in your life, you can see the good that came from it but you also aren’t in the midst of it, so it doesn’t seems anywhere near as bad as it did in the moment.  That’s how it usually works for me, anyway.

The suffering I am currently experiencing is something I’ve never gone through before.  I’ve been diagnosed with a chronic and progressive genetic disorder, I’m in a long distance relationship, I’m a children’s ministry director, and I’m about to start graduate school as well as another job.  I’ve been through a lot.  And those are only the things I’m dealing with at this moment!  But this season of suffering is something entirely different.  Why?  Because I can’t seem to wrap my head around why in the world I’m dealing with this so intensely right now.

I feel alone. Left behind. Abandoned. Not good enough. Distant. Helpless. Unheard. Unreachable. Misunderstood. Betrayed. Hopeless.

Should I feel a single one of those things?  No.  And I know that!  That’s what I don’t understand!  I know that I’m not alone, left behind, or abandoned because Hebrews 13:5 says that He will never leave me.  I know I am good enough because Jeremiah 29:11 says that the Lord has a plan for my life that will prosper me and give me hope and a future.  I know I’m not distant because Psalm 34:18 says that He is near to the brokenhearted.  I know I’m not helpless because Psalm 121:2 says that my help comes from God.  I know I’m not unheard because Psalm 66:19 says that He has heard.  I know I’m not unreachable because Psalm 139:7-12 details that God is everywhere.  I know I’m not misunderstood because Romans 8:26 says that the Holy Spirit prays for me when I don’t know how to.  I know I’m not betrayed because Romans 8:31 says that God is for me, not against me.  I know I’m not hopeless because Romans 5:3-4 says that my suffering will eventually produce hope.

I know all of these things to be true.  So why do I feel these things?!  It is so frustrating to me!  I know God is good and He still is, even when I’m in the middle of my sufferings.  The problem I’m having is, I thought we had a deal.

But we didn’t.  I had a deal.  I thought that He understood my desires and wanted to give them to me.  At least that’s what Psalm 37:4 says.  And it’s true.  He does know my desires and I believe that He does want to give me the desires of my heart.  But I know that He wants His will for me even more.  Because it’s better.  His plan for my life is infinitely better than I could ever imagine in my wildest dreams .  If you gave Hollywood all the money and brain power in the world and told them to make a movie about the best life that could ever be lived, they would fall drastically short of what God has planned for me.

You see, God never agreed to my plan.  He agreed to His plan long ago and He’s still lovingly and patiently waiting for me to jump on board instead of riding the railing.  If I’m being 100% honest right now, I was beyond convinced that He was going to move me to South Alabama to do my graduate studies.  I was certain that He would provide a scholarship for me at Montevallo when I didn’t get one at South.  I was sure that He wouldn’t lengthen the time that I have to spend waiting a month just to say goodbye again to the only guy crazy enough to love me.  I was confident that He wouldn’t add physical pain to my already overwhelmed being.  I was positive that He wouldn’t let me get so far down in my own plan, believing that it was His, that I had to be jerked up by the roots in the most painful way just to see that I had planted myself where I didn’t belong.

I had it all planned out.  But that’s where I went wrong.

He didn’t move me to South Alabama, regardless of the signs I thought I received from Him.  I didn’t even get a hint of a scholarship at Montevallo.  He has definitely lengthened the time that I will suffer through only seeing my boyfriend once a month throughout this long distance relationship.  He has let physical neck, shoulder, and back pain pile on top of all of these things.  And He surely allowed me to walk my own path, thinking that I was walking His.  But praise be to God that He saw fit to jerk me up by the roots and carry me back to where I belong.

It never has been and never will be my job to plan my life.  I thought I had learned that lesson a long time ago, when I was 11, but I guess I still have some learning to do in that department.  God is sovereign and He is in control.  He already has it all mapped out for me.  All I have to do is surrender my plans, focus on Him, and follow wherever He leads me.  I mean, it’s really not that hard when you think about it.  We always want someone in our lives to just tell us what to do in order to have a good, full life.  Yet, the moment that the almighty, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God tells us that He’s got it all planned out, it’s better than we can hope for, and all we have to  do is follow Him, we get our calendars and planners out and start marking down dates and making an agenda.  How silly we must seem to Him.  And yet He loves us dearly and patiently allows us to mark our calendars, knowing that He has something completely different planned.  How much more baffling that He allows us to choose between our failed attempts at planning our life and His complete and perfect plan.

I’m sure I put myself in this mess that I’ve made by trying to do things my way, but I also know that God can take my mess and make it a beautiful part of my life that brings glory to Him and Him alone.  I know that my suffering doesn’t have to be in vain.  I know that God is good, even when life isn’t.  I know that even when I feel alone, I am only a prayer away from the Almighty.  I know that as soon as I learn to quit crawling off the altar, my life will become a fragrant living sacrifice to the Lord.

So for now I take it one day at a time.  I wake up, spend time with the Lord, ask Him to guide my day and guard my heart and mind.  I work.  I live.  I love.  I suffer.  And in the end, I know that I will find my hope in Him who gives all that I will ever need.

“You’ll get through this.  It won’t be painless.  It won’t be quick.  But God will use this mess for good.  In the meantime, don’t be foolish or naive.  But don’t despair either.  With God’s help you will get through this.” -Max Lucado, You’ll Get Through This

Gentry Bass

New Year; New Life

If you want to read the beginning of the story, you can read it here.

So now you know that I lived out a Hallmark movie and got my first boyfriend for Christmas in 2012.  Today’s part of the story, however, is about a mere seven days later on New Year’s Eve.

It started out just like every other New Year’s Eve had over the past few years.  I was getting ready to go to a friend’s house to celebrate with the girls in our youth and college group.  Of course, throughout the entirety of my readying, I was texting Brandon and trying to wrap my head around the fact that I, for the first time in my life, actually had a boyfriend.  What a weird word!  Boyfriend.  My boyfriend.  Weird.  Of course, I hadn’t seen him or anything like that…  We do happen to live a small distance away from each other; though the distance is great enough to limit our visits to one weekend each month, except for special occasions.  However, on this particular New Year’s Eve, we had yet to see each other since our first encounter, six months earlier at summer camp.

It was our one week anniversary!  (I know.  Gross.)  However, the conversation we were having was short and seemingly one-sided.  I was suspicious.  It turned out that I was right to be suspicious.  The boy was acting upon a plan that had been in the works for quite some time…

You see, Brandon was a tricky little booger.  Well, he still is if I’m being completely honest.  Remember that whole boyfriend for Christmas over text message thing?  That isn’t exactly how he had planned for that conversation to go.  He had talked with a few people and had already planned to come up to visit me for New Year’s Eve and that is when he had planned to ask me to be his girlfriend in person rather than over text.  Which, by the way, he has apologized for profusely since that day.

So, there I am.  Almost finished with the daunting task of blow drying my insanely thick hair.  My sister also happens to be in the room with me, though she is standing on the edge of the bathtub to better see herself in the mirror above the sink.  We also just so happened to be singing at a not so quiet volume…

There was a knock at the door.  I turned the blowdryer off, we stopped singing, and I opened the door to see my mother standing there with a big grin on her face.  “You have a visitor,” she trilled as she walked away.

I was in shock!  There was no way that the absolutely insane boy that I had just recently agreed to start “dating” (remember that previous discussion about the difference I hold between “talking” and “dating”) actually took the time and spent the money to drive 250 miles just to see me.  I walked out of the bathroom mumbling, “It better not be…”

It was.  I turned the corner and there he was.  He was actually there!  Standing in my living room and grinning from ear to ear was the boy I hadn’t seen in half a year.  Needless to say, I rushed over to him and gave him a long awaited embrace followed by a few laughs.  Apparently my face was priceless or something like that.

Standing there beside him for what felt like the first time, I realized something.  He was tall!  I mean, I knew he was 6’4, but seeing as I hadn’t really been around him, I had honestly forgotten how much taller he was than I.

As we walked out of the house and made our way to the New Year’s Eve party, I felt every bit like an awkward teenage girl going on her very first date.  I mean, it wasn’t a date.  It was an ambush.  But that’s beside the point.  The smiles were radiant and the laughter was genuine.

When we walked into our friend’s house, everyone laughed and started talking at the same time.  Brandon had brought two of his friends from home and they were waiting there for us as well.  Apparently everyone had been a part of the ambush except me.  I was bitter at first, but that faded away rather quickly.  I guess my joy at seeing him in person and actually being there with him overshadowed my bitterness.

Now, our New Year’s Eve parties aren’t really anything like, well anything.  That night we sat around the room, watched Pitch Perfect, and talked about life.  There was also a toast around midnight with some sparkling apple juice and perhaps a hand was held here and there, but that’s as close to a typical New Year’s Eve party as we get.  I think it’s absolutely brilliant.

We left later on that night and I got another first for the New Year: my first kiss.  It wasn’t anything super romantic.  Actually it was rather awkward because he just so happened to miss the first time…  Got me right on the side of my mouth!  He’s a keeper, I know it!  He redeemed himself a moment later and met his mark.  Only for a short moment, but it marked the beginning of a new year with a new guy.  Actually, it marked the first year with the first guy that will hopefully be the last guy.  But I guess we will have to wait and see what God has planned for us.

Gentry Bass

His Will, Not Mine

Have you ever noticed that as soon as someone gets sick, everyone in the church starts praying for divine healing?  It’s actually quite incredible.  There is nothing that brings a congregation together more quickly than someone who is in need of prayer.  There might be prayer warriors praying Bible verses that may sound a little something like this: “Almighty Father, Creator of the Heavens and Earth, You formed us in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13) and you know every detail about us, even how many hairs are on our head (Luke 12:7).  We praise You because You have given us another day to glorify You on this earth.  We pray, in the name of Jesus, that You would be present here today, Lord.  You said in Your Word that where 2 or more were gathered, You would be there also (Matthew 18:20).  So be here with us today as we seek Your help.  Lord, we know that You are our comforter and our healer (1 Corinthians 1:3-4).  We pray, Father God, that You would find favor with us, Your servants, and heal this person of their affliction or disease, just as You did time and time again when Jesus walked the earth (Matthew 12:15, Matthew 9:35 and a ton more).  We pray that Your almighty hand would reach down from Heaven and touch this person.  Let Your healing power be made known to them and right every wrong in their body right now, in the name of Jesus Christ.  You are the creator of our bodies and we know that You are more than able to heal us (Psalm 139:13, Psalm 103:3).  You said that if we ask anything according to Your name, then the Father will hear us and answer (John 14:14).  Lord, You said that all we have to do is ask and we will receive (John 14:14, Matthew 7:7).  So, Holy Father, we’re asking.  We’re praying healing over this person.  Let the balm of Gilead fall on them from the top of their head to the soles of their feet and let Your power be made known to them (the balm of Gilead is mentioned in Jeremiah 8:22 as a balm for healing, but is never actually mentioned in the Bible being used in a prayer for healing over someone, which is what it is commonly used for).  Father God, You are good and we know that You are in control (Psalm 107:1).  So we ask that you would heal this person in the name of Jesus.  We thank You for the healing that we know is already taking place, Lord, and we claim this victory in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.”

Did you notice how pretty much all of that was based on scripture?  It was incredible, wasn’t it?  There was so much power in that prayer.  And yet, if you read it again, then you will find that not once does it say, “But above all else, Father God, we want Your will to be done.”  That’s how Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before his Crucifixion (Matthew 26:42), so isn’t that how we should be praying too?  We can pray all of the prayers we want to for healing or for prosperity or happiness or anything else that we want.  And, yes, the Bible does say, “Delight Yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).  But the first part is the key to that verse.  If Christ isn’t first, then you’re doing it wrong.  Yes, the Bible says, ” if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:15).  But we are missing something.  If we look back one verse in 1 John 5, we will see this is the precursor: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14).

I believe that is the key.  Unless we are praying according to God’s will, then aren’t we kind of praying in vain?  Don’t get me wrong.  Please keep praying for healing and for miracles to happen, because they do happen all the time.  I completely believe in the power of healing and the power that God has.  He is able to do more than we could ever imagine (Ephesians 3:20) and He is certainly able to heal me or anyone else of any disease and He has proven Himself faithful in that time and time again.  I am not questioning God’s ability.  I am questioning our prayer style.  I believe that we can pray beautiful, Biblical prayers, but we also need to remember that God’s way is better and that He has a greater plan for us than what we can currently see (Jeremiah 29:11).

So why not pray something like this: “Holy Father, we pray that you would reach Your sovereign hand down from Heaven and heal this person.  But, Lord, we pray that Your will would be done above all else.  If this is a part of Your plan for them, give them grace and patience as they walk through this hard time.  Give them joy and increase their steadfastness as You walk with them (James 1:2).  If it is Your will to heal them, then let Your healing power rain down on them.  But if it is not Your will, then let Your presence be known to them in a way that they cannot deny and cannot ignore as they walk through this hard time.  You are good and we have faith that Your plan for our lives is better than anything that we can imagine (Ephesians 3:20) and we ask that You would take control.  Send Your Holy Spirit to comfort them through the hard times as well as the joyous times.  Let Your will be done Your way, in Your timing, and to Your glory.  Amen.”

It’s a simple addition verbally or mentally to our prayers, however, it is a much more complex idea to believe and trust in our hearts and souls.  But it can be done.  Trust me.  I’ve done it.  I normally end my prayers with a little mantra that I’ve developed over the years: “Your will. Your way. In Your timing. And to Your glory. Not mine.”  It’s that simple to say.  It’s much harder to trust it and allow God to take your prayers and mold them into what He has planned; to align your will with His.  But isn’t that what we should want?  We should want His will to be done and for Him to be glorified above all else.  So why not pray it?  Why not live it?

God has a much better plan for me than I could ever imagine, so I choose to trust Him with all of the details of my life.  Right now, His plan includes me having VEDS.  However, I know that He can take this thing that was meant for death and turn it around for my good and His glory (Genesis 50:20).  The thing is, I have to allow Him to do that.  It’s my choice to make, and I have made it.  No one else can make this decision for me.  It was not easy and it takes constant work.  I am no where near perfect and I am talking to myself just as much as I am talking to you.  There are many things that I am still having to ask God to take over because I keep trying to control them myself.  But I am trying.

Now it’s your turn.  You get to decide who is in control of your life: you or the God who made you?  Who will it be?

Gentry Bass

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