Laura Story and her husband encountered a life-threatening illness early in their marriage. She may have written the song Blessings in just thirty minutes, but she needed to go through five years of ups and downs, trials and grief, to get there. This hit song has now gone on to inspire countless Christians who have been struggling through their own trials in life.

In this interview from the Haven Today archives, Laura talks about the story behind this song, as well as how she incidentally became an award winning singer-songwriter in the first place. She’s appeared on Haven Today several times now, but this 2011 interview was her first time speaking with Charles Morris. It’s our prayer that no matter what you may be going through today, you might experience God’s blessings through this all about Jesus conversation.

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In 2012, when my wife and I moved to Walkerton, Indiana, so that I could pastor a church, we bought a 125-year-old house. While we were excited to have a house, we were more excited to turn it into the Barker Home: a place of joy for our family and a place of safety for the congregation.

Now, though, I find myself walking around our house just thinking about its individual elements: “We really need to insulate these walls.” “How much is that going to cost to fix?” “How many mice actually live in our basement?”

As I focus on the individual elements (especially the problems!) I lose sight of the big picture that we had when we bought our house—to make it a place of blessing, even as we’ve received it as a great blessing from our loving God.

It occurs to me that this is sometimes how we look at the Bible. We focus on all the little (and especially difficult) bits—What does this verse mean? Is that verse still applicable today?— that we miss how God intended them to create a whole picture. This is definitely what has happened to the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-10. The individual verses are famous:

“Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.”

“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”

But they are rarely read as wonderful parts of a much more wonderful whole.

Together, in a new monthly series on the Beatitudes, we will see how these individual verses are to be seen in relationship to their whole: the Kingdom of Christ.

Indeed, Matthew’s whole gospel centers around Christ’s kingdom. The genealogy in chapter one proves that Christ is the son of David and therefore the rightful king of God’s people—a king whom Herod fears, and whose kingdom is so great that Satan tries to steal it.

Even Jesus’ preaching is summarized in terms of the kingdom, “From that time [of John the Baptist’s arrest] Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’”

Just following this, and immediately before he preaches the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gathers disciples and attracts crowds. You might say that he brings in citizen-subjects of his kingdom and attracts those who are considering citizenship.

The context for the Sermon on the Mount, then, is the Kingdom of Heaven.

That also means that this sermon was intended for the citizens of Christ’s kingdom. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer points out in The Cost of Discipleship, the opening verses—“Seeing the crowds, he [Jesus] went upon on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him, and he opened his mouth and taught them”—tell us that Christ aims this message directly at the disciples; the disciples are the “them” who are being taught.

The Beatitudes, which begin the Sermon on the Mount, are therefore blessings from the king upon his subjects. But because he is a gracious king, Jesus allows the crowds to listen in as an invitation for all to consider citizenship in this kingdom.

And the way Jesus describes his kingdom and its citizens?: blessed.

The Kingdom of Christ is a kingdom of blessedness.

Indeed, if scholars are correct that the Beatitudes are a summary of life in Christ’s kingdom, then the Beatitudes aren’t just the first word, but are in many ways the whole word for your life in the kingdom: blessed.

So as we embark on our journey through the Beatitudes, we will explore the blessedness of Christ’s kingdom here on earth. If you are a citizen of this kingdom, then come learn what blessings are yours by faith in Jesus.

If you are not a citizen yet, but wonder what Christianity is all about—like the crowds that listened to Jesus at that time—then please follow along also so that you can learn what blessings Jesus has for those who are citizen-subjects of heaven.

And they are blessings—the only blessings that can bring comfort to the mourning, give inheritance to the meek, and turn a 125-year-old house into a Christian home.

Matt Barker is a pastor of Grace Reformed in Walkerton, Indiana. He married up to a wonderful wife who gives happiness and wisdom, and has a wonderful daughter who encourages fun and vigilante prayer.

How is the Lord helping you?

What a wonderful question. Someone asked me this recently about a trial I am going through: my husband is deployed with the U.S. Army for the first year of my son’s life. He left three weeks after our son’s birth. We are now five months in, with seven to go. What seemed impossible when we got the news—me parenting a newborn alone, in a sleep-deprived state—has been made possible by God’s providences.

God has given me teenagers who volunteered to clean my house and watch my son so I could get a break. He has given me a church that prays diligently. He has given me an iPad, through my uncle, so that father and son can see each other better over FaceTime. He has given me a two-month reprieve at my parent’s house on a peaceful inlet in Washington State. He has even helped me find my wallet when I was imagining waiting days to get a new debit card, and thereby grocery money.

Another woman asked, “Is God meeting your needs?” Then she laughed. “Of course He is,” she said. “How is He meeting your needs?

What if, instead of asking people how they are, we asked them how God was meeting them in their current trials? We would be pointing each other to where our eyes should be focused: the Cross, God’s promises, and God’s blessings.

We would be helping each other remember that God met our biggest need when Jesus became a lowly man, was cut off from His Father, died, and then rose again, opening the door for us to follow Him into Heaven.

So do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
— Isaiah 41:10

God’s promises are sure, because His biggest promise—to rescue us from our sinful state—has already been fulfilled.

Lindsey M. Roberts is the editor of the All About Jesus blog. After seven years in secular journalism, she is thrilled to explore in words how everything—from taking a walk to doing the dishes—is an opportunity to meet and glorify God. Lindsey lives with her husband and newborn son in Virginia.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. —Exodus 20:8-11

Like most of God’s commandments and rules, the fourth commandment to take a Sabbath rest is for our good and His glory. I think most of us forget about that for our good part. The Sabbath is not a restriction on our lives, as I was recently reminded by Matthew Sleeth’s book, 24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life (Tyndale House Publishers, 2012). “Rest” does not mean “let your co-workers get ahead of you by working one less day than them”; “Rest” is God saying, “I love you. Enjoy me and the rich life you have in me.”

God is often so practical. From Sleeth’s book, here are six ways that the Sabbath gives us rest for our practical good.

1. Rest from Being Hurt
We know that when we injure our bodies, it takes time for those injuries to heal. They need to rest. So it is with our souls, Sleeth says. For those of us who have suffered tragedies and sorrows in this life (and who hasn’t?) we need time to process, to pour out our hearts to the Lord, otherwise we’ll be just like a knee injury that never had time to heal—it’ll keep tripping us up as we go along in life.

2. Rest from Heavy Labors
Introverts will understand this one right away. We all need rest from what tires us, whether it’s a job on the construction site or the social energy expended all week. “When we rest, our blood pressure falls and levels of stress hormones such as cortisol decline,” Sleeth writes. “If we are to treat our bodies as temples, we must allow time for physical, mental, and spiritual recovery from the labors of the week.”

3. Rest from the Pace of the World
Sometimes science uncovers evidence for why God’s commands are good. Sleeth notes that in the cities where people on the streets walk faster, there are “higher incidences of coronary artery disease.” It’s just more proof that God wants what is good for us. “Slow down,” He says. “You just might live longer.”

4. Rest from the Speed of Change
One of the biggest interruptions to my rest is my smartphone. Text buzzes wake me up from afternoon naps; e-mail senders expect immediate answers when I’m reading the Bible. And it adds up to make me (and I don’t think I’m alone here) more frantic and tired. Turning off the technology on the Sabbath might be what we all need to really slow down.

5. Rest from the Job
When I was breaking into journalism, I faced few job options because of the recession. So I took every little job I could and worked round the clock. Now, the recession is over, but we all still feel the need to work round the clock to keep our jobs or to advance in our careers. But as Sleeth reminds us, “[r]esting is even more necessary in uncertain times. It helps us remember that God is in control and that our identity is not dependent on the work we do.” Whew. Amen.

6. Rest from Information
I learned first-hand why we need rest from our chronic information overload recently. I was confused as to how I was supposed to help my newborn sleep. Let him cry it out? Rock him to sleep on my shoulder? Sing lullabies? Use white-noise machines? I Googled the heck out of the Internet to see what the right answer was and became paralyzed by all the camps for and against each option. It wasn’t until I sat down and studied my own child—and not the smartphone in my hand—that I figured out my son’s sleep patterns and needs. Sleeth says that when we take a rest from all the information dumping that happens online we are better able to make wise decisions.

And as always, it all comes back to Jesus. Sleeth writes:

Jesus calls out to us in this 24/7 world of constant change and says, “Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:29-30). In learning how to rest, we actually gain knowledge of Christ. We learn to be gentle and humble and to give up our pride.”

This list is only a start. How does rest benefit you?

Lindsey M. Roberts is the editor of the All About Jesus blog. After seven years in secular journalism, she is thrilled to explore how everything—even doing the dishes—is an opportunity to meet and glorify God. Lindsey lives with her husband and newborn son in Virginia.