This has become a popular parlor game and a best-selling theme for all kinds of books — places to go, things to do, foods to eat, scenes to see, before you leave this world, or “kick the bucket.” That’s what gave it the name “bucket list.” Hollywood made a movie about this a few years ago.
Today was evidently a morning of slow news because one of the television shows ran a feature on beer, “50 brews on our bucket list.” “Oh great,” I thought. “Just what some beer-guzzling couch-potato needs, an excuse to indulge himself even more.”
So, let’s try to do the right thing here and come up with some positive, non-alcoholic deeds which every disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ should do before departing this earthly sod.
Everyone will have his/her own list. This is mine, with a little help from some Facebook friends whom I’ve asked for contributions. Since we’re going for 50 things to do, we’ll break this article down into several manageable segments.
Putting them in any kind of order would be impossible since I don’t know what we’ll end up with. So, just because one item is low on the list and another is high says nothing about their relative importance.
You’re invited to click on “comments” at the end and give us items on your bucket list…places to go, experiences to have, things to see or taste or hear, before the Lord sends His angels for you.
50. Visit the Holy Land.
Margaret and I went to Israel once, over 20 years ago, and found it life-changing as well as ministry-altering. Honestly, I probably would not have gone then had it not been a 10th anniversary gift from the First Baptist Church of Columbus, Mississippi. For months after returning, I ran a low-grade fever just thinking of where we had been and the sights we had seen. I’d turn a page and there would be a photo of Jerusalem or the Sea of Galille and my eyes would tear up. It had that kind of effect on me.
So, go. Traveling to the Middle East is as safe right now as it has ever been, and you’re not getting any younger. I’m thrilled to see the occasional seminary program that allows young preachers and missionaries to visit Israel as a part of their education. Wish I’d gone when I was 25. But on the other hand, I got far more out of it by going when I was 44. Best solution: go twice.
SEE ALSO: When We All Get to Heaven?
Oh, and send your preacher. Even if he’s reluctant to go.
49. Win someone to Jesus.
To do this, I suggest three steps: pray, asking the Holy Spirit to lead you in this. Second, find a plan. If someone walks up and says, “Tell me how to be saved,” you need to have an answer. Remember, no sermons. And no fuzziness. Get it straight and keep it simple. (Go to my blog, http://www.joemckeever.com, and click on “How to Know Jesus Christ and Live Forever” for a simple approach. Or ask your pastor.) And three, start asking people.
I’m serious; ask people if they would like to know Jesus as Savior. The next time you attend your family reunion, I double-dog dare you to stand up and announce, “Hey, everybody! I’m trying to learn how to lead people to know Jesus Christ as Savior. If anyone wants to know how or if you have a question about this, I’ll be over here under this tree. Come over and let’s talk.”
See what happens.
48. Stand up to a church bully.
You remember how you have sat in church and recoiled at the antics of some brute who was smarter than God, holier than Jesus, and delighted in spewing venom in the direction of the pastor? He is so used to throwing his weight around and having timid Christians cower in his presence that he’s forgotten what it’s like for someone to challenge him. The pastor, bless his soul, has grown weary of standing up to him alone.
In confronting him, you’re not going to do it his way. You’re not going to be brutish or mean-spirited; otherwise he wins, since he holds a black belt in that art. You’re going to out-sweet him. So, the next time your church has a business meeting in which this guy (or in rare cases, this woman) sets in to undermining the pastor, you raise your hand and ask to say a word.
The pastor will call on you. Believe me, he will. He lives in hopes that someone, anyone, will stand up and do the courageous thing.
You stand to your feet and say so graciously, “Pastor, I’d like to read a verse of Scripture to Mr. Bully (insert his name here).” And you read Hebrews 13:17. (If you find something else better for this purpose, fine. Otherwise, this says it as strongly as any place in the Bible.)
Then you say one more thing. “Mr. Bully, I know you will stand before the Lord and give account of what you do at the judgment. But, my friend, I can’t wait that long. I just want you to know that I for one have had a belly full of your ravings. Please sit down and shut up.”
Then sit down.
Regardless of what happens, you have done what no one else in the church had the courage to do: confront the bully. Good for you.
The rule of thumb here is that the meaner Mr. Bully is, the sweeter your spirit must be in standing up to him. If the bully is just your average guy, don’t go for overkill in responding to him.
47. Memorize an entire chapter of the Bible.
Which one? The one that delights your soul and ministers best to your life. Some I’ve memorized and preached series of sermons from include Psalms 1, 23, 103, and 139. Also, Isaiah 40 and Philippians 4.
How to memorize? The easiest way is not to try at first. Just read that chapter again and again, thinking about it, learning it, enjoying it, savoring its insights. After becoming familiar with it, visit your church library and pull out a commentary on that chapter and read what others have written about it. As you dwell on the riches of this motherlode, you will end up memorizing it without trying.
Then, when you’re ready, write out the chapter or type it on a large sheet of paper. Go for large, bold print. Arrange it into paragraphs. And work on learning it one paragraph at a time.
Everyone will have his own techniques for memorization. Frank Pollard, longtime pastor of Jackson, Mississippi’s First Baptist Church, once showed me his exercycle and said, “That’s where I do my memorization.”
I find I memorize better when my hands are busy–maybe driving or mowing the grass or washing dishes.
Once you’ve got the chapter memorized, don’t lose it. Say it to yourself frequently. Think about it. When you lie awake in the middle of the night, go over it. David said, “Thy word have I hid in my heart.” That’s the idea.
46. Visit a mission field and do something there for Jesus.
When I was a young preacher, this was practically unheard of. No one but career missionaries went to the trouble of traveling to a foreign country to work for Jesus. But in the last generation, that has changed. The tiniest church in the remotest part of Mississippi or Alabama will often have members who do regular mission work in countries like Nigeria or Belize or Mexico.
You’re too old? You’re not even close. I’ve seen them go in wheel chairs, some in their 80s. If the pastor or mission team leader approves you, go for it.
I promise you one thing: after visiting with believers in Haiti or working alongside a mission team in Recife or seeing the conditions in Guatemala City, you will never be the same.
45. Join a choir.
Your church doesn’t have a choir? Even better. Get out of the four walls of the church building and go join one (or start one) in your community. You can’t sing? No excuse. You’re too old? Start a senior adult choir.
There’s something magical about working with a group of your peers to learn a new song, forcing yourself to master that part and to blend in with the other voices, and then performing it at the local nursing home or in your church. You will have fun, laugh a lot, develop friendships, and be serving God.
Hey, you and I are going to be singing in Heaven. Might as well get in a little practice here.
44. Learn to pray better.
One of the finest things that could happen to many of us would be to develop a divine dissatisfaction with our prayer life. Just make up our mind that there’s more to this prayer business than I’ve found out, and set ourselves to learning how to pray better and more effectively.
How to do that? The church library is a good place to start. (Or a local Christian bookstore.) Pull out a dozen books on prayer and read the first chapter of each one. You’ll find one that hits you between the eyes. That’s the one. Read it. And remember: if you find one great idea that makes your praying better, it was worth the money or time and trouble.
Ask people whose prayer lives you respect to pray with you and to teach you how to pray. And if you are the preacher and can’t see yourself asking a church member for this kind of help, do it anyway. The humbling will be good for you.
I’m not saying you’ll ever reach the place where you’ll feel you’ve arrived in your prayer life. You’ll know you’ve progressed when you love the Lord more and can’t wait to speak with Him about this person or that need.
43. Become a person of good humor and frequent laughter.
Even though I’m personally gifted in the art of silliness, I don’t recommend you go that far. But there are too many dead-serious Christians in the pews today, too little laughter, too few spontaneous smiles.
I’ve not heard this in years, but people used to chide one another with, “If you’re happy, tell your face about it!”
This is about two things: the sounds of joy coming from your mouth–words, laughter, positive words–and the appearance of your countenance, your facial expressions.
Get a concordance down and look up “countenance.” Some of us will be surprised to know what a premium the Lord puts on sunshiney countenances. None of us like to be around droopy faces and it turns out the Lord doesn’t either!
In drawing people, when I find someone who doesn’t want to smile–I’m amazed how many people fall into this sad category–I tell them: “Look at my face. Notice how it sags when I look normal. And now watch when I smile.” The face lifts and the entire shape of my facial outline changes.
Next Sunday, as you get out of your car, make a conscious effort to force a smile onto your face and greet everyone warmly. Some will be so shocked they’ll want to know what happened. Just tell them it’s on your bucket list.
42. Volunteer in your community.
The Meals-on-Wheels people need drivers. Big Brother/Big Sister needs sponsors. Tutorial programs need volunteers to work with children. Your homeless shelter needs helpers. The elementary school could use volunteers.
A group of seniors in Mississippi started the Macedonian Call Foundation a few years back to provide automobiles for furloughing missionaries. People donate their used vehicles, they get them in good running shape, and then hand them off to missionaries who plan to be in the States for a few months before returning to the field. My wife and I donated a car last year. The state director drove down to McComb, Mississippi, about half way from Jackson, with a friend who drove the donated car back. It’s a wonderful ministry and has given these beloved senior Christians a vital way to make a lasting difference for Christ.
If your community has nothing important for which you could volunteer, then assume there are needs going unmet and look around for them.
41. Find someone from your past and apologize.
If you’re like the rest of us, you can recall people from your school days or later whom you were rude to, offended, or hurt with some careless act or word. You’ve not seen them in years, and yet you think of them with regret from time to time. The thought keeps recurring, “I sure wish I could go back and undo that.” You can’t, but you can do the next best thing.
Find them. Ask the Lord to bring you together. Contact the alumni office of your school or a church in that town or some old friend who might know their whereabouts. Type their name into Facebook. The internet has whitepages.com. No one can hide for long these days!
Then, write them a letter or make a phone call. Plan how to say what you want to say so you will not make matters worse. Tell what you did and how sorry you are. Tell them you have often wished you could go back and undo that, and that you want to ask them to forgive you. Then wish them well.
Don’t be surprised if they don’t remember it. That’s all right, even good. But you remember because you did wrong, and now you are trying to make it right.
I’ve told on these pages of how when I was in the 7th grade, a classmate and I stole Dixie’s billfold at school. My friend, a candidate for the reformed school if one ever existed, suggested that I move her billfold to an empty desk nearby. When the bell rang, she would leave without noticing it was gone. He would get the wallet and later divide the money with me. I did and he did.
Our class was having its 40th reunion when I saw Dixie. I called her off to the side and said, “I need to confess something to you. When we were in the 7th grade, I stole your billfold.” She refused to believe it. “Anyone but you,” she said. That made it even worse.
I told her what happened. She tried to refuse to accept the $20 I handed her, but I insisted it was for me. I was purchasing peace. She wrote me a couple of weeks later to say she and her husband had bought Bibles for a mission organization with that money.
And I have wonderful peace in place of an old self-inflicted wound.
40. Pay off everything and get out of debt.
Is this a “Christian” goal? Or just something that would be good for everyone to do? In Scripture, one reason for believers having money in the first place is so that we may be generous. One of the great hindrances to our generosity is the heavy debt load we stagger under. We’d like to give to help those poor people or to support the missionary, but we don’t have it to give.
If we paid off our debts and did not incur additional financial burdens, think how liberating that would be.
The question is how.
Answer: live simply, get everyone in the household behind this goal, say no to expensive choices such as eating out or purchasing entertainment centers or new cars, and double up on the existing payments. If you have too many credit cards, cut all but one or two up and close the accounts. The way I understand Galatians 5:22-23, discipline or self-control is a part of the fruit of the Spirit. You’ll be needing it to get control of your finances, so it’s good to know the Lord wants to produce it in us.
39. Find your spiritual gift and put it to use.
According to the Bible (Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12), every believer is gifted by the Holy Spirit with a spiritual capability. We can only dream of how effective the Christian community would be if we all claimed our gift and put it to use for the Lord. My hunch is less than one-third of the members of a typical church even make an effort toward this.
Rather than take some kind of printed inventory that purports to tell you what your spiritual gift is, my suggestion is rather that you try a lot of things. To find out if your spiritual gift is teaching, sit in on Bible study classes, then volunteer either to substitute for the teacher or to assist him/her. To find out if your gift is in “helps,” volunteer to assist in some kind of project–a church banquet, a Vacation Bible school, a youth camp–and try your hand at it.
The best way to recruit people to the place where the Lord has prepared them is simply to expose them to various kinds of ministries. Their spirit will respond to the right one.
38. Develop some latent talent such as for music or art.
Often when I’m sketching people, someone will say, “I used to enjoy art. I just got away from it.” I suggest that they get back to it.
When churches began having orchestras in worship services, members remembered their old high school saxophones or clarinets gathering dust in closets. They cleaned them up, began practicing, and now they play in church every Sunday. For some, this has opened up a new world.
I’ve known retirees who began taking piano lessons for the first time. “I’ve always wanted to play,” they would say. They’ll not turn into concert pianists, and that’s not their goal. It’s something for their own growth and fulfillment.
Take a cooking class. Find out when your local plant nursery is having classes on growing roses and sign up. The local art store has postings for new classes all over town, from beginners to intermediate to accomplished. Ask the Red Cross about classes for CPR and lifesaving training.
37. One time in your life, contribute twice as much to the work of the Lord than you did the previous year.
If you are a tither–and my personal conviction is that this is God’s plan for every believer–that would mean giving one-fifth of your income to the Lord the following year. And that would require sacrifices, or at least life-style changes.
36. Tell everyone you love that you love them.
Emmalou Holland was lying in the hospital and growing weaker daily. She said to me, “Pastor, I must be worse off than I thought I was. Everyone who comes in here tells me they love me.”
What a pity that we wait until someone is dying to tell them how much they mean to us.
What if you and I made a list of those we love most–family, friends, co-workers, brothers and sisters in the faith, pastors, teachers–and made it a point to tell them that we love them and are grateful to the Lord for bringing them into our lives. Don’t qualify it, don’t complicate it, just tell them.
35. Drop by the Intensive Care Unit at your local hospital and see if there are family members of critically ill patients who need you.
A family from Tennessee spent several weeks basically living in the ICU waiting room at one of our hospitals while their son lingered between life and death. After he died, the father said to me, “I never knew there was so much suffering in these places. When I get back to Chattanooga, I’m going to become a visitor to our hospital’s waiting rooms. The Lord has opened my eyes to this need.”
If you decide this is a special concern of yours, I would suggest you work through the volunteer office of the hospital and get their endorsement for what you have in mind.
34. Visit a nursing home and minister to patients who rarely have visitors.
Again, you will want to work through the administration for this. Most would be thrilled to have you come by and read to people, chat with them, or even sing to them.
If you have not visited a nursing home (retirement home, senior living center, they go by various names), you would be surprised how few people have family members come by on a regular basis. For the most part, these are not especially pleasant environments. Many elderly patients hardly know they’re in the world, the odor of ammonia is often the dominant fragrance, and the staff is usually overworked.
If this is something you’ve never tried, get with whoever on your church staff visits nursing homes and ask to accompany them a few times. Expose yourself to this ministry and pick the brain of the one leading it.
Charlotte Arthur of Charlotte, NC, is a champion of nursing home ministry. Once when she and I were making the rounds, she said, “My mother loved this kind of work and began taking me with her when I was six years old. That’s how I learned to enjoy it.”
33. If your city has a children’s hospital, become a volunteer.
These days I’m not actively a volunteer for the children’s hospital of New Orleans, but I once was. Every Friday, my off day from the church, I would check in at the volunteer office, pick up my badge, and then roam the halls looking for children to draw and entertain and minister to. Nurses would give suggestions and direction. In the cafeteria and waiting rooms, siblings of patients sat with their parents. and most were delighted at this little ministry.
My wife used to be a volunteer in the neo-natal ICU at Tulane Hospital in New Orleans. So many of the newborn babies were born to drug-addicted mothers, meaning that the babies arrived that way also. Margaret’s only role when she walked in as a volunteer, was to sit in a rocking chair and rock these tiny babies.
32. Plant some flowers or even a tree.
This one doesn’t sound as spiritual or as life-changing as the others, does it? But aren’t we grateful for those who beautify our world by such labors of love.
I recall being surprised one day when I was about 8 years old. We were living in a mining camp on a West Virginia mountaintop. Everything about that place was dreary, mainly due to the smoke from fires, cinders from steam locomotives in the valleys, and the produce from the mines itself. One day I noticed my parents had planted some seeds along the walk in front of our house. Thereafter we had marigolds and petunias, bright colors to contrast with the ugliness around us. In time, they set out roses and let the runners expand as they wished. Years later, long after we had moved away and the camp had been disbanded, we visited that site again and walked the hillside. Here and there, the only evidence that humans had ever lived here was the flowers.
Someone approached Francis of Assisi as he worked in his garden. “What would you do if you knew you were going to die tomorrow?” they asked. He answered, “Go right on working in my flower garden.”
31. Read A. W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God.
A Facebook friend suggested this for our bucket list. I recall reading it more than half a lifetime ago, so I’ll put it on my own personal list to do.
Tozer was a Godly leader in the Christian-Missionary Alliance denomination. His columns for their monthly magazine were widely read. Long in heaven, his writings continue to bless and challenge, to convict and to inspire God’s people.
Tozer’s writings are dense. That means you’ll not read the book at one sitting or even in one afternoon. It’s not that kind of reading material. The book is small but the reading is heavy. You will read a page and lay the book down and repent. That may be all you get to today, but tomorrow you will review what you read today and take in a few more pages.
My guess is you’ll want to read more of his books after this one.
30. Make up your own bucket list.
These fifty are only suggestions, some of them mine and some from Facebook friends. Not everything will suit you; find those that do.
A friend who works with the Baptist churches across Montana suggested no one should go to Heaven without first visiting the Big Sky state. I’m not sure everyone will want that on their list, but there it is.
Someone else suggested sky diving and bungee jumping. Not for me, thanks. But you will have your own list.
29. Make a will.
You’d be surprised how few Christians have wills stating what is to be done with all they leave behind after their death. I suspect it’s because we don’t want to think about dying, don’t want to have to arrange to see a lawyer, or think we’re far too young for this sort of thing.
Read the ages in the people across your newspaper’s obituary page today and decide for yourself. I just turned 70 and fully half the people making today’s obits are younger than I am.
In most cases, you simply leave everything to your children to be divided equally. But if they’re small, you’ll still want to name their guardians in case you and your spouse depart simultaneously. And then, the lawyer will think of questions to ask that never occurred to you.
The Baptist Foundation in whatever state convention your church is part of will have a type of kit to assist you in thinking this through. After filling out the information it asks for, you could take that to your lawyer and simplify the process.
28. Wash someone’s feet.
I would not have thought of this as a Bucket List thing to do before I die. But a Facebook friend suggested it.
You’ll recognize foot-washing as what our Lord did with the disciples the night before He went to the cross. It’s in John 13. God’s people rightfully see it as the ultimate act of humility and servitude.
The leader of St. Bernard Parish, just downriver from New Orleans, recently made the news when he went around to various offices in parish government and washed the feet of his employees. He emphasized that he did not tell them he was coming and did not alert the media. “I don’t want people thinking I did this for the publicity,” he said.
So why did he do it? To make an unforgettable statement to his people that he was there to serve them.
In my last pastorate, I brought up a number of deacons and washed their feet in an evening worship service. Later, a man who had been visiting with his family came by to grill me about that. He had heard that some bizarre sects do this and so was afraid we were morphing into weirdom.
Just because we washed one another’s feet. Go figure. (The man and his family joined the church and are still here, some 15 years later.)
27. Buy a pastor a suit of clothes.
Now, not every pastor needs a new suit and these days, with the changing standards of worship attire, not every pastor may even want a suit.
Here’s my thinking on the subject.
As a beginning pastor, my two or three suits and one sport coat were in a constant rotation. They were embarrassingly cheap. One day, Pastor James Richardson, my mentor and dearest friend in the ministry, told me he had bought several new suits for himself and wondered if I would mind receiving seven of his older suits. Mind? I was ecstatic. The fact that this gift came just as I was transitioning from the pastorate to the staff of the largest church in the state–where James had recommended me–was clearly more than coincidental.
Some years later, when I was pastoring again and making a livable income, I would notice a neighboring pastor who would benefit from a new suit. I placed a phone call to the friend who sold me my clothing and ask him to call that brother, saying someone is paying for him to come in and choose a new suit. We kept it anonymous.
What’s even more special about this is from time to time, someone would do the same thing for me.
One thing we learned early on that the salesman should tell the pastor who is getting the new suit: Don’t choose the cheapest thing on the rack. We’re trying to upgrade your wardrobe, so pick out anything in the store you want.
A good suit–such as a Hart Shaffner Marx–will last for generations. I know because the two or three I purchased will outlive me.
26. Chaperone a youth mission trip.
I can hear someone laugh, “Yes. Once in a lifetime is enough.”
For some, it will be. And for those who have never done it, it should go on their Bucket List.
In doing this, you will make a lasting investment in the lives of a few youngsters. And you might discover those youth have opened up a part of your own life you didn’t know existed.
Last night, as I write, a friend in Jackson, Mississippi, e-mailed to say that her church is sending their youth choir to New Orleans the last week of May. Her church is large, so the group is 250 strong. That must be about as large as any youth choir I’ve ever heard of. The adult counselors will have a mammoth challenge, one that demands excellent organization, infinite patience, and divine wisdom.
She said their itinerary in our city calls for them to do a program at the parish prison. That will be an unforgettable experience, one I’ve never had and I suspect none of the adults along on the trip have had either.
The kids will be ministering to their audience. The adult chaperones/sponsors will be ministering to the youngsters in the choir. Everyone benefits.
25. Give a needy child the Christmas of his life.
A Facebook friend suggested this and gave no other information. I suppose it stands as it is.
A hundred questions flood my mind: what if the child has siblings? would you omit them? can you do this once, then abandon the kid because “I checked it off my Bucket List”? what else will you do for him/her? what would be the most beneficial type of Christmas to give a child? And how would one go about this?
We’ll leave the questions there. It’s an idea.
24. Become something of an expert on one book of the Bible.
A generation ago a friend suggested it would transform the life of the typical Christian to focus on one book of the Bible and really master it, to make it his. I decided to do that with I Peter.
Why I Peter? It’s short–just 5 chapters, so it’s manageable. It has great treasures in it, unlike some of similar length which I will not name (because they are all treasures in themselves).
Thereafter, I read and re-read I Peter. I memorized a good bit of it and recited it often in the car or while walking. As a pastor, I preached through the book on several occasions. I read numerous commentaries on this little epistle.
If you choose the right book–the Gospel of Mark would probably be an even better choice for most people–mastering it will provide a guidestone for understanding the rest of the Bible. The thing about Mark’s Gospel is that it’s shorter than the other three, is primarily devoted to what Jesus did and not to lengthy teaching passages, and is a great entry level study book.
In the middle years of my ministry, I did this with the New Testament book of Hebrews. That one had always lurked in the back of my mind as a mysterious book, one I was not sure I should tackle. But studying it, learning it, and teaching it turned out to be one of the greatest joys in over 40 years of pastoring.
In the last decade of my pastoring, I chose Romans and “went to seed” on it. Later I wondered why I had waited so late in life when learning it early on would have made a great difference. Clearly it’s because the book is so deep, with chapters 9-11 in particular scaring off the typical Bible student. But it wasn’t that bad at all, and the Holy Spirit showed me such wonderful delights in studying Romans.
On my blog, http://www.joemckeever.com, on the right side of the page, scroll down to the section on Romans and you’ll see some of the choice insights which made studying this “gospel according to Paul” such a blessing.
23. Make sure all within your sneeze halo are saved.
I’m indebted to Harry Lucenay, longtime friend, neighboring pastor, and now pastor of an international Baptist Church in Hong Kong, for the “sneeze halo” concept.
A few years ago when a flu epidemic broke out in his part of the world, members came to church wearing masks. Health experts cautioned people about the distance germs travel from a sneeze, some 15 or 20 feet. They called it the “sneeze halo.”
The people inside your sneeze halo would be your immediate family members, co-workers, and next door neighbors.
Best way to find out if they’re saved? Ask them. Start with yourself: “Look, I know you say you believe in Jesus Christ and in His Word and His Church. But have you genuinely repented of your sin and put faith and trust in Him for eternal salvation? Are you trusting in what He did on Calvary as payment for your sins? And are you abiding in Him and living your life for Him?”
Then, it gets a little harder. In asking those nearest you this question, you might want to preface it with an explanation that this is a Bucket List item dear to your heart.
When baseball pitcher Al Worthington came to know the Lord in a Billy Graham Crusade, he went to a phone and started calling his large family to tell them about the new Master of his life. When an older brother said, “Why, Al, I’ve been a Christian for 8 years,” the Minnesota Twin hurler answered, “Brother, I don’t believe it. If you had, you would have told me about it before now.”
Have you told those nearest you?
22. Read through the Bible.
Recently while preaching in an Alabama church, I brought a weekday noontime brief message about the Scripture. I urged people to read the Bible through at least once in their lives and more if possible. Hearing someone murmur that he was doing that, I stopped. “How many of you are reading through the Bible at this very time?” Over half the hands in the room went up.
What that church was doing is something I recommend heartily: the pastor is leading them and they’re reading it at the same time.
My son tells me he’s reading the Bible through these days with a group from our church.
I have no idea when I read the Bible through for the first time, but it was only five years ago I decided to start on January 1 and to finish that year.
One other thought on this subject. Mark up your Bible. Underline or highlight the verses that bless you most. Use one of the white pages in front or back and write your testimony of when you came to the Lord and what he means to you. In most cases, that Bible will outlive you and will minister to the next person who owns it.
I’ve read the Bible through several times, marking it up, and then have given to some of my grandchildren.
21. Do a random act of kindness.
This too was a suggestion from a Facebook friend. I’m not sure it belongs on a Bucket List for the simple reason that it’s not large enough.
A “random act of kindness” is a good deed done anonymously. You’re in the drive-through lane at a fast food place and you pay for the order of the car behind you. You’re in a poor neighborhood and you drop a $5 bill on the sidewalk for someone to find. You’re at the toll plaza on the highway and you pay the toll for the car behind.
In counseling with Al and Alison about their marriage, I learned that his greed and materialism were destroying their relationship. One day when he was in my office without his wife, I said, “Al, I have a suggestion. Give away your money.”
He almost had a stroke on the spot. “Are you serious?”
“I’m serious about giving a lot of it away. It’s killing your soul, friend. Unless you master your love for money, it’s going to destroy you.”
The next week he walked in beaming. “I did it,” he smiled. What he had done was to give his step-daughter a $100 bill. That’s all he did, just gave that to her. It was not anonymous and probably was never repeated. You would have thought he had set up a million dollar foundation though, the way he was so satisfied with himself.
The bad news is Al never broke the bondage to the dollar. His marriage self-destructed.
Acts of kindness are good any time and any way, but anonymously is great. And they should be a regular pattern, not a one-time thing.
20. Cater lunch for the entire church.
Now, if your name is Clyde Etheridge (a deacon in my church), then you’ll not need to cater it; you can feed everyone yourself. I was in the church office this week when Clyde walked in and asked Julie, my daughter-in-law and the pastor’s administrative assistant, if the bulletin had been done for Sunday. He inserted a note that next Wednesday night’s meal would be a Mexican feast in honor of Cinco de Mayo. He said, “I’ve never done this before, but it might be fun.”
I admire people who can do this. I’m not one of them.
A few weeks ago, as we were completing a five-day meeting at Salem Baptist Church in lovely Brundidge, Alabama, Pastor Bobby Hood informed the congregation that they were all to stay for lunch on Sunday. “Sue and I are providing it for you.” They paid to have it catered for the entire church.
I said, “Bobby, how do you do that?” He smiled, “With a check.”
My siblings and I once did it for the entire church back at Nauvoo, Alabama, on the Sunday following our reunion, but I’ve never tried it by myself. An interesting idea.
19. Write down the story of your life.
Now, unless you are a gifted writer, the story of your life would not be for publication. You would write it for your grandchildren and their offspring.
“Oh, my life is not that interesting,” you protest. Whether it is or isn’t is not the issue. The fact is that you are fascinating to your future descendants. They will want to know all about you, where you came from, who your folks were, what they did for a living, what interesting family tales you have to relate.
Be sure to put down dates and locations. And remember one more aspect of a good story: conflict is great.
If there were wars in the family or strife over some issue, disagreements over politics, a schism over religion, a divorce over scandal–well, okay, you might want to gloss this over–or a feud over old grievances, tell it. If the scandal is 50 years or older, then write down every juicy detail you recall.
18. Keep a journal for a year of your life.
The best way to keep a journal is by purchasing hard-bound wordless books at the local bookstore or stationery dealer. It is not essential to wait for January 1 to begin. Just buy a book, letter it “No. 1,” jot the date at the top of the page, and start writing.
I kept one for an entire decade. It filled 46 books which now occupy a bottom shelf in my home study. It chronicles every sermon I preached, every grandchild’s birth, every event in our church and family for the decade of the 1990s.
I recommend hand-writing the journal.
What will you write? Tell about what you did today, whatever news everyone is talking about, important things that occurred, what you ate (sometimes; don’t do that every day), what movies you saw, what television you watched, what books you are reading, what magazines, what the preacher preached last Sunday (as well as who he is, where you go to church), what you feel strongly about, what the doctor said about your condition, and remember to include the conflict.
If your neighbor stood in the yard and cursed you out over something, write it down, leaving out the actual words. If your boss accused you unfairly at the office, write it down. Defend yourself. Hey, it’s your book–you can write anything you want. Do so. Have fun. You heard a good joke; write it down.
17. Do a blog.
These days, it’s possible to have your own blog without it costing you a cent. Don’t ask me how, but plenty of people around you have one and can tell you.
My son Marty set this one up nearly 10 years ago. He reserved “joemckeever.com” and said, “One of these days you’ll be needing it.” Little did we know. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, for several weeks this blog was our contact with the rest of the world.
Our website, this “blog” (which is a contraction of “web log”), is provided by an outfit called Hosting Matters and costs me something over $100 per year. A bargain if there has ever been one.
16. Master one of the new techni-gadgets.
The cell phones, Blackberries, iPods, iPhones, and such seem to be endless. Do not ask me the difference. My cell phone is standard issue and no doubt has capabilities that I’m not aware of. All I want is a phone, not a computer in my hand. But that’s what I have. It’s a still camera and a motion picture camera and a hundred other things.
I suspect that many of my generation (I finished high school in 1958) would not fear the modern techno-craze so much if they were skilled in the use of some of the gadgets.
How to learn: ask a grandchild. (Works for me.)
15. Plant a flower garden.
My family will laugh at my listing this. Three or four years ago, with the help of son Neil, I set out roses in the back yard and one cutting in the front. They are still bearing roses to some degree without a lot of encouragement from me. That’s good, because while I do appreciate beautiful flowers, I don’t seem to have the patience to do what it takes to produce them.
Nevertheless, for those who have never tried to grow flowers and who now have a little time on their hands, this would be a wonderful thing to do. Visit your local plant nursery and read up on the subject. Or help a friend with his garden and learn by the old-fashioned hands-on method.
14. Read a book of Christian theology.
Too many laypeople leave the theology to the pastor. Not a smart thing to do. Not every pastor is trustworthy or, even if he is, not every pastor is diligent in working out finer points of Scripture’s teachings.
Start with your church library. Browse. And don’t worry about the posted hours for the library to open. Call the church office. Unless you are unknown to them, the secretary will unlock the door and turn on the lights and you can pull up a chair and enjoy yourself.
Find a good book on what Christian’s believe. That’s theology. If you are fairly well versed in the Bible, get the kind of book that a seminary would use for a text. Ask your pastor to recommend a good one.
13. Develop a 15 minute comedy routine–and present it in public.
There are two main approaches to this: compile all your family stories into one routine, or flesh the program out with your favorite jokes and funny stories.
I do a half-dozen banquets a year. For the first part of the program, I’ll get people from the audience and caricature them on posters. The second part is made up of stories from churches I’ve pastored, church people I have know, lessons learned in nearly 50 years of ministry. For the last part, I gently segue into a devotional, inspirational conclusion. And even in this last segment, I’m telling stories.
Anyone can do that. If you need help telling the stories, enlist help. Get friends or family members to listen and critique and make suggestions.
12. Throw a street party for your neighborhood.
Get the permission of neighbors (and the police if necessary) to block off the street for a couple of hours, print up flyers and invite everyone, talk some friends into helping you prepare food and lead games, hire the space walks and clowns, and if you’re in the New Orleans area, call me to come over and sketch people. If I can, I’ll do it.
Why in the world would anyone want to do this?
To get to know the neighbors. To add some fun into the humdrum lives of everyone. Or best of all, because you are a fun person.
11. If you live in the area where you went to school, buy season tickets to the ball games. Attend and cheer, learn the names of players, and act like a kid again.
There is too much seriousness in this world. Sometimes we just need to relax. Few things are as recreational as attending a high school or college ball game.
I dare you.
10. Make your own bucket list.
What would you like to have done before departing this earthly scene for heavenly realms? Build a plane? Jump out of a plane? Fly a plane as the pilot? Or just take a ride on a plane? Put it on your list.
We’re all so different, no two people’s bucket list will be alike. Some years back, I would have put toward the top of my list to attend the annual meeting of the National Cartoonists Society. These men and women are the heroes, so to speak, of this cartooning business, the best there are, and some are household names in America. I own original cartoons from many of them, drawings they did for their newspaper strips which are now signed, framed, and (mostly) displayed on the walls of my home. In the study where I’m working at this moment, 13 original cartoons are staring down upon me.
I’m past the groupie stage of cartooning, for the most part, so that would no longer be on my list. So, lists vary and they have a way of changing.
Make your own list.
9. Postpone your bucket-kicking event.
I’m not one who believes a day was calendared for your death the moment you arrived on the planet. There seems to be a lot of it’s-your-call involved in how long we live and when we die, based on how we take care of ourselves and the risks we take.
To postpone the time of our departure simply means to do a few basic things that should increase the length of our lives:
–eat better. More fresh fruits and veggies, and fewer fries and chips and empty calory-type foods such as cola drinks.
–exercise more. Take walks, do stretching routines, buy some small weights from Wal-Mart or an athletic store and tone up your flesh.
–have a full checkup with your doctor. You’ll have to take the initiative with this. If you call your doctor’s office and say, “I want a checkup,” unless he/she knows you, what you’ll get will be fairly worthless. Tell the doctor’s nurse you want a) a complete head-to-toe examination, b) blood work, and c) a colonoscopy (if you are 50 or older). If you are female and have not had mammograms as recommended, schedule one of those too.
–ask your doctor or a nutritionist to tell you what vitamins to take each day. In the 1990s, my primary care physician at Ochsner’s Foundation Hospital in New Orleans put me on a regimen of vitamins and a baby aspirin each day. She said, “Mr. McKeever, I think we have just prevented a heart attack in you.”
–lose some weight. Quit smoking. Laugh more. Get up off the couch, turn off the television (or computer!), and get outside. Go to the park with your children or grandchildren. Toss a frisbee or football. Laugh some more. Enjoy a snow-cone in some weird flavor (they’re called snowballs around here).
8. Widen yourself.
For one year, try this: each week visit your local library and spend a minimum of one hour in the periodicals section. This is the sitting area with tables and chairs and with magazines on display. Take down several magazines you have never heard of and flip through them. Read anything that attracts your attention.
If you are a preacher or teacher, always have a notepad handy. I guarantee you are going to run into fascinating articles with information you’ll want to remember. And think what fun it will be when you stand before your group and say, “The other day, I was reading an article in Rolling Stone magazine….” Or, Electronics Monthly. Or, Archaeology in Zimbabwe.
You may discover a new career this way. (It’s been done, believe me.) And if nothing else, you’ll broaden your scope.
7. Deepen Yourself
The 8th item was to widen yourself by reading widely. This one is the opposite. Pick a field you find fascinating and delve into it.
Years ago, we might have said, “Take a course in that subject at your local community college.” That still might be the thing to do, but you can almost do as well with your computer. This is somewhat of an overstatement, but…
…the world’s knowledge is as close as your fingertips.
Go online. It’s all there. You might have to dig a little, and you will definitely have to wade through a lot of irrelevant stuff (I started to call it junk!). And you may end up needing to ask someone more knowledgeable about cyberspace how to find what you’re looking for. But it’s there, I promise you.
6. Find someone who changed your life and do something special for him/her.
I was reminded of this two days ago by someone who did it for me.
Mike McCain was around 14 years old when his family began attending the church I was pastoring. I was barely a decade older than him and a student in our seminary in New Orleans. A little Baptist church on Alligator Bayou some 25 miles west of the city had invited me to become their pastor. When Mike’s father retired from the Navy and took a job with the shipyards in New Orleans, the family moved to the area and started attending my church.
In time, the Lord used me to lead Mike and his father to the Lord. The entire family joined the church and for another year or so I was their pastor, before moving to my next assignment in Mississippi.
That was in 1967 and this is 43 years later.
Mike McCain pastors a Covenant Church in Pennock, Minnesota. He and his wife Connie were visiting his widowed (and now remarried) mother in Baton Rouge, and we agreed to meet at Shoney’s in LaPlace. I told him when they walked into the restaurant I could have picked him out of a crowd, he still looks so much like the young Mike.
What a blessing just to sit across the table and see the fruits of a small amount of labor so many years ago. To be sure, the Lord used many teachers and preachers and friends–and his wonderful wife, to be sure–to bring Mike to where he is today. We all are the workmanship of so many people.
What if today you thought of a person who has made a lasting difference in your life and sought them out to thank them.
5. Forgive someone.
This pertains to those who have someone in our past who has hurt us deeply and left scars on our soul.
Do yourself a great favor: forgive them. Get rid of the anger, turn loose of the ill will, and even erase those ugly memories.
It’s possible. Not necessarily easy, but it can be done. The Lord is a great healer of the soul. His restoration work will require us to obey Him, however.
This involves bringing ourselves under His lordship in every area. It means humbling ourselves to the Holy Spirit and obeying Him.
If you know where the individual is–and if you are confident he/she knows of the strife between you–then a phone call or letter will do the trick. If you have no idea where they are, ask the Lord to bring your paths together.
In the call or the letter, it’s not necessary to rehash old stories. Just say, “I want you to know I have forgiven you. I hope you are doing well. I’ve prayed for you today.”
My guess is you’ll want to rehearse that several times to get it right. Don’t overtalk, however, and do not stir up more strife by blaming. Just say it simply and close your mouth.
Depending on the circumstances, you may or may not want to renew the friendship. You may or may not want to contact them and tell them of your forgiveness. Ask the Lord to guide you in these matters, or talk to your pastor or another trusted counselor.
On this subject…
It could be you are the one who needs forgiveness. So, you will be the one who calls or writes the individual you have wounded and ask them to please forgive you.
Once again, keep it simple: “I’m so sorry for the pain I caused you back when (and finish the sentence). I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”
Don’t overtalk, don’t excuse yourself, and do not make matters worse. Say it, mean it, and shut up.
4. Take your entire family on a Caribbean cruise.
I have just the way for you to do this. I live in New Orleans where cruise ships arrive and depart all the time. This November 20-27, the most wonderful ministry in town–Global Maritime Ministry, which reaches out to the crews of ships using our port as well as to the local port workers–has reserved several hundred rooms on a cruise ship that will go to Belize and Cozumel.
A solid week of fellowship with hundreds of the Lord’s choice people in some of the most beautiful parts of His creation! Rest and entertainment, great food and scenery, good fellowship and times of worship–what could be better?
The website is http://www.portministry.com/index.html. (I have a flyer with details and will be adding them to this page.)
If the idea sounds staggering to you, then consider taking this particular trip with just you and your spouse. Then, after gettting that under your belt, you can plan a subsequent cruise with the entire family.
3. Pack some things, lock your house up, arrange to have a friend look after your house, ask the post office to forward your mail, and move to the city where your grandchildren live.
Rent an apartment there for a few months. Become a citizen of that town. Subscribe to their newspaper, explore all the great places to go and things to do with your grandchildren.
Oh, and you might want to make sure your son/daughter and their spouses are okay on this before doing it.
I have grandchildren in North Carolina and New Hampshire who wish grandpa and grandma would quit talking about this and do it!
2. Do the same thing–locking the house up and moving to a community in another state–where you don’t know a soul.
You have read everything you could find on that area and you think it would be fascinating to live in that sweet little village. So, why not?
How would you go about finding such a community to “try out” for a while? Go online, for starters. Your library has a variety of travel magazines. But if you’re like the rest of us, over the years as you have traveled you have encountered fascinating little towns (or huge cities) and thought you would love to live there for a while. So, check it out and do it.
Thirty years ago when the Cincinnati Reds baseball team was all the rage, I attended two games there and loved every moment of that weekend. Thereafter, I used to say to Margaret, “When we retire, I want to move to Cincinnati. Every afternoon, between 1 and 4, you can find me at Riverfront Stadium watching the Big Red Machine.” She learned to ignore that, knowing how changeable her husband is. And she was right in doing so. Cincy is no longer on my bucket list. Although New Hampshire is.
Where would you like to live? Why don’t you move there?
1. Get saved.
We’ve built this list backwards, beginning with #50 and working downward. But the first priority in all of life, no matter our age or circumstances, should be this: get to know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and start living faithfully for Him.
How to do that? It’s the simplest thing ever: repent of your sins and invite Christ to come in and take over. Yield yourself to Him. Start reading your Bible every day, praying throughout the day during which you worship Him and tell Him what’s going on, and find yourself a great church family to join. (Ask Him to lead you in this. Don’t try it on your own.)
I said it was simple; I did not say it was easy.
To turn to Christ in repentance and faith involves humbling yourself before God. That’s harder for some than others. It might require going against everything you have believed (or not believed) and been taught (and mistaught) for a lifetime.
Why would you want to do this? The reasons number in the hundreds, but here are three–
–The God who created you knows you better than anyone and has plans for you beyond anything you ever dreamed of. Get your life back to the Master Designer and ask Him to proceed with His will for you.
–You and I were not given an infinite number of days for this earthly life. Just as there was a beginning point, there will be an end to it. Thereafter, our eternal destiny will depend on one major thing: your relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew 25 describes the eternal abode of the faithful as “a place prepared for you from the foundation of the world” and the wicked as “a place prepared for the devil and his angels.” We each get to choose. We have to choose.
–This life can be so much more with Jesus Christ reigning as our Lord and Guide than otherwise. Jesus put it this way: “I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
That’s it. Fifty items on a Christian bucket list. Now, using this as a prompter, make your own list.
Dr. Joe McKeever is a Preacher, Cartoonist, and the Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. Visit him at joemckeever.com/mt. Used with permission.
Original publication date: May 10, 2010
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