When is it too late?

When is it too late?
When does the door close?
When does the bridge fall?
When does the gate shut?
When have I missed the opportunity to be or to become what I might have been in an earlier time. Even if it is or was what God had wanted, what God had said. When does the time pass. What is the expiration date on my dream, on God’s dream for me?
Could it be that God wanted something to become in my life, but I refused to hear and heed and now there’s too much water under the bridge, I’m too long in the tooth, I’ve walked to far to turn back now. What does it mean for God to grieve my failure to receive the calling laid out for me. Surely each time Israel turned its stubborn back on God, refusing the gift, the calling, the blessing, the challenge, surely then God wept, as Jesus wept standing outside Jerusalem’s gate, wishing things could have been different.
“If only.”
If only they had not killed the prophets, the very ones God sent with second chances, third chances, fourth chances, trying, hoping, longing, loving to see Israel turn.
If only they had not filled their eyes and imaginations and hands and mouths with every idol to distract them from the one true calling, the one true being God had destined for them.
If only you and I had chosen differently, had seen AND perceived, heard AND understood. Then perhaps we might have yielded, paused, reflected, relented. Then perhaps we might have given our lives fully to the dream God had, the first dream, the pure dream, not the redemption dream, the rescue dream, the broken and torn patchwork of love which became a Gospel, a message of good news to those who were used to the 24-7 talking heads conveying nothing but our own self deceptions with beautiful faces.
If only you and I would stop now.
But what happens if I stop, if I listen, if I yield
But you refuse.
Or vise versa?
What if our full calling is communal
But only some of us commune?
What if two are called, but only one answers? What then? Does the shape of the calling, or our response, change? If you and I are called to go together, and one of us refuses, out of fear or anger or confusion or doubt, then can the other still say yes? If we don’t all say yes, can any of us say yes? And what pain ensues for the YES in the face of the NO? What heartache and sorrow and loneliness comes to the faithful heart because the calling can not be fulfilled in light of the unfaithful heart. And to free oneself of the unfaithful heart would be unfaithfulness itself.
Jesus never broke free from those who opposed his fulfilling the call of God on his life – except in his death. The suffering of Christ was to walk crippled through this world, handicapped by the fear and doubt of others – “He could do nothing among them…”
Lot’s wife did not refuse to go. In the biblical narrative (Genesis 17) she left, nameless and uncertain. God called, and she went together with her husband and their two daughters. But she hesitated, wanting to hold on to what they were called to leave behind. In the process, she was destroyed, and her family forever altered. Her daughters were driven to panicked insanity, thinking themselves the only women left on earth and thus responsible for the survival of the whole human race!  What sorrow ensued. Because they were not able to go together, God’s dream for Lot’s family could not be lived out as God had likely intended. What if she had simply refused to go at the beginning, rather than leaving and then hesitating? Would Lot, could he, have left her? Would it have been the ‘godly’ thing to do? Would righteousness have dictated to leave her behind, take the girls and go? Or would it have been more right to stay behind and console her in her fear, seeking to continue a righteous life as things came apart around them?  (Remember, Lot’s the same guy who, because of the high value he placed on hospitality offered up his two virgin daughters to the riotous mob in exchange for the visitors. What a great dad!)
There is an interesting exchange in Luke 18:
28 Then Peter said, “Look, we have left (our own) [OR] (our all) and followed you.”
29 And [Jesus] said to them, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”
What kind of leaving was this? Some translations interpret vs28 and decide that ‘our all’ means ‘homes, families, etc’ probably because of what Jesus says in vs29. Perhaps not. Did the disciples abandon their wives and children, all who relied upon them, in order to follow Christ? Would it make any sense to think so? Now of course, they were living in a culture where women and children had little if any say over the course of their lives. Even so, what did the disciples do in ‘leaving our own/all’ to follow Jesus? If we compare the story of Peter visiting Cornelius (Acts 10) we see that there ‘Cornelius’ whole household’ came to faith, so that none were ‘left’.
What if Peter’s thought in Luke 18:28 is rather: “We have left our own agendas, our own plans, our own course for our lives and have chosen instead to follow yours for us.” And if that is the case, what then does that say to a modern disciple of Jesus who experiences the call to follow Christ as an interruption to an otherwise pleasant, productive, and even godly quiet life of family and work and leisure. Is the modern called to leave behind, abandon, all attachments and more importantly all covenant commitments? OR, is the response to Christ’s call rather to be understood as shaped, colored and informed by those very covenant commitments?
So then, we are left in the midst of our complicated, committed lives asking Jesus, “OK, now what? What does it mean for me to serve you without neglecting them? If my spouse
rejects the impact on our family of certain ways of living out my call, then what am I to do? Does that deny my call, your call on me? Are certain ways of living out my journey prohibited because of the entanglements of my life? IF so, what then? Is there a way for me to honor and grieve those losses, and move on to what is possible?”
Paul said, “All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial.” (1 Cor 6:12) Could that apply to this notion of how I am to live out my calling?
God has called me to serve, and I’d love to be a missionary in Africa, but I know my wife would not go with me. So, would it honor Christ to leave my wife behind in order to serve the church in Africa? I think not. Is it unfortunate that I may not get to live out that dream? I think so. Is it an exchange I am willing to accept. Yes.
One of the reasons it is so important for us to place before children and youth the prospect of a life spent in Christian services is so that all future choices are made in light of that first commitment. Then, if at the age of 14 my daughter understands that Jesus wants her to go to Africa, she will either choose a mate who also wants to go, or go before settling down and making a home together. Paul’s instruction to remain single (1 Cor 7) is based in this simplifying premise – the fewer commitments and entanglements, the freer you are to follow your heart in following Christ, and the fewer times you will be confronted by opportunities cut off by the circumstances of your covenant commitments.
Might be nice if it were otherwise, but alas…

Broken Women

Broken women

Can’t stand up
Don’t know how
Won’t take the chance
“Too much to lose”
All my life
I’ve done
What others needed
What they asked
“Too much to lose”
Who am I
If receiving
Replaces serving
Taking more than giving
“Too much to lose”
Meet labor
Otherwise slavery
Becomes identity
“Too much to lose”
What calling
Being, becoming
Vocation as living
My only contribution
“Too much to lose”
Will you stand
Beside me
Or before me
Beckoning or blocking
“Too much to lose”
Are you now
My advocate
Or my adversary
Proclaiming or prohibiting
“Too much to lose”

I can not stand
To live this way
What choice existed
Has been decided
“Too much to lose”
Who to become
How to become
I am pro choice
Each one chooses
 “Too much to lose”
Who made you
Arbiter of my life
Decider of me
Potter of my clay
“Too much to lose”
When you touch
Be gentle
I’m so fragile
Beginning and ending
“Too much to lose”
Broken body
Ripped and torn
Dogs and vultures
Shred my bloody carcass
“Too much to lose”
Here I lie
Waiting, longing
No help or hope
Completely alone
“Too much to lose”
You tell me
How to live
How to survive
To not go insane
“Too much to lose”

Time is passing
Can’t stand still
New voice calling
Be not afraid
“Too much to lose”
Loved ones cling
Gripping clawing
Kicking screaming
Heals dragging
“Too much to lose”
What they see
Don’t perceive
What they hear
Don’t understand
“Too much to lose”
Can’t stand
Can’t walk
Can’t reach
Can’t talk
“Too much to lose”
Will you help
Standing Walking
Reaching Talking
Loan me your strength
“Too much to lose”
Confusion now
Settling in
Becoming a fixture
Shade and texture
“Too much to lose”
What if
Became New
In Me, In You
“Much to lose”
Losing myself
Losing you
Losing them
To gain life
“Nothing left to lose”


What if god is not a being
But rather a becoming
What is salvation is not a state
But rather a solvent
What if the kingdom of God
What if heaven
Were not a place at all
What if eternity is not forever
But now
One. Great. Immediate. Intimacy
Think of
The greatest joy
The greatest pleasure
You have ever known
I suspect you also
Know it in a moment
In an instant
In the twinkling of an eye
“Time flies when you’re having fun.”
No, actually, time looses meaning
In the midst of deep fulfillment
“The kingdom of God is at hand.”
That was not some temporary thing
About which Jesus spoke
As though this truth were true
Only for a day, a week, three years
The Kingdom of God
Is always “at hand”
Always now
Always here
Always ‘among [us]’
Whatever you are
God is becoming in you




Ocean waves break, roar, drone
Gulls soar, cry, plunge
Dancing, twirling, rolling, running
Arms outstretched
Wind caressing my naked body
Breaking dawn begins to warm
Behind banks of rose-colored clouds

I wish,
To remain,

Clang, shruffle, crash
NO, I’m dying, which is worse.

If I were dead, then indeed I could stay here forever

But if I’m dying, then they will try to get me back, without asking me what I want. Mrs. Jones, you are dying. Would you like us to resuscitate you?

They did ask me weeks ago
But at that time
The question was academic

“If you were to stop breathing
And your heart were
To stop beating
What do you want us to do?

What a stupid question.

But now that I see
And feel
What comes next,
I’m not so sure

I will miss you all, of course
But that will be true eventually

Though, what does it mean to miss our loved ones when we are in a place where there is no more sorrow, no more tears, no more pain or suffering? Does not “Miss you” imply some lack, some void, some deficiency which we feel – some pain?

But as I stand here on the shore at early dawn and feel the breeze and the warmth of the rising sun and know the power of the whole of creation as one with my very heart, I’m not so sure what I want.

Pain. I feel pain.
That means I’m alive. Burning in my lungs, my nose, my eyes, my throat.
Darkness distorted by glare
Dried mucus glues my eyelids shut, and my arms are weak for lifting hand to face
There is distance perceived between the world and my world
Immediacy is not

You are not here beside me. Your voice, the squeak of your running shoes on the cold tile floor. The brush of your forearm to scratch your masked nose. Away off at some distance un-discernable. Three feet. Thirty feet. Three floors?

Breathing tube prevents speech, yet a scream finds its painful way forth confused and searching. Narrowed vision takes in ceiling, monitors, door lintel, drapes, cabinet, lights, breathing mask, tubes and wires, poles and bags.

Where is your face, your warm reassuring smile? The glint in your eye magnified by one small tear telling me you were afraid but now assured that all is well, or will be well in time. The sigh of relief that relaxes across your furrowed brow? Where are you?

Where are you,
and why are you not here?
Where is everyone?
Not Here
Why is no one here,
where I am?
Caring for me?

I spent my whole life caring for you, feeding and cradling and nursing and tending and clothing and comforting and rocking and cheering and praying.

Where are you?
Could you not wait one hour with me?
Could you not stay awake one hour?
Pray that you do not enter into the temptation time.

Oh God!? Where is everyone?
My God, My god,
Why have all forsaken me?

Why are you so far from helping me
From the voice of my cry and my supplication?

Lord, let this cup pass from me.

What will I do now that I can not care for you?
Now that I can not help and tend and serve you?
Who am I absent these things
Which have defined me
I was strong
I was self-reliant
I had no one but myself to
Me and God, we got you through the growing and the living

Now I’m nothing

Cant walk
Cant sit
Cant stand
Cant wipe

Naked, frail, sagging and wrinkled
My flabby frail self yields to your warm wet sponge

The dignity of infancy is that we are unaware,
or at least do not remember
the indignities

There is no dignity in old age.

Is there no dignity in old age?
What if dignity comes not in what I can do.
What if indignity comes not in what you must do for me?
What if naked and frail is dignity defined, personified?

What if there is no greater dignity
than for me to lie here and
allow you to care for me
in your compassion?

What if the greatest dignity IS to stop trying, resisting, fighting?
What if the greatest dignity is to be found in the indignity of the cross?

In your suffering, in your frailty, is your fullest dignity?
As you lie there on that hospital bed, naked and soiled and unable to ask
Are you less human, or more human?

You are so frightened, so alone. How frightening to be completely vulnerable for the first time in seventy years, and think yourself totally alone and without help in the world.

There really is nothing to be done about it. Yes, we can clean you, and change you and bathe you, and feed you, and get you up out of bed and help you learn to walk again. That will not solve it.

Your sorrow is you have realized, perhaps for the first time, you will die. You always knew in theory but now the experiment has revealed a flaw in your thinking. You can not manipulate the variables to your purposes any longer. Always before you could adjust this or change that and move things along according to plan.

Now, your plan is out the window and someone else’s plan is being revealed.

The plan is not for you to suffer. It is a sad confusion of theology to think that suffering is part of God’s purpose or design for us. Suffering is the organism’s response to threat. You would have no need of pain if your body did not think itself under attack. The pain is your brain’s response to assault on your body, real or perceived.

Pain is your brain’s response to assault – real or perceived.

So, when you feel pain, the thing for you to do is to ask yourself
What threat?
From whence comes the assault on my person-hood?

Is the threat real?
Is the threat avoidable?
Should the threat be countered?

Is response possible to reduce or eliminate the threat?

How did you know?

How did you know I needed you to allow me to cry?

Who told you to come and visit me
I didn’t think anyone had noticed that I was struggling.
I’m so used to being the strong one, the competent one,
The reliable provider and useful contributor.

Now I can do nothing.

I’m frightened
Not because of danger
Not because of doubt
I’m not sure who I am any more

I know God is with me
And yet somehow
That’s small comfort
In this particular moment

God can’t, or won’t
Fix what’s ailing me
I’m broken in places
Others can’t see.

Perhaps there is no fixing
Or perhaps the breaking
Is in reality the fixing
Is God a post-modern Deconstructivist?

We build a babel-tower
To reach the pinnacles of perfection
Superiority, excellence, autonomy
Once I reach God, I won’t need God.

We’d gotten so good at convincing ourselves
That our explanations made sense
That our ordering of life was living
God enabled us to be this, so God must want this.

How frightening the confused talk
Nothing I hear or say makes any sense any more
Mixed messages are the only messages
The only good news is no news

Where will we go with our brokenness
It will drive us apart in shame
What if we could stay together long enough
To realize unbroken is incomplete