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April 22, 2008

Please Don't Interrupt Me



Did you know that April is National Poetry Month?

I love poetry: to read it, to write it, to get lost in the language and the pictures. To savor the fragment that doesn't seem big enough or long enough, and yet it captures everything.

I love poetry, and in honor of National Poetry Month ? and in keeping with the spirit of poetry, a shared, often oral tradition ? I want to share with you a poem that has recently captured me. A poem that startled me with its haunting picture of simple generosity. Here it is:

Night Train Through Inner Mongolia

Now the child is a runny-nosed stranger
you've finally decided to share your seat with,
and the whole thing keeps heaving into the dark.

The child sleeps unsweetly hunched against you,
your side is slowly stinging, he has wet himself,
so you do not move at all. I know you.

You sit awake, baffling about a quirky faith,
and do not shift until morning.
This is why you are blessed, I think, and usually chosen.

-- by Anthony Piccione, from his book The Guests at the Gate


I want to savor those last lines. They pierce me. I am challenged by this unknown passenger who would sit so silently and generously; who would give up comfort and personal space.

Am I so willing?

I find sometimes there is very little flexibility around me. Almost everywhere I go and in almost everything I do, I have an agenda, a purpose, and a mission?and I hate to be interrupted. And I'm not just talking about when I'm working, or writing, or running an errand. Of course I hate being bothered during those times. But I'm even talking about the times when I'm at leisure: taking a walk, reading in a coffee shop, fishing at a lake, reading my Bible. Even in those times when I have no pressing timetable, I'm hostile to interruption. Please leave me alone, I have no room for your need.

I bypass the beggar to avoid the confrontation, I ignore the widower on his walk around the lake as I bait my hook and turn away, I open my book and pay no heed to the child in the plane seat next to me.

What is wrong with me? When did I become so selfish? How could I be so cold to the humanity that surrounds me?

I see no such hostility in the life of Jesus. In fact, I see only a welcoming of interruption. Consider his interactions with the woman at the well - a conversation he welcomed when he was hot, tired, thirsty and hungry. Or how about the centurion who stopped Jesus and begged for Jesus to heal his servant? Or the bleeding woman who touched his cloak for healing - he paused and called her out, not wanting to miss the opportunity for a deeper encounter.

I could go on.

Now, I realize that I can't stop for every person I encounter - that I can't sit and have lunch with everyone who asks me for money, or engage in a conversation with each person in the coffee shop. And I'm not Jesus, so I don't know when an interruption is an opportunity?and when it's just an interruption. But the question is: am I even willing to find out? Am I willing to let the Holy Spirit stop my schedule and interrupt my self-centeredness? Would I honestly welcome a strange and dirty child to huddle against me? Would I sit patiently if he made a mess on me?

I want to be this warm, this willing, this generous. So that I might be chosen. That God might use me to bless others.

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Comments

All I can say about this article is "Wow." I'm speechless.

This was so powerful & very convicting. Thanks

As I could not find a 'contact us' spot present on this website, I express my profound apologies for using this forum as a substitute.

I have tried on three separate occasions to comment on recent articles and they have not been posted. While I sometimes disagree with the content, I have neither been abusive or launched a personal attack. Is this a 'good girls' club where one must have the appropriate attitude complete with the proper education and current post-modern viewpoint, or do those of us who have been spiritually abused and broken by female leadership in the church have the right to question the content?

I love the poem, and I love this blog. Thanks, Roxanne.

Hi, Marilyn--
I'm sorry your comments haven't been published in the past. We certainly aren't trying to censor you at all! We value everyone's comments--whether they agree or disagree with our posts. Our policy is to put up every comment that comes our way. Our system does flag the spam comments(as we get lots of those) so it's possible that for some reason yours was flagged as spam and was accidentally deleted. For that, I'm definitely sorry. We try to keep that from happening, but unfortunately it does happen sometimes. I did notice, though, that you had another post up in our queue (if you are a first-time poster, they have to be approved), and that one is now published under the Synergy 2008: Women's Ministry post. Anyway, I hope you continue to enjoy GFL, and definitely know that your voice and your opinion are valued here!
Thanks,
Roxanne

Thank you Roxanne.:)What a convicting and thought provoking piece. I was not only moved by the poem, but also by your challenge to be open to the Holy Spirit's leading, even if it might feel interruptive. Thanks for your transparency and honesty!

I also write and am told repeatedly that since I'm a first time user I need to be approved... but I don't seem to be approved. Bev

Roxanne,

Thanks so much for your words. I am currently weighing a big decision which would involve me giving up some of my cherished space and quietness and become open to interuptions--and people. I keep running across things like this which remind me that discipleship does not happen in a quiet little vacuum, it happens when we can have a quiet heart in the midst of the interuptions of every day life. The vacuum sounds safer, but it can also be lonely, too. Decisions, decisions...
Thanks for letting us all know that we're not alone.

I didn't get to meet you at Synergy a couple of weeks ago but I'm glad you got to join down here!

Amy

I will look at interruptions differently now. I am not naturally a "people person" so need the extra nudge! Thank you.

Alyson LID 01/27/06
Follow our adoption Journey.....

Oh. Lord, how can I change? How can I be a person who truly cares about humanity? Not because I give money to ministries that help the poor, needy, or "underpriviledged". Not because I do my part in the church. Not because I care whether people know Jesus or not. None of that will make me a believer that truly cares about God's creation of humanity. I must change my attitude, my heart, my opinion of myself, by the help and teaching of the Holy Spirit.
Thank you for making us think. (And for helping me understand the poem...I'm not one to get lost in the language of a poem, so-uh- I needed that explanantion!)

Thank you for your words, Roxanne! A wakeup call for most of us to move from self-centeredness to Christ-centeredness in the way we think of interruptions.

Iwas touched by the poem.Iliked it.But i was deeply and profoundly touched by your comments on yourself because i suffer from the same illness or whatever you call it.Yes,you have succeeded in describing your selfishness and indifference to the point of creating a sort of change in others.This is the first time i hear of you(and i use the word hear because i was listening to your words not reading them)but should i know about any book you have written,i will definitely buy it.You deserve a big thank.THANK YOU.

How do I say this. I recognized the woman in the poem. Only she lives in Oaxaca Mexico, and I am privileged to work beside her.

But, what touched me most, what makes me say thank you, is something you certainly did not intend in you comment, I am sure.

It made me grateful for my pain, perhaps helps me recognize that indeed God is working something in me that could not be done any other way.

I wrote the following poem after a long season of physical suffering, but now I suffer emotionally and spiritually due to menopausal imbalances that would rob me of all that I am.

As a missionary this is humiliating.

But such a humbling quiets you and you just go on. You do what you are called to do. You have no energy but to follow and obey what you knew when everything was clear in the light of your faith. And sometimes you are "baffled" by that faith.

broken

So I go on
trusting in the dark
what I knew in the light.

We go forward
people of broken
hearts much quieted in spirit.

Unaware that we
are ready to carry the
burden of the next needy soul, but

when we meet him we bend down
pick up his cross and walk
alongside.

Leeann Andrade-Kelley
Memorial Day 2001


I know that there are missionaries out there going through what I am suffering, I wish I could find them.

Evangelism involves interruptions. Satan's goal is to get us too busy. I am a Minister and I suffer from irritability over interruptions instead of looking at them as opportunities. Reading this article was timely in that just today I felt the Holy Spirit's conviction over blowing an opportunity through a chance encounter with someone that wasn't supposed to happen (I was trying to reach someone else). So the next time a situation seems like a mistake, coincidence or an interruption, stop and consider whether this might be an opportunity in disguise.

Great. Inspiring and Humbling. Thanks

indeed i feel guilty. the word of Gog is powerful. whenever the word comes it reproves and changes ones perspective for good. thonks for this reminder, we are christlike and the spirit lives in us so we ought to lend our hands to others

I love all of this sharing, by my beautiful sisters. It helps us to understand us humans, and how we re-act differently to interruptions, due to our thought-pattern. As long as we desire to please God in all of our ways, and we want to be led of Him, to do only what He approves of, we will have interruptions of some sort, because we have to communicate with others, especially if we are ministry people, missionay, pastor, teacher, etc., It is an opportunity to honour God, serve Him by serving others, and some times it is sacrificial love in action toward others. Much of the time, I check myself and my motive for doing what I do or say, and it helps me because I am ever conscious of the attitude of pure, and sincer love of Christ, to me also. When I am in a hurry to get out of the home, or I am working on a project which is church-related, and I am handling something at the time, and that something falls to the ground, and I have to clean up before I continue with my task, I would fret. " Look what happened now, that I am in a hurry, and have so little time". ( I do not like it happening at all). Then I began, (after a few years)to think, "Why not praise God, and go about things in a cheerful manner, than grumping and being vexed at myself", so then each time I have had such an occurence, I would begin praising God,while fixing the problem before continuing doing what I left off. I found this helpful to do, as then, my mood has not changed, from "cheerful to grumpy", and now it does not bother me, even though it still occurs at times as an interruption. I trust you have been encouraged as you have encouraged me.
Evangelist A. Taylor

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