Tag Archives: blessings

Into Every Life – A Transformation


We have spent the last month going through an exercise in uncovering disguised blessings and looking at some of the things that can trip us up on our way. We have worked at redefining our idea of good and shifted our thinking about the thorns in our lives. Today, to wrap this all up I want to really dig into the following passage and with the help of Matt Chandler’s and his Blessings and Woes message from February 2008, pull this apart.

Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh. What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way. “What sorrow awaits you who are rich, for you have your only happiness now. What sorrow waits you who are fat and prosperous now, for a time of awful hunger awaits you. What sorrow awaits you who laugh now, for your laughing will turn to mourning and sorrow. What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds, for their ancestors also praised false prophets. (Luke 6:20-26)

When did those four things become blessing? And then on the tail end, when did wealth, a full stomach, joy and being loved become what we should ascribe to? In every great success story, the key component in every book, everyone who was ever on Oprah is that they moved from here—poverty, rejection, hunger, despair—and they moved to wealth. Isn’t it? Isn’t every great success story marked by someone who moved from here to here? It moves in this direction. But Jesus shows up and goes, “No, no, no. It moves the other way.” But no one has ever made a success story built on, “He was born a billionaire…died decrepit and alone. Selah.” That is not how it works. It moves from poverty, rejection, hungry, sorrow, this way to joy, wealth. But Jesus is going, “Oh no, no, no. It better head the other way.”

So why? Why does it have to head the other direction? According to conventional wisdom this makes absolutely no sense! But this is what I have come to think of as “the burden of a blessing.” This is the refining and testing of our faith. Blessed, truly, deeply blessed, through and amidst grief and fear. Because when we are faced with tragedy, trials and struggling, and realize that we have nothing, that we are nothing, without God then we have begun to realize exactly what Jesus was teaching. This is where transformation happens!

We can learn even more about this passage from Luke 6 when we line it up with Matthew 5. It provides some additional insight and clarity. Whereas Luke 6:20 says “God blesses you who are poor…” Matthew 5:3 says “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” So let’s just jump right in…

Blessed are the poor in spirit, the spiritually bankrupt. Blessed is the person who realizes that he has nothing that he can give to God as a barter for His favor. Blessed are those who know it is not through works that we will find justification because we have nothing To offer God. Blessed are the ones who say, “I can’t figure this out on my own.” They have issues that haunt them and they know they can’t fix themselves. They have been trying and they just can’t get there on their own. Blessed are the poor in spirit.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are those who are hungry for forgiveness, who are hungry for intimacy with God. Blessed are those who are hungry for reconciliation, who are hungry for wholeness. Blessed are the hungry for they will be filled with God.

Blessed are you who weep. Blessed are you who mourn. Mourn the fact that we are bankrupt and starving. Mourn the fact that we are sinners. Blessed are those whose hearts are overwhelmed at the darkness inside of them. Blessed are those whose hearts are repentant. Worldly sorrow says “I’ve made a mess of my life. I wish I wouldn’t have.” But that doesn’t transform souls – that’s just regret. Repentance that leads to transformation says, “I’ve offended and let down God. I’ll now submit my life to Him.”

Finally, blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you on account of the Son of Man. Blessed are you when you’ve become so transformed that people see Jesus. I would rather be rejected by 99% of the world and have 1% know me and love me! than be loved falsely by 99% and rejected by the 1%. Blessed are those who are reviled and excluded. Leap for joy, you’ve been transformed.

Woe to you who are full. Woe to you who think you have no need. Woe to you who think you have it all figured out. Woe to you who think you don’t need a power greater than you.

Let’s go back to the beginning of this series…into every life a little rain must fall. So what if His blessings do fall like raindrops and what if healing does indeed come through tears? I believe they do. This life doesn’t necessarily look the way we thought it would. Our prayers may have changed us and not the situation. But if in all of this mess this is really where the true blessings lie, would you recognize them?

Blessings…love, mercy, humility, spirituality, compassion, comfort, hope, forgiveness, grace

Into Every Life – Blessed Are Who?!

Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh. What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way.
“What sorrow awaits you who are rich, for you have your only happiness now. What sorrow waits you who are fat and prosperous now, for a time of awful hunger awaits you. What sorrow awaits you who laugh now, for your laughing will turn to mourning and sorrow. What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds, for their ancestors also praised false prophets. (Luke 6:20-26)

I really want to dig into this deeper and try to pull some of it apart but in the meantime here is Matt Chandler’s “Readers Digest” version of these verses…

“Blessed, deep, full of life are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are those who mourn, for one day they’ll laugh, being set free from what haunts them. Blessed are those who know Jesus in such a way that it’s changed them, so that they’re excluded and reviled and at times hated, not because of their arrogance, but simply because of Jesus. But woe to you who are self-sufficient. Woe to you who are proud of your religious lineage. Woe to you who have figured it all out. Woe to you who have got it all right, for you’ve got the fullness of what you’ll have. And woe to you who are full, full and yet starving. What an empty place to be. And woe to you who laugh while your soul decays. And woe to you who are loved by all, because you haven’t been transformed much. The good news in all of this is Christ and the grace of Christ covers where we failed here. Because if we’re honest, some of us would have to say, ‘Hey listen, I’m not hungry, but I want to be.’ Okay then, that’s where we begin.”

Into Every Life…God as Comforter


Ok…this concept from Matt Chandler blew my mind. The first time I read it I thought “nice quote.” Then, after reading it through a couple of times and allowing it to penetrate through the cliche part of my brain to something deeper I began to really get on board with what Matt Chandler is saying. Let’s call this the head to heart transition. Take a few moments and reread these words today. Allow their meaning to seep into your soul.

“Comfort is the god of our generation, so suffering is seen as a thing to be solved, and not a providence from God.” Matt Chandler

Suffering as a providence from God, a blessing maybe? Let me clarify and say that I don’t believe suffering is the blessing. The bad, the mess, the hurt is not the blessing. I will not ask you to swallow the “suffering is a blessing” pill.

But before we get to where the blessing can be found answer this question, where do you turn when things begin spiraling out of control?

When we are hurting, searching for an escape it is so easy to medicate, to mask, or to smother our suffering. Or at least to try anyway…with a drink, a pill, food, shopping. Understand that it doesn’t have to necessarily be the “taboo” things that are destructive. When we reach for “stuff” first, we will constantly find ourselves reaching, going back to the well for more, trying to fill the hole, trying to escape our suffering. This is shaky ground and I will just say this. Pretending “it” doesn’t exist doesn’t make it go away. The only place to find healing is digging all the way to the root and then laying it down at the foot of the cross. It WILL hurt, and it is most likely NOT going to change over night but everything that happens in this life happens for a reason. Of that I am confident and unwavering.

Let me share with you what I have learned first hand…

When we are hurting, we want someone to sit down next to us, take our hand, and tell us it’s going to be okay, even if he or she doesn’t really believe it. We want to pretend, at least for a little while, that everything is all right. That in that very moment in time, everything is fine, and all that has happened or is yet to happen will just go away—the hurt, the shame, the fear, the consequences. In the absence of being able to turn the clock back, in the absence of being able to change the course our life has taken, we want comfort. We want to be loved and assured. And many times, the last thing we want to hear is that our pain has a purpose. We want to wallow in our pain; we want to have a pity party for ourselves. We want to scream at God that He has made a mistake and demand that He fix it. God doesn’t make mistakes, and search as we may for an escape route, the nearest exit as it were, from our current situation, it is in these situations that we really begin to understand what God is really like. I have been there, desperately searching for the emergency exit, but though we may not want to accept it, what we are going through has a purpose—God’s Word tells us exactly that. If you are there today, I pray as I write this that God’s words will penetrate your heart and you will be able to see God through the haze of your pain…I have come to realize that sometimes bad things are going to happen. Sometimes terrible, unthinkable, unimaginable things are going to happen, but it is God’s will. He has not turned His back on me, and I can use these things to make me bitter or I can use them to make me better. I love what Charles Spurgeon says; maybe you too can identify with his words. “I bear my willing witness that I owe more to the fire, and the hammer, and the file, than to anything else in my Lord’s workshop. I sometimes question whether I have ever learned anything except through the rod. When my schoolroom is darkened, I see most.” (An excerpt from Run and Be Still. )

When we are suffering what is the first thing we look for? Relief, an escape, a way to stop or avoid the pain. That is our human nature. We need to take a fresh look at Jesus in times of suffering, to understand better the promises He makes us when we find ourselves in the valley. Let me encourage you that in our suffering, God wants to be our comfort. Herein lies a major blessing if we can shift our thinking to see it as such. If you aren’t there yet please don’t give up. Just stick with me and keep an open mind. Know that on the bad days, God has not left you. He has not forsaken you.

I encourage you to look again at Jesus with the words from Laura Story’s song, Blessings.

What if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the achings of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise


Into Every Life…

We’ve all been dealt cards that we wish we could exchange. There have been times we have been ready to lay our hand down and just fold and walk away, but during the month of May I want to challenge you to see those cards for the blessings that may spring forth from them through this series that I have dubbed, “Into Every Life.” I want to challenge your definition of a “good” life and look at what a blessing may sometimes truly look like. My prayer is that as we do this we will begin to see our hand through the Dealer’s eyes.

“Into each life rain must fall,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous words……but what if, as Laura Story in her song Blessings asks,

What if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

What if…will you join me this month as we look at this what if? If you know someone else who needs some encouragement, someone whose umbrella is tattered and torn from the downpour they have been weathering, would you please share this with them? Invite them to take this journey with us for a very real look at pain and blessings.

God works at Target

You don’t have to try to force things to happen. Stay faithful and you will walk into God’s blessings for your life. ~Spiritual Inspiration
I love a good story. I love a good God story even more and the one I got to be a part of today will, I am sure, continue to unfold. You could call it a series of random events or view it through the lens of being orchestrated by God’s almighty hand. I prefer the latter. I have already told this so many times today and hope that in writing it down it doesn’t betray the magic of the story.

The morning started typically enough with a two hour delay for school. (With the weather we are having that has become the norm.) I also had to have my monthly blood test today and had an afternoon appointment for work. The facility where I get my blood tested is very close to a Target and it’s become my reward after being jabbed to wander the isles of Target looking for clearance deals.

Today, as I was near the front of the store, I glanced over at the ATM and saw money sticking out of it. I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing and looked around for the person that it belonged to. No one was anywhere even close! I walked down the isle and pulled the stack of bills out of the machine and continued to look for the person who frantically must be missing what I determined to be $200!

After 10 minutes of wandering and waiting, I had to leave. I didn’t turn the money in. The cynic in me was afraid once I turned it in it would disappear. As I left, I kept looking over my shoulder for a camera and waiting for the “What would you do?” host to pop up and ask why I didn’t turn the money in. I also felt a little like a thief, while wondering at the same time if it was my lucky day. My plan was to call Target after my appointment and ask if someone had reported any money missing. Then let them tell me how much and where. Almost three hours after I left, I called the store and was transferred around a few times. Finally I was connected with a manager who said indeed $200 had been lost near the ATM today and, in fact, the woman who lost it was standing in front of him right then. How is that for timing?!

She asked to speak to me, thanked me profusely, and proceeded to tell me a little about her week. She had been diagnosed with cancer on her face yesterday and then lost $200 today. She also told me that the whole way back to the store she was praying that someone would be honest and turn the money in. She was so overwhelmed and upset and completely blown away that I was calling to return the money, especially while she was standing right there. Random? Good luck? I tend to believe it is something a bit bigger. So we set a time up for me to drive back the 45 min to the store. As I was retelling the story for the first time, I was urged to give her one of my books, Run and Be Still. After giving it some thought, it seemed after the week she was having it might provide some comfort and encouragement, so why not?

She was waiting at the door when my daughter and I walked in. She hugged me as if I was a long lost friend and thanked me at least a dozen times for returning her money. We signed the proper forms that the store required through their lost and found and continued to talk and share. I did give her my book and she teared up while the store manager looked on and didn’t quite know what to make of us. She entertained me by telling me about how she had the other store employees looking through her purse for her and patting her pockets down to make sure she didn’t put the money somewhere and just couldn’t find it. She said she felt like she was losing her mind and didn’t trust herself to have not overlooked it. I have had days like that too! (I have been known to look for things that I am holding in my hand…I am not proud.)

I had to ask her the burning question that I had and that was of course, “How do you walk away from your money in the ATM?” She laughed and told me it never came out while she was standing there. She waited and waited, got her receipt, figured it wasn’t working and walked away. It must have been on some kind of delay. At this point, I began to sense even deeper that our meeting wasn’t just happenstance. We said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. She walked out the door and I had a couple of things to pick up. I grabbed snacks for the kids, checked out, and got in line at Starbucks for what I deemed was a necessary afternoon treat.

I glanced over at customer service and saw my new friend looking through her purse and my immediate thought was “Poor woman. Did she lose her car keys now?” The employee she was talking to pointed her in my direction and she came over with my book in her hand, obviously in disbelief and said, “You wrote this? You really wrote this?” I assured her I did and she wanted to know how long it had been out and then she asked for my phone number. She said she was going to read the book tonight and wanted a way to be in contact. As best I can figure, she went to her car, read the book jacket, and had come back in to try to find me or a way to get ahold of me. It seems that the book struck a chord with her. I guess this story is to be continued but God has orchestrated an amazing beginning.

You know, I could have just claimed finders keepers. I could have said, “Thanks God for the sudden cash flow.” I could have tried to convince myself that it was ok. That it was all right. But I didn’t and the story I have tonight is such an amazing beginning. So much cooler, and immensely more gratifying than $200 could ever be.

God knew exactly what I needed today. I needed to see Him. I have been working on living, as one dear friend has said, within the confines of today, and looking for Him in today, in the big and the small. This is sometimes so frustrating because on the mundane, typical day in the life of Ashley Cunningham, I don’t feel like I can always find Him. On the house-bound-snow-days when I am drowning in laundry and dirty dishes, I don’t feel the sparkly freshness of God moments. That’s not to say He isn’t there. I know He is and I know life is sometimes mundane and typical. But God also knows that I am struggling with a need to continue to share my story. A need to understand the plans He has for my book. Ten years in the making, a surprise publisher that came looking for me, a speedy publication process, and now a beautiful finished product that I hold in my hands and wonder, “What now?” How do I get God’s message of hope, peace, and comfort from my hands into the hearts of those who need it most? This question has been so heavy on my mind and heart and then God shows up at Target with $200 that needs to be returned to a woman who needs more than just the money. She needs Him!

Isn’t it awesome when God injects some amazing into the middle of the typical just when we need it most? Feeling truly blessed tonight…

To be continued.

Today’s not the day and tomorrow isn’t looking so good either.

“When darkness overtakes the godly, light will come bursting in” (Psalm 112:4)
I know we have been down this path before but sometimes it feels like life just keeps circling around on itself, like you are stuck in a holding pattern. Today I found out that the hard copy proof of Run and Be Still, that I have been stalking has yet to be created, let alone shipped. To say that I was angry that someone dropped the ball three weeks ago and left it laying in the outfield was putting it mildly. (And that the only reason the mistake was even discovered was because I finally listened to the voice in my gut telling me to call and check on the project progress.) So ok, deep breath, running shoes, and headphones (because it’s really hard to be angry when you are spending time in worship) and things begin to become right in the world again. As I was jogging I realized, through God’s help, that there are forces at work beyond what I can see or even comprehend, really.

Satan’s lies are easiest to believe in our darkest days. I want to stand holding a candle in that darkness, lighting up the lies with the truth of God’s promise and the hope of brighter days ahead, from the shoes of someone who has walked that path. I know that in becoming a light in that darkness it robs Satan of some of his power. He isn’t going to allow that to happen easily. So, the book got “lost.” In realizing this it strengthens my resolve to fight. It encourages me to push to get my book into the hands of those hurting souls who God will begin to heal. And it once again opens my eyes to the very real battle that is waging constantly around us.

“It’s one thing to know that you’re going into a challenging season. You get prepared for it. You get mentally ready. But what about the difficulties that we don’t see coming? The unexpected crisis that catches us off-guard? Sometimes, it can seem so overwhelming that it almost knocks the wind right out of us.
The Scripture says that we shouldn’t be surprised by fiery trials. That’s because the forces of darkness would not be fighting against you if they didn’t know that God has something amazing in your future! Sometimes, those unexpected difficulties are just a sign that you’re on the right track. It’s always darkest just before the dawn appears. The enemy always fights the hardest when you are closest to your breakthrough. The key is to stay the course and keep fighting the good fight of faith. Keep your joy and keep declaring God’s Word over your future. God has promised that you will overcome every obstacle. You will defeat every enemy, and right now, I declare that you will fulfill your destiny in Jesus’ name!” (excerpt from spiritual inspiration)

Keep the faith and light up the darkness with the help of the Son!