BRADY: We all need a spiritual bucket list

Hal Brady

The movie “The Bucket List” is the story of two men from different backgrounds who met as patients in a cancer ward. They eventually became friends and together made a list of things that they wanted to do before they “kicked the bucket.”

A minister stated that the movie inspired him. At 44 years of age, he was already settling in and had started coasting through life. He realized he was at the halfway point in life and was no longer dreaming of the future. But when he left that movie he determined to go home and make his own bucket list.

In the first draft, he wrote down 25 big dreams, things like celebrating an anniversary in Italy, taking a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and going to every Major League Baseball park.

The minister said he was amazed how this fun little exercise stirred in him a passion to live a richer, fuller life.

In the light of this, where are we, spiritually speaking? If we stop dreaming and growing and settle into some maintenance and survival mode we will eventually waste away. That sounds harsh, but it’s true. Complacency in any area, including spirituality, leads to a void of purpose, meaning and hope.

Suppose I asked you to complete this sentence. What would you say? “God is …” Allowing for those who disbelieve, many would answer, God is all-knowing, God is righteous, God is creator, God is provider, God is redeemer. And while all those would be right answers, they would still not define God because God is so much bigger than we could ever grasp, let alone define.

Even if you declare, “God is loving,” because you’ve experienced that love, you still haven’t come close to grasping how abundant that love is.

The minister, named Chris Hodges, who talked about the bucket list, said that God is not what he has been, nor is he what he currently is; God is what he could be. In other words, God is bigger. Certainly, God is everything that we have discovered, but he is so much more than we could ever dream or imagine. Thus, our great need is for a “Spiritual Bucket List.”

The late A.W. Tozer, a popular preacher and best-selling author, once wrote: “A low view of God is the cause of a hundred lesser evils. A high view of God is the solution to 10,000 temporal problems.”

I think there are at least four reasons why we should acknowledge God and live reverently.

First, we are temporal. The only people who have a genuine permanent arrangement with life are those whose lives have ended. On the other hand, the psalmist reminds us of the permanence of God when he says,”But you [God] are the only one! Your years never end!” (psalm 127:2).

Second, as it has been phrased, we are post-9/11. As individuals and as a nation, we lost much on Sept. 11, 2001. Innocent lives. Symbols of power. We realized just how vulnerable we really are. And in a sense, our everyday lives have never been the same — the way we travel, attend events, go to school, work, visit malls, etc.

The third reason for acknowledging God and living reverently is that God calls us to do it. Joshua called the children of Israel, upon entering the Promised Land, to follow the Ark (symbolizing the presence of God) and he reminded them to keep their distance. That instruction had to do with the people not losing their sense of reverence.

Fourth, our gratitude demands it. At an AA meeting, a man named Tony said, “If I had to choose among all the diseases that afflict human beings, I would choose mine (alcoholism) because I can do something about it.” At that meeting (as at each meeting) he introduced himself as “a grateful recovering alcoholic.” When asked why, he said, “Because without the 12 steps of this program I never would have found God.”

The Rev. Hal Brady is an ordained United Methodist minister and executive director of Hal Brady Ministries, based in Atlanta. You can watch him preach every week on the Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters TV channel Thursdays at 8 p.m.

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