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The before and after bucket list

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When I saw the movie The Bucket List (starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman) I cried. Other cancer survivors know how I feel. But along with the awareness and feelings of finitude there is a God-given desire to see and appreciate as much of this life and this world as we possibly can. For some of us God has granted wonderful experiences and long life. For others, life experience and/or length of days is unnaturally limited. But the desire is still there.

One of my good friends from high school days in Ohio exemplifies this desire. After her husband passed away, she made a bucket list. Last year she went on a cruise to Alaska, she joined a tour group to the Holy Land, and she decorated floats for the New Year’s Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. This was not possible when her husband was still alive. But the desire to experience life in its fullness and see the world was resurrected and she put feet to her dreams and initiated the grand pursuit of her bucket list. I’m proud of her.

Unlike the characters played by Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, most of us are financially limited in the pursuit of a bucket list. I have been to Alaska but never in the winter time. I would love to go to northern Alaska in the winter to see first-hand the northern lights. But who goes to Alaska for fun in the winter time? (Okay, my friends Dave and Lois Williams did this, but seriously how many would do something like this?) I would do it but who would go with me? Who would spend that much money to freeze in northern Alaska?

I have had the privilege as a missionary of traveling widely around the world but never for checking things off a bucket list. I loved going to Nigeria and seeing an African mother dressed in white dance down the aisle of the church carrying her infant child, also in white, to be Christened at the altar. I loved breaking away from the conference meetings in Brazil, walking a couple of miles to a small village where I found a small makeshift gym and wowed the children by how much I could bench press. I loved playing golf in New Zealand where boiling potholes of mud could spring up at any time. I loved praying for Chinese Christians who suffered during the Cultural Revolution. They soaked my shirt with their tears as I hugged them and prayed for them.

These things were not on my bucket list. But I would do them over again, with a lot of other things I experienced. There is one thing I truly will get to do that I so long for. But it requires leaving this world. No travel plans, no money, no great preparations (other than faith) are required. To journey into that other realm where Jesus is seated on the heavenly throne is on my bucket list. How I will handle that only God knows. But as wonderful and exciting as this life and this world can possibly be, they will all pale in comparison to that Holy Presence. If you haven’t already, you may want to put this on your bucket list too.

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