Posted in Life, listening, Ministry

“I’m sorry; I have to go.”

Meeting_Pet_PeevesWhen my office administrator reminded me of an appointment the other day, she added, “We need to arrange an interruption. The last time they were here visiting for ninety minutes!” And so we did.

I’m sure I’m not the first to pre-arrange a meeting ending strategy, but it’s a more recent tool I’ve used to gracefully bring to an end open-ended visits. Early on, I didn’t use this, because I wanted to be available, compassionate, caring and pastoral. With practice, I learned to be all those things, but I also learned that I had my limits.

Some who seek time with me, however, apparently have all the time in the world. A few are lonely and crave human conversation. Others weave a tangled web of woes that seamlessly connect leaving me with no opportunity to interject a thought or conclude the meeting. It reminds me of the stories I have heard from doctors and nurse practitioners of those patients who come in with not one, not five, but dozens of ailments they would like addressed, as if there was no one else in the world, much less crowding the waiting room.

Bottom line: I don’t always have time for that. Solution: schedule an interruption. Before the appointment, I tell my assistant to interrupt me with a legitimate and pressing concern at a particular time. When they do, I have a polite way to bring the time to a close and see my guest on their way. Most recently, I set an alarm on my phone in my pocket. It vibrated at a certain time, signaling to me that it was time to excuse myself to attend to another ministry I had arranged. Worked like a charm.

Here’s the fun part. Now that you the reader know that I do this, you will always be wondering if I have an interruption arranged whenever you stop by to talk to me. Because I’m not telling.

Posted in Grace, Ministry

An awkward interruption

One of the great things about being a pastor is that you never lack for new experiences. I’ll close out the first month of January with one I had today that was partly humorous, partly embarrassing, and a little sad.

It began as a traditional visit to a member in a local nursing home who was recovering from some surgery and receiving an assortment of therapies. After some introductory conversation about this and that, it was time for the sacrament. Bread and wine were put in place, scripture read, and it was time for the words of institution.

As I am almost exactly halfway through the words, a medical assistant steps into the room and interrupts with a rather personal question for the patient. We didn’t quite hear it the first time, so she repeated it using very descriptive words, got her answer, and disappeared.

While all this is happening, I’m thinking, “Is this happening? Doesn’t she what we’re doing? Do I need start over? How embarrassing is this?” I simply picked up where I left off and Christ’s words transformed a not-so-holy situation into holy ground just like they always do. Afterwards I was reminded that Christ didn’t mind being in a world or among people who didn’t recognize him, respect him, or understand what he was all about. And he still doesn’t mind. His grace still works in humorous, embarrassing, sad, painful, and sinful situations. That’s probably why some call it “amazing.”