The Absolute Best Bucket List You Can’t Miss — Or You Miss Out on the Life You’ve Always Wanted

So it turns out, I ran away.

Pain’s always a fuel — that drives you to escape, or drives you to grow.

And yeah, I do the oh, so mature thing — I run away from the pain. Literally. Well — for a day.

Knowing the thing to do — is not at all the same as doing that thing. What the head knows by heart — can take a heart a lifetime to live. And sometimes — what you just need is time. Sometimes what your heart needs — is for you to take time to clear your head.

I drive down back roads, drove up to the Mennonite country.

The rain and fog feel like a comforting shroud for my raw, exposed places.

I wander into a little Mennonite General Store in a village so small you’d miss it if you blinked too fast. The 100-year-old wooden floor planks creak. No electricity or lights or fluorescent bulbs buzz or flicker. Lanterns hang in grey lit rooms, brave flames burning back the morning’s mist. A wood stove crackles in the middle of the store, surrounded by shelves of kettles and pots and stacks of bread pans.

There are days you don’t want Target or Walmart — but the old ways of an out-of-the-way place — that kinda target your heart.

And there it is — on a windowsill of an old wavy glass window —- a wee little miniature steel bucket.

I pick it up.

That is what you often pick up when you’re in pain — a bucket. Like you’re carrying a bucket of weight. Like you can fill yourself up with all the things to drown out all the pain. Like if you fill yourself up with a bucket list of all the experiences — you could douse out all the pain.

I turn the little bucket around in my hands — and there it is in my bruised heart: Maybe the best way to deal with pain in your heart — is to pour your heart out.

Slowly — I tip the bucket over.

Maybe…. When I hit the bucket— I don’t want to leave a bucket list as much as I want to leave an empty bucket — a life poured right out.

Maybe — the best kind of bucket list — is a list of how to pour your bucket out. The purpose of your life is to find your gift — and give it away. The gifted are the ones who find their gift — make it into a gift for the world.

The bucket sits perfectly in the palm of my hand. I can’t stop thinking:

Maybe — the best way to get rid of your pain — is to pour your life out.

Maybe empty buckets — are the fullest kinds of buckets.

If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to Me, you’ll find both yourself and Me. (Matthew 10, The Bible)

Embrace true humility, and lift your heads to extend love to others. Get beyond yourselves and protecting your own interests; be sincere, and secure your neighbors’ interests first.

In other words, adopt the mind-set of Jesus the Anointed. Live with His attitude in your hearts. Remember: Though He was in the form of God,He chose not to cling to equality with God;

But He poured Himself out to fill a vessel brand new…” (Philippians 2, The Bible)

Christ poured Himself out — to make us new vessels. And as we pour out the Christ in us — Christ makes new vessels all around us — and in us.

Up at the till, the bonneted clerk takes out a pad of receipts, and writes out my receipt for one little steel bucket, in this perfect Spencerian script. We exchange shy smiles. I leave four dollars on her ancient counter.

And then I drive home with this bucket in my pocket. I am ready. When you pour out your broken heart, pour out your life — you pour out your pain.

It keeps falling on my cracked places like a gentle rain: Live with His attitude in your hearts.

Christ’s attitude about hearts — was to pour them out — not to try to protect them.

Let your heart live unguarded again — and you let love capture you all over again.

In the upside down Kingdom, you have to guard your heart from being wrongly guarded.

True: You guard your heart against sinful thoughts getting in… or out — but don’t guard your heart against love… that needs to get in or out. Guard against sins — but not against hearts.

Guard your heart against evil — and there is no doubt: a prison of loneliness is evil.

Guard your heart from the things that will crush your heart: bitterness, loneliness, uneasiness, defensiveness.

Guard your heart from being guarded because everything you do flows out of your heart — and a heart can’t flow if it’s walled off, blocked in, and shutting out.

Your heart can’t be walled in — because your heart has to flow out. Because out of the overflow of your heart, your whole life flows.

Live with walls to block out pain — and you will block out all the love that’s trying to get in.

Live with walls to block out pain — and those same walls will block your own love from flowing out.

Your job is not to find love. Your job — is to find all the walls you’ve built to keep love out. Because you have to tear down those walls — so your own love can flow out. This is only way your life can flow out — this is the only way you can live.

When I get home, I place the tiny bucket on the kitchen windowsill — a daily visual for the meaning of being, the meaning of life. And when I accidentally turn the bucket over — I see it. There’s a word engraved right into the bottom of the bucket.

It’s like a word from the Lord —- exactly there where I would have expected to read “Made in China.

One unexpected word etched into the bottom of a random miniature bucket found on a windowsill in front of a burning wood stove in a back road Mennonite store.

One word etched into the empty miniature bucket in all caps: ENDURANCE.

I drop my head. I could weep.

God speaks.

When you pour yourself out — you will be surprised by endurance.

When you’re empty and scraping the bottom of your bucket — you will find endurance.

When you’re beautiful heart feels poured right out —- more of your beautiful heart still endures.

And I grip that little bucket like God’s handing me a cup of cold water.

Because this is what I once read about endurance.

Endurance — literally means to — abide under, stay under, remain under.

When you tip over that empty bucket so you can see that one word Endurance etched in the bottom again, it’s like all the fog’s cleared:

When you pour your life out — what you endure under, remain under, is a Niagara Falls of His grace.

When you pour your life out — what you endure under, remain under — is Christ pouring Himself into you.

What you are always enduring under — is Christ’s showers of blessings over you.

For months now — that bold little bucket has sat on the kitchen windowsill and I have watched the leaves turn and how I have turned. When my failing heart has about broke — that bucket has spoke without saying a word:

Don’t pray for ease, pray for endurance.

The good life always requires good bit of endurance. The only way to the best life is endurance through the hard things.

And this is true: Endurance does more than bear hard things — it turns them into good things. There is no other way to keep enduring.

After I mention my truth-telling windowsill bucket last week to a man over a cup of coffee, he reaches out his reaches out his hand and says, “See his bucket? Carved his bucket — out of a tree stump.”

And there’s this picture — of a carved wooden bucket — looking like it’s suspended in mid-air, pouring, always pouring, always giving.

Gabi Rizea Sculptura lemn

Relentlessly flowing, the wood grain moves through the “water” pouring from the bucket.

Turns out when the carver was asked how did he get the idea for this clever wood sculpture? “I don’t know, in my mind sometimes I have some images,” he nods. “When I work, it’s me, the log, and God.”

And this ‘log’ he carved a bucket out of? Was a tree stump.

A stump of a tree that was cut down because insects were devouring the tree.

Gabi Rizea Sculptura lemn
Gabi Rizea Sculptura lemn
Gabi Rizea Sculptura lemn

He carved his ever-pouring bucket — out of a rotted stump.

I touch the picture, trace the bucket, the water. The outpouring water is actually carved out of the stump.

What keeps the bucket held up — is actually the water pouring down.

And I meet the white-haired man’s eyes and he’s nodding slowly.

Pouring out your heart — is what will actually hold your heart together.

Pouring out your life — is what will elevate your life.

Rotting places — can be places of streams of living water.

If we choose to believe. If we choose endurance. If we choose to be the gift.

That image of that enduring wooden bucket, always living given, pouring out its heart, is burned into my mind —my heart.

Maybe God only gives more blessings to those who keep pouring more of their bucket out.

Maybe…. If you are a bucket-tipper — God will keep filling you with more blessings. But if you are only a bucket-filler, He lets keep filling with more of yourself.

Bucket-tippers get filled with God. Bucket-fillers — just get full of themselves.

I can feel more of my walls giving way. And all the things of life flowing out from a given, poured out heart.

Love lives given.

Live given — and you will be given abundant life.

And now it turns out — there’s a bucket on a windowsill that runs on and on.

And there is all of us standing under an enduring Niagara Fall of amazing grace that keeps fills all our surrendered and given places.


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