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The Holes in my Bucket List

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by Pastor Ted Moeller

It’s one of life’s last rites of passage: the compilation of a “Bucket List,” those things a person would like to do before dying. I must confess to being rather duplicitous in the formation of my own such list. It’s not so much a list as it is a rather vague willingness to try something I haven’t done before. On occasion, I’ve even put something on the list I’d just done. In my mind, a bucket list should be flexible and open-ended, balancing what is crossed off with what’s added. And the strange thing is, with my last three bucket list experiences, I’ve gotten more out of the failures involved in the attempts than their successful completion.

BUCKET LIST ITEM: Walk Around Smith Rock. Ever since we visited that state park in Oregon’s high desert a decade ago, I’ve wanted to take the hike around its rocky spire. Earlier this summer, I finally got the chance along with my daughter and her friend. I felt pretty darn good about it when we got back to the trailhead, even congratulating myself with a fist pump. But then I discovered the true “Misery Trail” was just getting back up to the parking lot. That dang near killed me.

BUCKET LIST ITEM: Go White Water Rafting. Two days after recovering from Smith Rock, I signed up to “shoot the Deschutes.” It was a perfect day for a river adventure, 13 miles with some challenging rapids. I felt pretty good then, too. A company photographer took a great shot of me, sitting tall and confident navigating our rubber boat through some turbulent water. Later, he also took one of me launched overboard, completely upside down right before taking the plunge. [Both shots now adorn my office door.] Riding a Class III rapids outside of the raft, trying not to be swept underneath, proved to be the most exhilarating part of the entire trip.

BUCKET LIST ITEM: Get Trapped in an Elevator with a Beautiful Woman. Okay, this may be more a teenage fantasy than a bucket list item, but when it happened to me earlier this year I knew right then and there it was something I’d always wanted to experience. The fact that it happened on my way to see a cardiologist made it even better. Alas, while I was fully prepared to make the most of the opportunity, the beautiful woman I was trapped with was not. My wife was too concerned about our being late for the appointment to relax and sit down on the floor with me as we awaited rescue.

Here’s my takeaway. A person’s bucket list can never be too extensive, nor should it be age-restricted. In fact, all of life should be one big bucket list, and we should be put at least half of the items on it while we’re doing them. And we should consider ourselves blessed when they go awry, because that’s when our focus shifts from ourselves to God. Consider what I believe to be Paul’s bucket list (2 Corinthians 11). He records: “Five times 40 lashes minus one; three times beaten with rods; once stoned; three times shipwrecked;…in danger from rivers, bandits, Gentiles, my own people; danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, cold and naked.” He can boast of all this, because by boasting in his disasters he proclaims God’s greatness. It wasn’t about what he’d accomplished; it’s what God accomplished through him.

I’m going to keep looking for more things to put on my bucket list. And whether I’m huffing and puffing up a steep hill, swallowing a couple quarts of river water, or pressing the emergency call button in a suspended box--however my best-laid plans go sideways—I’ll see it as just another box to check off in the list of the times my Savior delivers me.

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