Bless Those Who Annoy You by Kimberlee Conway Ireton

Today’s post is by Kimberlee Conway Ireton, author of The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year.

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I’m driving on Westlake toward the south end of Lake Union, where I’m supposed to drop off my son for his sailing lesson. The lesson starts in five minutes, and he’s going to be late. I’m in the left lane, trying to get past a semi, but there’s road construction and the street narrows to one lane just ahead.

I manage to get in front of the semi, but when I look over my shoulder to see if there’s space for me to merge, the semi driver steps on his accelerator. I’m forced to slip in behind him. “Jerk!” I say out loud.

“Who’s a jerk, Mama?” my daughter asks from the back of the van.

I take a deep breath. One of the practices I’ve embraced since beginning my year of prayer is to bless those who annoy me. This occurs most often and most viscerally when I’m driving. After more than two decades of habitual screeching at the morons with whom I share the road, I have a deep groove in my brain that sends words like idiot and jerk and something that starts with A and ends in hole streaming out of my mouth when I’m sitting behind a steering wheel.

But recently, I’ve begun to realize something. Jesus, about whom I’m all gaga right now, this God-man I say I follow and want to be like—well, it’s dawning on me that he wouldn’t yell names at semi drivers who cut him off. He wouldn’t mutter miscreant or cretin under his breath, however smart such words might make him feel. No, Jesus would see that other driver as a child of God, created in the divine image, beloved.

This is a very frustrating realization. There’s something morally satisfying about feeling myself slighted or mistreated when I’m driving. It feels like I have a right to yell about it. And maybe I do. But as I draw nearer to Jesus, I find the yelling isn’t as satisfying as it used to be. As soon as the nasty name is out of my mouth, I feel myself convicted: That’s My child you’re calling a jerk.

And I recall the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus is very clear that name-calling is not okay:

Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the fires of hell.”

Ouch.

And so I’m taking a small step toward no longer calling people fools (or other choice words). When someone annoys me while I’m driving, I pray a blessing over them—after I call them a name, of course. I’d like to get to a place where blessing is my knee-jerk response to irritation, but I’ve a long way to go in that department.

Truth is, half the time when I pray those blessings, I feel a bit self-righteous, like I’m so great that I’m praying for those who annoy me. This used to stop me from praying—I don’t want to be a hypocrite. But then I realized that not praying is exactly what the enemy would want—whatever it takes to shut me up, even if that’s a realization of my own hypocrisy.

So I pray the blessing anyway, even though I’m still annoyed. I pray the blessing even though there’s part of me that feels smug for doing so. I pray the blessing even though I don’t wholly mean it.

Because I want to wholly mean it. I want to get to a place where praying a blessing over those who annoy me is my first response. Right now, I still have to go through the name-calling to get to the blessing, but I’m trusting that with time and practice, the distance between annoyance and blessing will shrink, and that one day, I’ll be able to smile when the semi driver cuts me off and say an instantaneous and heartfelt blessing over him.

“Mama?” Jane asks again. “Who’s a jerk?”

“Oh, the guy driving that truck cut me off,” I tell her. “It’s really not a big deal.”

Then I launch into my blessing, “God, please bless the driver of this truck in front of us. Please give him peace as he drives. Please keep him safe so that he reaches his destination on time and without harm. And please let him be a blessing to other drivers on the road.”

“Amen,” Jane says.

Amen, indeed.

Jesus says “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” For those of you who, like me, aren’t yet able to do this, let me invite you to begin by simply praying for those who annoy you, whether that’s another driver on the road, a blogger with whom you disagree (anyone praying for me right now?), or a colleague who consistently rubs you the wrong way. Let’s use our annoyance and irritation as a call to prayer and so transform it into another path to the heart of God.

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Eight Ways of Looking at Water By Kimberlee Conway Ireton

Kimberlee Conway Ireton has embarked on a Year of Prayer. To help hold her accountable to this commitment to live more prayerfully, she promised herself (and her blog readers) that she’d write about (some of) her prayer experiences.

This reflection was written in response to “blessing the water” prayer experiment in Return to Our Senses: Reimagining How We Pray.  A free study guide is also available and there is still time to form a group to use this as a study guide during Lent. 

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1. Come, everyone who thirsts,

come to the waters.

2.”When Paul says, ‘If then you have been raised with Christ,'” the preacher quotes from Colossians 3, “he is referring to baptism. In the ancient world, water was viewed as a place of chaos, a symbol of death.” I understand. I am afraid of water, too, the vast expanses that blanket the earth, hiding only God knows what beneath their opaque, undulating surface.

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3. Icy morning. Frost paints the housetops white. My breath hangs in the air when I step onto the porch. Back inside, I run water from the tap into the kettle, pour near-boiling water over tea leaves and wait for them to steep. I sip too soon; the hot liquid scalds my throat.

4. Driving up the hill to church, I enter the fog. Low, white swirls of water settle among the gravestones as I pass the cemetery. I think of Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones and am grateful I live in so lush a place as this, where water is plentiful and our bones are never dry.

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5. Stomach flu. I sleep fitfully, mouth dry, throat parched. A cup of water sits on the nightstand. I do not drink it. I am afraid I will throw up yet again, and my body aches from the violence of retching. Much as I long for water, I let the cup sit, unsipped.

6. After nearly a day without eating or drinking, I am a dry and weary land. I am the deer longing for the water-brooks. I sit at the dining room table and marvel at the beauty of clear water in clear glass. I sip, and the water soothes my parched throat. I imagine it filling my belly, my body, sending its healing power into every cell, rehydrating my dry skin, my dry eyes, my dry self.

7. Lynne takes the baby in her arms. He is wearing a long, white gown, over 100 years old, she tells us. She dips her fingers in the font and marks his forehead in the sign of a cross, once, twice, three times, baptizing him in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. “You are one of Christ’s own,” she tells him, “forever.”

8. On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If any of you thirsts, come to me! And those who believe in me—drink!” 


Post and photos by Kimberlee Conway Ireton, urban outsider, mother of four, and author of The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year.

God Bless this Laptop.

Like many of you I spend much of my time working on my laptop.  So I thought that you would appreciate this article my friend Andy Wade passed onto me today.  It appeared in USA Today for “back to work day” on Monday.  It seemed very much in keeping with my desire to help people integrate their faith into everyday life.

A venerable British church has done what e-mail addicts and workaholics have been doing for years — invoking the Almighty’s blessing on their high-tech gadgets.

The Rev. Canon David Parrott blessed a symbolic heap of laptops and smart phones on the altar of London’s 17th-century St. Lawrence Jewry church Monday. An effort, he said, to remind the capital’s busy office workers that God’s grace can reach them in many ways.  read the entire article

Franciscan Blessing Prayer

While cleaning up a pile of what I thought was junk this morning I came across some beautiful prayers that people have sent me.  Unfortunately I do not remember who gave me the prayers or where they originally came from.  It was a good reminder to me that hidden in the midst of what we think of as junk are often nuggets of gold.  And these nuggets of gold are only unearthed when we take the time to dig deeply into a pile of junk with observant eyes and listening ears.

I thought that I would take the opportunity over the next few days to share these prayers with you.

This first one is a Franciscan prayer of blessing:

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers,

half-truths and superficial relationships,

so that we will live deeply in our hearts.

May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression

and exploitation of people and the earth,

so that we will work for justice, equity and peace.

May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer,

so that we will reach out our hands

to comfort them and change their pain to joy.

And may God bless us with the foolishness to think that

we can make a difference in our world,

so that we will do the things which others say cannot be done.