How to Live the Really Best Bucket List

When I’d picked up the magazine lying on the seat next me, the pages fell open to this editor’s column

— about his bucket list.

“We all have a bucket list —

whether it is written down or tucked somewhere in the back of our mind just waiting for the right moment to transition over to ink on paper.”


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I finger the corner of the glossy page.

Rain’s falling slow outside the window.

The writer defines his terms:

“Although there are some who feel that the term bucket list is misused, Oxford Dictionaries offer this simple definition:

a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime.

Like a number of experiences I hope to have — instead of a number of experiences I thank Him for having?

Drops collect on the pane, a collecting of what’s coming straight down.

The editor waxes on:

“Although I have had the great fortune to check several items off my bucket list, many still remain:

Explore Venice by gondola; ride the Amtrak Coast Starlight from Seattle to Los Angeles; heli-ski in the Canadian Rockies; climb the hills of Salzburg, Austria; kayak the boundary waters of Minnesota; explore the Colosseum in Rome.

As you can see, the list is long and ambitious, and it continues to grow.”

Why does the list of want-to-experiences continue to grow — instead of the list of thanks-for-this experiences?

Why want more to fill our bucket — when I haven’t thanked God for all the ways He’s already filled my cup?

Experiences are a grace, yes — but ultimately?  Exhilaration isn’t in experiences, but in exalting Christ.

C.S. Lewis knew:

“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.”

The thanks not merely expresses the joy but completes the joy — because the thanks for the gift is to Someone and it’s in deep communion with the Giver that we experience joy. The joy is never so much in the gift — but in the deepening of joy in the Giver.

I run my hand across the page, try to smooth things out. Yes, I want to write a letter to this editor and try to make it clear:  Exhilaration isn’t in experiences, but in exalting Christ. In expending everything for Christ.

I’ve never had a bucket list, and I’m thinking that I don’t want a bucket list as much as I want a poured bucket list. I’m thinking:

The best lives don’t have Bucket Lists as much as they have Empty Bucket lists.

Because the thing is when I kick the bucket, I don’t want there to be anything left in my bucket. When I kick the bucket, I want the bucket right empty.

I don’t want my life to be how I took experiences — but that I gave exceedingly.

That I gave every last drop, that I poured it all out, that I held nothing back. Because the way to really live is not to try to fill your life up — but to spill your life out.

“Where do you want to go?” the editor urges.

“What do you want to see — and, most important, with whom? Then just do it! Figure out a way to make it happen, and 20 years from now, you will not be disappointed. As we have the opportunity to check items off the list, not only are we given fantastic stories to share, but we also gain memories that will last a lifetime.”

This is what has changed mewriting thanks down on the list — and who can hoard their life when they see the abundance of His grace?

I hold the magazine in both hands and it’s unexpected — how wild I feel to rewrite this whole thing:

The question is really is not what you want to see — but who do you want to serve — and yes, most importantly, for Whom. Then do that!

Figure out a way to make sacrifice happen — and an eternity from now, you won’t be disappointed. Because not only have we been given the most fantastic story of Grace to share, but the only thing worth gaining is the memory of the giving of yourself — and that will outlast time.

I can hear Christine’s urgency banging loud in my heart more than any glossy page editor trying to hawk a plane ticket to somewhere:

“The thing is, Jesus didn’t die to make us safe.”

She’d said it just as we got off the bus the day before, just before we walked into the convention centre to bend low and wash the feet of women with the water of the Word and uplift the name of Christ, and Christine Caine had turned to me, and she’d said it like the words were flaming,

“The purpose of life is not to arrive at death safely and there is nothing safe about what God calls us to do.”

Exactly. And I’m nodding, thinking how I had been thinking for the last several months if I wanted to grow into anything, to be known for anything, I wanted to be known for being dangerous.

ThatYou can only be marked as safe if you’ve fashioned for yourself a God small and tame. And what the world desperately needs is more dangerous disciples of an unsafe God.”

“You know what the call is, Ann.” She’s talking truth fast and furious and we’re trying to walk as fast as the words are coming, “The call is to a cross and Christianity is dangerous.”

And I had said to Christine as we walked up the steps, walked straight up and right through the door:

“Jesus died to save us not to make us safe. And no one ever got saved unless someone else was unsafe.”

Unless someone took a risk, unless someone thought the value of the soul trumped the cost of reaching out — unless someone lived what they say they believe.”

A bucket list of merely exploring? Why not live a bigger, greater life — an empty bucket list of expending.

I had stood on that Women of Faith stage, my heart pounding loud in my ears, and I’d said it: It’s those who have given thanks till they know their cup is full — who can then pour their lives out like a gift.

It was pounding in my heart, pounding in my heart hard, His call like a drum with a different beat than the thrum of the world.

When your cup’s already full of the blessings of God, you don’t need a bucket list.

You’re ready to pour your bucket right out.





And not 24 hours later, I’m sitting there reading a magazine column about bucket lists.

Sitting there in the the waiting room with it’s magazines, when it shows up there on the screen.

Footage of rain coming down hard in Haiti, rain coming down on a half naked boy huddling low in the mud.

Rain coming down on a Haitian boy running, wide-eyed and terrified, trying to find a refuge from a hurricane bearing down.

Rain coming down on a boy who would have been happy not for some glossy words about a bucket list — but for a bucket to hold over his head.

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That’s what love is — a roof.

“Love bears all things — stego in the Greek of 1 Corinthians 13 — literally a thatch roof, a roof taking the rain and the wind and all that comes beating. Love’s a roof that absorbs all that would damage.”

To love, to be a roof — to be a bucket for someone to get out of the stormyou may have to pour yourself right out.

And I stand there  — stand there, eyes locked with the little Haitian boy on the screen.

And everything from the last several months is pounding so loud in me,  all their voices: “I am Moses. I do not leave my kin”  and “If you really cared — then why didn’t you come sooner?” and Maximilian Kolbe giving up his life for Gajowniczek’s at Auschwitz and Christ giving His for mine and “Your salvation is like organ donation — so how can you live with anything less than appreciation? Adoration? Flat-out dedication?” —

The thrum of the whole world rising, crescendoing…

And everything brims and spills right there. The Haitian boy on the screen blurs with my own heart rain.

It’s like it’s starting to come down everywhere —

this steady, straight pouring out.




and from this thanks to Him, I pour out:

singing praise to Jesus with worship leaders, Kara and Hope and Javonne {#4332}

praying for First-Love revival with a kin-sister {#4333}

the soybeans starting to turn ripe {#4334}

a beautiful woman who shows up with oil and a hug {#4335}

living in the presence of the Lord {#4336}

a long and thoughtful dinner with a friend-with-a-Bible-and- a-pen {#4337}

chili and a whole wheat bun, comfort food {#4338}

a friend who goes far and beyond the extra mile, and always with a smile {#4339}

battered farmer’s hats and big smiles {#4340}

reading Scripture aloud with Women of Faith {#4341}

rain. rain. rain. {#4342}

for a woman of striking wisdom and appalling grace who reaches over and trusts in you… {#4343}

discovering that walking by faith — really means leaping {#4345}

#5 on the NYTimes, week #50 (incl. extended).  {#4346} And out of all this thanks for cups full– the radical, revolutionary pouring out continues:

the pouring out that happens in the quietest, flooding ways —

at the sink and over the stove and down the street and around the sphere


Join us? And happily change everything by keeping your own crazy list of One Thousand Gifts?Please, jump in, make your life about giving thanks to God! — Just add the direct URL to your specific 1000 gift list post… and if you join us, we humbly ask that you please help us find each other in our refrain of thanks by sharing the community’s graphic within your post.

Give thanks to the Lord! His Love Endures Forever!

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Really — Take the crazy Joy Dare!


Print it out for the fridge {and the kids} : use these prompts to give thanks for these gifts from God.

Why bother?

When thanks to God becomes a habit, so joy in God becomes your life.

Because those who keeping a gratitude list:

1. Have a relative absence of stress and depression. (Woods et al., 2008)

2. Make progress towards important personal goals (Emmons and McCullough, 2003)

3. Report higher levels of determination and energy (Emmons and McCullough, 2003)

4. Feel closer in their relationships and desire to build stronger relationships (Algoe and Haidt, 2009)

5. Increase your happiness by 25%(Who wouldn’t want a quarter more happiness!) (McCullough et al., 2002)

Who doesn’t want all that?

Click here to print out August’s Joy Dare Put it on the fridge! Dare the Kids! And begin this month-– right!

Count three gifts a day, 1000 gifts in 2012 (and be entered to win the NikonD90 camera?) 

Thank-you is a word that can change you, your world — the whole world!


Each day of August, either share your gifts on on Twitter {label with #1000gifts #JoyDare so we can find you!}, or with us in the gratitude community at Facebook , or on Pinterest (#1000gifts).

Each day, 3 people will who share their gifts via Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest will be randomly selected & entered into a drawing for JOY BASKET: a gift card @ Amazon {100$} & {signed copies of One Thousand Gifts, the photographic gift book, the DayBrightner, and the family gratitude journal}

Give thanks to Him in the assembly!