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.


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.”


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.


Are You Ready For the Spiritual Discipline of Gratitude – Tom Sine

Today’s post in the series Return to Our Senses in Lent, is written by my husband Tom Sine.


Last week we ask you: are you ready for the spiritual discipline of daily laughter? We encouraged you to join Ted and Company in learning to laugh at our own foibles every day so we could learn to live without taking ourselves too seriously.

This week we are urging you to consider adopting an attitude of gratitude.  It is all too easy for all of us to focus more on what’s going wrong than what we have to give thanks for. When I used to work for World Concern in Haiti in the early 80s I used return home to Seattle feeling very embarrassed about my petty complaints Sometimes I was able to go an entire week without complaining about the weather, driving conditions or some of my difficult friends. An amazing miracle!

As we enter the season of Lent I urge you not only to reflect on your shortcomings but to fast from verbalizing complaints for a whole week. Any time you are tempted to complain stop and give expression to something your grateful for. Research actually indicates that people who express more gratitude are significantly happier than those who are given to complaining about their situations.

I can still remember how proud I was of my dad during his repeated times in the hospital for several serious ailments during his final years. I never heard him complain once. Instead when I would ask him how he was he would say “I am always all right!”

As you can see from the picture Christine and I plus our dog Bonnie have a great deal to be grateful for. Friday we arrived at our 40 acre site on Camano Island for the Mustard Seed Village only to make a stunning discovery. As you can see our construction team has just poured the foundation and erected eight poles for the first building in the Mustard Seed Village.  As you can imagine we had little difficulty in expressing our genuine gratitude to God for all of those who contributed to this new beginning.


But were also grateful for the opportunity to finish what we have started.  We are grateful for the opportunity to join with others in bringing a road and power to the site as well as constructing a sustainable septic system and putting a pump on our well. We are grateful that this new facility will enable us to start hosting gatherings on the land to help people learn to live more innovatively, sustainably and festively in these uncertain times.

Write me this week and let me know if you are able to replace words of complaint with words of gratitude for the entire first week of Lent. Also write me if you’d like to join many others who are helping us make the Mustard Seed Village a center for Christian imagination and celebration.

The Spiritual Practice of Gratitude

Let Us Give Thanks

Let Us Give Thanks

One thing I love about living in the U.S. is the celebration of Thanksgiving. I tell people that there is no equivalent in Australian culture – we just aren’t very grateful people. (just joking). Not surprisingly, this month’s Synchroblog theme invites writers to share their thoughts on gratitude as a spiritual practice.

It’s easy during the month of November to think about thankfulness. A lot of us will probably in some way, shape or form, say “I’m thankful for…” this month. But gratitude is much more than a feeling or something we talk about around the holidays. Gratitude can also be a powerful spiritual practice that opens our hearts to the rhythm of giving and receiving that is the heartbeat of life itself. Many believe the spiritual practice of gratitude not only has the ability to transform us as individuals but can also change the world we live in. However, like so many other spiritual practices, it takes intention and focus.

What do you think about gratitude as a spiritual practice? How would one go about practicing gratitude as a spiritual exercise? What are you learning about gratitude? What practices help draw you to gratitude? How is your experience with God deepening through gratitude? What benefits does the spiritual practice of gratitude offer to you, others, the world?

I have posted a number of liturgies, prayers and posts for Thanksgiving in the past including this one, but it is always great to get new perspectives.

Here are the links to the posts that have been contributed. Great food for reflection before Thanksgiving day next week.

Thank You Lord For Hearing Me.

Thank you God

Lord thank you that you hear our prayers,
Thank you that your spirit stirs within,
Thank you that you are at work,
Transforming, renewing, making all things new.

Tom and I have just returned from a wonderful few days with friends in Tsawwassen B.C.  It was a refreshing and renewing time. Throughout our trip I found Jesus words before the raising of Lazarus revolving in my mind: Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here. (John 11:41, 42)

I was struck particularly by the confidence of that prayer. Jesus knew that God heard him. He didn’t feel the need to shout or try to get God’s attention. He didn’t feel the need to persuade God to do something for him, he just acted in the confidence that God heard him.

How often I come to God unsure of whether or not God is listening. How often I come feeling that I need to convince God to listen to what I am saying and take notice – more like the psalmist who cries God hear my prayer. How often I question the seeming lack of response.

What does it take for us to live in that confident place of knowing that God hears our prayers?

First we need to come in gratitude – Jesus thank you is a heartfelt cry of gratitude to One that he knows as a loving and caring Father. Gratitude awakens us to the fact that God is already at work in the situation we are praying for. It opens our eyes to see what God is doing and molds our prayers to the divine will.

Second we need to come confident that we are praying the right prayer. I have often wondered why Jesus waited two days before coming to Bethany to see Lazarus. I suspect that he spent at least part of that time praying and asking God about what he should do.

Third we need to come with a sense of the presence of God deep within our being. So often we pray out of a sense of our own needs or concerns without taking time to centre ourselves on the presence of God and remind ourselves that the One to whom we offer our prayers can only, ever respond in the loving way.

Fourth we need to come expecting and looking for God’s answers. So often I pray a prayer and then dash onto the next thing, not taking time to notice and savour what God is doing in response to my request. We not only need to give thanks for the fact that God hears our prayers, we also need to give thanks for the answers.

I have a friend who keeps a prayer journal – jotting down his prayers, writing out his hopes and expectations for that prayer and then writing down the response that comes. He sees this as a way to more closely align his will with God’s. I think this is a wonderful idea but to my embarrassment I must admit that I have never implemented it.

In response to my reflections I wrote this short prayer which I am hoping it will also revolve in my mind and draw me closer to that abiding presence of God

Lord thank you that you hear our prayers,

Thank you that your spirit stirs within,

Thank you that you are at work,

Transforming, renewing, making all things new.

A Litany of Thankfulness

Abundant flowers at the Mustard Seed House

Abundant flowers at the Mustard Seed House

Yesterday I posted on Why Does God’s Path Always Seem So Narrow?a reflection on our need to be thankful for the abundant blessings of God that are already present in this moment. Out of that has flowed this litany of thankfulness to God. Enjoy!

God the fulfiller of enduring promises,

Christ the sharer of abundant love,

Spirit the giver of eternal life,

Holy Trinity, One in essence, Three in person,

For your welcome to this lavish feast of plenty, 

We praise and thank you today.

God of the plentiful and ever giving heart,

Christ of the generous and overflowing bounty,

Spirit who gives enough for our own needs and abundance for every good work,

Holy Trinity, One in essence, Three in person,

For the wonder of your provision that never runs dry, 

We praise and thank you today.

God whose love never gives up,

Christ whose forgiveness never says no,

Spirit whose mercy never lets go,

Holy Trinity, One in essence, Three in person,

For the hope and promise of your inexhaustible abundance, 

We praise and thank you today.

God may we look and see your abundance pressing in all around,

Rich fruit, luxuriant growth, laden branches hanging low,

May we remember they can obscure the path that winds so narrow out before us,

Holy Trinity, One in essence, Three in person,

May we remember your provision is inexhaustible, a harvest that never ends,

And give you praise and thanks this day.

God as we eat from your table of plenty,

May we see what you have placed in our hands,

Beauty beyond words, creativity beyond imagining, generosity overflowing,

Everything God bathed, Son drenched, Spirit inspired,

May we taste and see that all you give is good,

And raise our voices in praise and thanks and gratitude.



Epiphany – An Invitation to Follow Jesus

The coming of the Magi

The coming of the Magi

Tomorrow is the Eve of Epiphany, the last evening of the Christmas season. The following day, January 6th is Epiphany. In the past I have written morning and evening prayers for this coming season, but this year have spent most of my time reflecting on the implications of this season for my life and ministry.

As I wrote in my Epiphany post a couple of years ago:

We have watched and waited through Advent, we have celebrated Christmas and the joy of our Saviour’s birth and now we are being asked to follow, to recognize the revelation of Christ in our midst and journey into the new life he offers us.

The question that has revolved in my is What does the new life of God look like? Where am I following Christ to?

These questions are particularly pertinent as I am also rereading Ann Voskamp’s wonderful book  One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.  Ann points out that the first sin of Adam and Eve in the garden was ingratitude, dissatisfaction with all that God had gifted them with. She contends that the key to finding the fullness of life that God intends for us is learning to be grateful for every moment and every circumstance.

I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wounds of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July… and all the good things that God gives…. rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world. When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows…..

The only real prayers are the ones mouthed with thankful lips. Because gratitude ushers into the other side of prayer, into the heart of the God-love, and all power to change the world, me, resides here in his love. (p58,60)

The season of Epiphany is an invitation to follow Jesus into the ways of gratitude and joy,. We are no longer bound by the dissatisfaction of our consumer culture that tells us to keep striving for more stuff, more success, more money, more of everything for myself. Instead we are invited to learn to live in the joy and contentment of seeing every moment as a gift from God. As Paul encourages us:

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice… Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace which exceeds anything we can understand. (Phil 4:4, 6-7)

And again

Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:4,5)

So as we move into Epiphany this year let us do so with joy and gratitude, savouring each moment God gives us as precious gift. Let us show others that we really are content with God alone and need nothing more than the love of God to fill us with joy and gratitude.

Giving Thanks

Mt Rainier from the air

I was sitting at my desk this morning intending to write something profound as a blog post but my eyes kept gravitating towards the mountains and the breathtaking beauty of their grandeur.  Its a glorious day here in Seattle so I snuck outside to pull a few weeds, water my tomato seedlings and breathe in the fragrance of the lilac bush instead.

Coming back inside my eyes were caught by Psalm 50: 23 Giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honours me.  If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.

As I sat here giving thanks for all God has created, it struck me that his is indeed the path of God.  Giving thanks, living in gratitude for the rich and abundant blessings of God, being content to just sit and absorb what God has provided is indeed the way through which we often see the salvation of God revealed.  One of the halmarks of our faith is contentment in all circumstances which only comes when we do take time to pause, reflect and be grateful.  And that not surprising brought me to these words of Paul:

I have learned to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything.  I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength. (Phil 4:11-13)

A Thanksgiving Prayer

American Thanksgiving is less than a week away and we are all looking forward to what is fondly called Turkey Day.  It is my favourite American custom which I have embraced with great enthusiasm not just because I love good food and good fellowship but because I love the opportunity to think about what I am grateful for and what I have to thank God for.  It is a custom which is not celebrated in Australia but I am sure that it will be celebrated over and over in the Kingdom of God.

Wednesday evening Tom & I will be speaking at the Thanksgiving service at St Aidans Episcopal church on Camano Island.  A couple of days ago I received a request from a friend for a thanksgiving liturgy.  Last night we celebrated a pre-thanksgiving turkey meal with students at the Purple Door.  All of these opportunities have focused my attention on the coming of thanksgiving and the fact that I have so much to be grateful for – good, health, good marriage, good community, shelter, food, a job that I enjoy – the list goes on and on.  Most of all I am grateful for the gift of Christ and all that he has meant in my life.  That is the theme that I have used in this Thanksgiving liturgy.

God we gather to thank you for the many blessings in our lives,

And to praise you for your generous goodness which is new every day,

To you God we offer our praise and thanksgiving.

God to you who created the earth and the heavens,

To you who are always merciful and forgiving,

To you God we offer our praise and thanksgiving.

God to you who call us into relationship with yourself,

And give us the gift of family and friends,

To you God we offer our praise and thanksgiving.

(Pause to remind yourself of all you have to be thankful for)

For the universe immense and unknown

For the earth on which we live

For humankind made in your image

Thanks and praise to God our creator

For entering human history as one of us

For the sacrifice you made for all of us

For dying that we might live

Thanks and praise to Christ our redeemer

For the wonder of your indwelling presence

For the comfort of your guidance and direction

For drawing us together as one body

Thanks and praise to the Holy Spirit our enabler

Through your will we are made whole,

Through your love we are renewed in body, mind and spirit

Through you we become one community from every tribe and nation.

Thanks and praise to Father, Son and Spirit through all eternity.

Psalm 92 or Psalm 105

The Word of the Lord.     Thanks be to God.

1 Chronicles 16: 7 – 34

The Word of the Lord.     Thanks be to God.

Colossians 1: 3-6

The Word of the Lord.     Thanks be to God.

A reading from the Gospel according to Matthew.

Glory to you, O Lord.

Luke 10: 21 – 24

The Gospel of the Lord.   Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us pray together now in the words Jesus taught us.

Our Father, who art in heaven hallowed by your name.  Your kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil for thine is the kingdom the power and the glory for ever and ever.  Amen

Gracious and generous God we give you thanks

For the gift of life for we are made in your image,

We think of all those in whom your divine image is still distorted

We pray for your mercy and love to rest upon them

God in your mercy be with them

caring and providing God we give you thanks

For our homes that shelter and protect us,

We think of those without shelter and water and protection today

We pray for your provision to be poured out upon them

God in your mercy be with them

Abundant and giving God we give you thanks

For our food that nourishes and strengthens us,

We thing of those without food and nourishment today

We pray that you will feed them with the bread of life

God in your mercy be with them

Loving and compassionate God we give you thanks

For our friends and family who love and comfort us in times of need

We think of those who are alone and feel abandoned

God comfort and surround them that they may sense your presence

God in your be with them

Gracious and generous God

We remember all the gifts you have given us,

We remember how lavishly you have provided,

We remember how lovingly you have cared,

We remember especially that greatest gift of all,

Jesus Christ our Saviour,

And we give you thanks.