Tag Archive | Christine Dallman

Frustrated?

Frustrated bodyHave you ever had one of those really frustrating days? Nothing is going your way. The clock radio was full of static when it woke you up in the morning. You were out of milk for breakfast.  The traffic was heavy and slow, and someone just cut you off. You can feel the frustration growing in you and you need a release.

Prayer BookOne morning last week I came across a prayer for that kind of day. I haven’t said much about the prayer book that’s part of my daily devotional reading for this year, My Personal Daily Prayer Book by Christine A. Dallman and Margaret Anne Huffman (©2003 Publications International, Ltd., Lincolnwood, IL). Each day’s page begins with a Bible verse and then provides a prayer. Sometimes the prayer is a quotation. Sometimes it’s written by the authors of this prayer book. Usually the prayer is very informal, very personal.

Here is the page from May 12, last Tuesday:

They refused to obey… they stiffened their necks…. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and you did not forsake them.  [Nehemiah 9:17]

The people around me are driving me nuts, God. Traffic was backed up on the tollway, the checkout counters were flooded with carts and strange characters, and the sidewalks were crowded and crunched. My mood overtook my manners today, and I stubbornly refused to say “after you,” “excuse me,” and “please” until I heard a three-year-old in the parking lot say politely to her mother, “Thank you.” With an apology on my lips, help me climb out of this rut of irritation and shame and make amends. Help me learn from my mistakes and do better for the rest of this day.  

frustrationThe next day, May 13, the authors were still talking about having a bad day. The Bible passage was:

Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. [Habakuk 3:17-18]

The prayer was:

Murphy’s law sometimes seems to characterize my life, God, but I don’t want to have a defeatist attitude. You allow difficulties to come my way to refine my character. Help me see setbacks as challenges and not as curses. Help me approach problems as opportunities to learn and grow and not as insurmountable walls. Teach me to have a tenacity of faith that can find a reason to be happy, even in adversity. Amen.

Frustration signSome days an extra comment or quotation follows the prayer. On May 13, a short poem (almost a limerick, except the first line doesn’t rhyme) ended the page:

‘Tis easy enough to be pleasant,
When life flows along like a song;
     But the man worth while
     is the one who will smile
When everything goes dead wrong.
    [Ella Wheeler Cox, “Worth While”]

I smiled when I read that. The inevitable experience of having a bad day on occasion doesn’t mean I can’t smile and make the best of the situation. Despite everything that seems to be happening around me, I know God still loves me, and that should help lighten my mood.

Fortunately, I’ve been having lots of good days lately, and very few bad days. However, I’m going to try hard to remember the pattern of the prayers (and the near-limerick) from May 12 and 13, and to pray a similar prayer the next time my day starts with static on the clock radio, no milk for my cereal, and way too many rude people crossing my path.

Nothing ever frustrated Megabyte more than the monstrous vacuum cleaner!

Nothing ever frustrated Megabyte, our first dog, more than the vacuum cleaner monster!

A Roundtable Discussion that Makes My Day

roundtableImagine starting your day almost every morning in a roundtable discussion with six other people plus yourself. In my case, the people are Joan Chittister, Henri Nouwen, God, Jimmy Carter, Christine Dallman, and M. J. Ryan – and, of course, myself. Wow! Quite a group of seven we are. Usually, everyone speaks up in the order listed. We spend about half an hour talking about whatever is on each person’s mind.

Joan Chittister

Joan Chittister

Occasionally the participants of the roundtable discussion change, but for the past four years, three participants have been constant – Joan Chittister (speaking through her monthly pamphlet, “The Monastic Way”), God (communicating through the daily readings of the Revised Common Lectionary – as listed in the daily devotional booklet, “Christ in Our Home”), and me.

Last year Henri Nouwen (“Bread for the Journey”) hadn’t joined us yet, but Edward Hays (“Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim” and “A Book of Wonders”) was in his place. Jimmy Carter (“Through the Year with Jimmy Carter”) is a newcomer this year, too. Christine Dallman (“The Personal Daily Prayer Book”) is also new this year, and she always prays about something a little different every day.

M. J. Ryan (“Attitudes of Gratitude”) just joined the group a couple weeks ago, and she plans to stay for only a couple months. She keeps telling us inspiring stories of people who exhibit a heart-warming attitude of gratitude. Her stories are really helpful in giving us a down-to-earth perspective on life. Pretty soon she’s planning to leave the group, and someone else will come along to join us as a short-termer. Debbie Macomber has often joined us as the floater. She’s the one who got me into the habit of having a special word for each year instead of doing New Year’s resolutions.

I’ll admit that some mornings the seven of us have an amazing discussion and I can’t help but think about it all day long. Other times, even though we had a great discussion, I don’t think about it at all throughout the day.

Usually I don’t say much in these discussions – I just listen and ponder what’s being said. But I discipline myself about once a week to speak up. Sometimes I transcribe these thoughts for my blog.

Henri Nouwen

Henri Nouwen

A couple days ago, Joan Chittister talked about something Albert Einstein once said about being careful that we don’t limit God by trying to define God. Henri Nouwen said that we need to be careful that we don’t become too legalistic in defining what we claim to be God’s nature. God then spoke up about how helpful the image of Jesus being the Good Shepherd can be to us, and how important it is for us to demonstrate the love and care that shepherds give their flocks.

Then Jimmy Carter wrapped it all up saying how important it is to remember that God is all about showing love and always being kind. He said that his favorite Bible verse is Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” [New Living Translation] I spoke up when I heard him say that. I said, “That’s my favorite verse, too!” Jimmy Carter and I have something in common beside politics! I didn’t know anyone shared my favorite Bible verse!

Jimmy Carter 2It was Christine Dallman’s turn to speak up next. She prayed, “O God, make us children of quietness ….” I smiled at that. I like to be quiet. Then she encouraged us to “Take time to unwind, time to be silent, time to reflect, and time to pray…” Imagine her saying that, just when I’m in the middle of spending two weeks by myself at our Christmas Mountain timeshare with plenty of time to be quiet – time to read, write, think, and pray.

As usual, M. J. Ryan ended our discussion by telling another story about gratitude. She told us about a woman who had suffered a stroke and had lost her ability to speak. She had been a great communicator and had been able to speak five languages. Now she struggled to find words to simply talk with her adult children. The children tried to help her by suggesting words that she might be trying to say, and the experience for everyone was just frustrating. A therapist, trying to help the family, suggested that when they are frustrated by her inability to express herself verbally, they should focus on her attempts to communicate by touch. This opened up a whole new world of opportunity to communicate the love they felt for each other that they had never been able to express in words.

Ryan went on to say that “the trick is to use a source of frustration as a trigger to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.” Then she gave a personal example.

For me it’s standing in line. I absolutely hate to ‘waste’ time; I live my life at a frenetic pace and don’t want anything to get in my way of doing all I have to get done in a day. Until recently, I was the person in the line huffing and rolling my eyes at the wait, jiggling and looking at my watch every few seconds. And when I finally made it to the counter, I was too aggravated from having to wait to be pleasant to the person on the other side of the counter. But since life is full of lines, I finally decided to change my approach. Instead of being annoyed, I decided to see waiting in line as a wonderful opportunity to slow down, to take a few conscious breaths, become aware of my body, and release as much muscle tension as I could. The waits are as long as ever – but now I am grateful for the chance to stop.

Hmmm. That made me think about some of the little aggravations in life that frustrate me… Is there some way I can change those moments into triggers of gratitude? Something to think about…

I’m truly grateful for this roundtable discussion every morning. What an inspiring way to begin my day!

roundtable of books