There’s a hole in your bucket list

The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? –John 4:11

* * *

What if I told you there was a hole in your bucket list?

That’s right. All the unfulfilled wishes, hopes and dreams you’ve been carrying in your bucket…they’re slowly dripping out and drying up.

Like water draining out of a bathtub.

Would you panic? Would you rush out into the street to find a Karaoke bar where you could sing “Hey Jude” — because you always wanted to? Would you charter a plane to Nepal so you could climb Mt Everest? Would you get that tattoo of Conan O’Brien on your shoulder?

Or, just possibly, would you feel relieved?

Having a bucket list brings some pressure with it. All those years of “I never” gathered up and carried around. It gets heavy, you know, sloshing that bucket around everywhere. Or maybe it would be sad to see those “I wish-es” go down the drain. Maybe you’d be able to rescue a couple dear ones, as the others evaporate.

Would you be mad? Take a couple deep breaths before you answer, because I have this theory…

I think God put the hole in your bucket.

Scandalous as it sounds, I think God is doing us a real favor, making our buckets leaky.

See, dreams can turn stale and even brackish when they sit in one place for too long. They become baggage. Heavy and unmanageable.  Hopes and wishes are meant to be acted upon, to be lived out, not to be collected and harbored.

I’m convinced God knows the limitations of buckets, when it comes to our aspirations.  Buckets are for storing water — or dreams — and God wants to see our water/dreams flowing freely.

That’s why, one day at a well, Jesus offered a woman something called Living Water. It was the kind of water that has no need of a bucket. It was the kind that flows through the heart and soul. This Living Water is the Spirit of God.

The Holy Spirit is ever-flowing. Active, adventurous, passionate, transforming. It is the perfect companion for you and I as we pursue our dreams. It is not about stagnation. When we match our dreams with God’s power, love, and energy, we can accomplish a whole list of amazing things in God’s name.

The moral of this story?  If you have a bucket list, you might want to feel a sense of urgency about it. Live the dream now. Don’t store your hopes away. Live as if today is a fresh start for your dreams…

the ones that are ready to pour out of you.

Have a Great Week,

Mitch

10 reasons to go to church

This is right on!

First Presbyterian in Argenta

I’ve just seen one too many articles on why people aren’t coming to church. Admittedly, there are some good reasons. But I’d like to share my top 10 reasons why you should be coming to church. Others will have different reasons and some may disagree with the ones I have listed, but here they are.

10. Coming to church doesn’t mean you have no doubts about God or faith or religion. It means you have a place you can share with people who have their own doubts.

9.  Bad stuff is going to happen in your life. It just is. A church community cannot be everything to everyone in times of crisis, but when the bottom falls out of your world, it’s great to have a community to lift you back up.

8. Bad stuff is going to happen in your life, part two. The time to build a relationship…

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The Church is not the Titanic (a mini manifesto)

I’m not trying to stick my head in the sand. I can read a bar graph as well the next guy.

I know The Church is struggling.

I also know that for myself, and for every church I’ve been a part of, there is so much more that could be done. Riskier decisions. Radical reorienting. Relevance to a younger generation.

But to vilify ourselves, to wag the finger of blame, or to panic in the face of impending doom is to deny the ongoing witness of millions of disciples currently occupying our pews and auditoriums.

More than once I have heard an anxious Christian describe our current efforts as “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic”. That our attempts to “fix” the problems of our sinking church are futile.

The Titanic?

I would like to suggest a different way for us to look at the current situation.

What if sin is the Titanic?

At first glance that image might not be particularly comforting either. But what if “the human condition” has put us all at peril from day one? (I seem to remember reading something about that in a Good Book somewhere)

Malice. Materialism. Selfishness. Haves and have-nots. Fear. Deceitfulness.

Christians today don’t necessarily agree on what items go on that list, but surely we can agree that sinful “ways of the world” are a constant threat to drag us all down. (Perhaps evil, then, is an iceberg?)

If sin is the Titanic, what does that make us?

I would like to suggest that the role of The Church is to be the lifeboats.

Picture the lifeboats on the Titanic. They were along for the same ride. Effected by the same iceberg. But in response to this perilous time that has effected us all, we are uniquely poised to offer something:

Life.

You may recall that there were issues with the lifeboats on the Titanic. There weren’t enough for everybody, and many were launched half full.

The lifeboats weren’t deployed properly, and people were left behind. That, too, has happened in our churches.

So, if this analogy holds true, I see The Church facing two dilemmas, if we are to function as we were created:

1. We have to respond to the same icebergs the whole world struggles with. We are susceptible to the same sinfulness, the same selfishness and fear that everyone faces.

2. We have to make sure our churches are ship-shape. Safe places in a crazy world. Reaching out with love and helping people move to a new way of living. We must be vigilantly equipped and deployed.

We’ve been working on this for years. From the beginning. And we’ve never stopped.

Never perfectly. Sometimes lamentably. We can and must do better.

It’s clear we have problems, but The Church is not the Titanic. It’s a massive fleet of lifeboats ON the Titanic. See the difference?

It is in the very nature of The Church to offer salvation. That has not changed.

Yes, our situation is serious. Our work ahead of us is tremendous. Our fleet needs training, and practice, and direction, but I believe these boats are sea-worthy.

If we can keep our wits about us, and minimize the panic, God willing, through Christ…

we can still save the world.

SPAM

Some People Are Mean.

Some Politicians Are Meddling.

Some Products Are Misleading.

No matter how you add it up, it’s all SPAM to me.

I get too much SPAM.

I’m not just talking about unwanted email messages. I’m talking about unwanted info. Too much input.

Junk mail in my mailbox. Pop-up ads on my computer. Pseudo-reality on the TV. Annoying posts on Facebook.

And don’t even get me started on Twitter.

Everywhere I turn I get another opinion, another blog, another political commentary. Everywhere I look I see another link to click, another coupon to redeem, another group to join.

Can you hear it? The babble? It seems like it’s everywhere these days. A constant cacophony of gossip and rhetoric and sarcastic remarks, all punctuated by cute pictures of kittens in roller-skates or somebody’s spectacular wedding disaster.

I think it’s getting louder! The you-know-what is getting deeper! The SPAM is taking over!

Sometimes I just want to yell

STOP!!!

Sometimes I pray for God to knock over this tower of babel and send us scurrying. But then I think…

A tower? With all this noise and confusion, how could any of us accomplish anything so grand? No, we have created a tower of SPAM, and something has to give.

Hmm. Maybe if I’m a little less vocal, and you’re a little less vocal, we’ll find some peace and quiet.

I don’t know. It seems like alone, we’ll never make it. It would take a miracle to calm this storm.

But God came in a still small voice.

And Jesus calmed the raging seas.

And the Spirit finds the quiet center.

So… Predict A Miracle.

Faith In Love Trumps Every Racket.

Have a good week,

Mitch

DO NOT mistake caffeine for the Holy Spirit

I’m somewhat of a walking and talking billboard for 5 hour energy drinks.

You know them? Those little red and yellow bottles that claim to pack a punch? They really work for me.

They give me a boost of energy (the equivalent of a cup of coffee), and just like they advertise, I don’t crash afterwards. It’s rare for a Sunday to go by without me draining one.

Lest I be judged for my dependence on these drinks, I’ll point out that I’m not the only caffeine junkie. Just look at the vats of coffee we put out on a Sunday morning, or the “free refills” of Diet Coke people pay $2.50 for in local restaurants.

Some like it hot, some like it cold, and some like it in a little magic bottle, but caffeine is, apparently, the drug of choice for lots of us.

Do you know what caffeine is? I had to look it up on Wikipedia. Apparently, caffeine is a “bitter, white crystalline xanthine alkaloid”, whatever that means. It’s found in certain leaves and plants, most notably coffee beans and tea leaves.

It is, “the world’s most consumed psychoactive drug”, and 90% of Americans ingest caffeine on a daily basis.

Wow.

Honestly, I’m not here to debate caffeine’s health merits or deficits. I’m here to ask a simple question:

If we have caffeine, do we still need the Holy Spirit?

I mean, caffeine wakes us up in the morning. It helps us focus. It opens us to inspiration. It gives us the little push some of us need to get moving.

Didn’t that use to be God’s job? Inspiring us, energizing us, focusing us and getting us moving?

Didn’t that used to be the work of the Spirit?

Well the answer is obviously ‘yes’, that’s always been the work of the Spirit. No “xanthine alkaloid” could ever take the place of God in our lives.

But, just in case we forget, here are 3 ways that caffeine could never replace the Holy Spirit:

1. The Holy Spirit is Holy Energy. This is more than some stimulant. It is the creative impulse, the loving urge, the power of Grace. The Spirit won’t just change your morning. It will change your life.

2. The Holy Spirit Gives Direction. The Holy Spirit fills us and then leads us. To new ministry fields, to new realizations, to each other. Coffee usually just leads you to…more coffee.

3. The Holy Spirit Does Not Fade. How long does a coffee buzz last? An hour? Maybe two? Not so with the Holy Spirit. This is the eternal God we’re talking about. Love without end.

Is it really possible for someone to mistake the work of their latte for the work of the Holy Spirit?

Maybe so. We’re so used to taking shortcuts (i.e. caffeine) for making things happen in our lives, we just might mistake a short-term boost for the real thing.

But when the Spirit touches your life, when you’re turned to receive it, there’s nothing like it. A life in the Spirit is a life of real joy, and adventure, and challenge.

A little caffeine might be a way of waking up…

but the Holy Spirit is a way of life.

Have a great week,

Mitch

(This devotion originally appeared as a blog on churchcentral.com)