Part IV–The Christian Bucket List

20. Cater lunch for the entire church.

Now, if your name is Clyde Etheridge (a deacon in my church), then you’ll not need to cater it; you can feed everyone yourself. I was in the church office this week when Clyde walked in and asked Julie, my daughter-in-law and the pastor’s administrative assistant, if the bulletin had been done for Sunday. He inserted a note that next Wednesday night’s meal would be a Mexican feast in honor of Cinco de Mayo. He said, “I’ve never done this before, but it might be fun.”

I admire people who can do this. I’m not one of them.

A few weeks ago, as we were completing a five-day meeting at Salem Baptist Church in lovely Brundidge, Alabama, Pastor Bobby Hood informed the congregation that they were all to stay for lunch on Sunday. “Sue and I are providing it for you.” They paid to have it catered for the entire church.

I said, “Bobby, how do you do that?” He smiled, “With a check.”

Smart aleck.

My siblings and I once did it for the entire church back at Nauvoo, Alabama, on the Sunday following our reunion, but I’ve never tried it by myself. An interesting idea.

19. Write down the story of your life.

Now, unless you are a gifted writer, the story of your life would not be for publication. You would write it for your grandchildren and their offspring.

“Oh, my life is not that interesting,” you protest. Whether it is or isn’t is not the issue. The fact is that you are fascinating to your future descendants. They will want to know all about you, where you came from, who your folks were, what they did for a living, what interesting family tales you have to relate.

Be sure to put down dates and locations. And remember one more aspect of a good story: conflict is great.

If there were wars in the family or strife over some issue, disagreements over politics, a schism over religion, a divorce over scandal–well, okay, you might want to gloss this over–or a feud over old grievances, tell it. If the scandal is 50 years or older, then write down every juicy detail you recall.

18. Keep a journal for a year of your life.

I’ve told on this website how I kept one for an entire decade. It filled 46 books which now occupy a bottom shelf in my home study. It chronicles every sermon I preached, every grandchild’s birth, every event in our church and family for the decade of the 1990s.

I recommend hand-writing the journal.

The best way to keep a journal is by purchasing hard-bound wordless books at the local bookstore or stationery dealer. It is not essential to wait for January 1 to begin. Just buy a book, letter it “No. 1,” jot the date at the top of the page, and start writing.

What will you write? Tell about what you did today, whatever news everyone is talking about, important things that occurred, what you ate (sometimes; don’t do that every day), what movies you saw, what television you watched, what books you are reading, what magazines, what the preacher preached last Sunday (as well as who he is, where you go to church), what you feel strongly about, what the doctor said about your condition, and remember to include the conflict.

If your neighbor stood in the yard and cursed you out over something, write it down, leaving out the actual words. If your boss accused you unfairly at the office, write it down. Defend yourself. Hey, it’s your book–you can write anything you want. Do so. Have fun. You heard a good joke; write it down.

17. Do a blog.

These days, it’s possible to have your own blog without it costing you a cent. Don’t ask me how, but plenty of people around you have one and can tell you.

My son Marty set this one up nearly 10 years ago. He reserved “” and said, “One of these days you’ll be needing it.” Little did we know. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, for several weeks this blog was our contact with the rest of the world.

Our website, this “blog” (which is a contraction of “web log”), is provided by an outfit called Hosting Matters and costs me something over $100 per year. A bargain if there has ever been one.

16. Master one of the new techni-gadgets.

The cell phones, Blackberries, iPods, iPhones, and such seem to be endless. Do not ask me the difference. My cell phone is standard issue and no doubt has capabilities I’m not aware of. All I want is a phone, not a computer in my hand. But that’s what I have. It’s a still camera and a motion picture camera and a hundred other things.

I suspect that many of my generation (I finished high school in 1958) would not fear the modern techno-craze so much if they were skilled in the use of some of the gadgets.

How to learn: ask a grandchild. (Works for me.)

15. Plant a flower garden.

My family will laugh at my listing this. Three or four years ago, with the help of son Neil, I set out roses in the back yard and one cutting in the front. They are still bearing roses to some degree without a lot of encouragement from me. That’s good, because while I do appreciate beautiful flowers, I don’t seem to have the patience to do what it takes to produce them.

Nevertheless, for those who have never tried to grow flowers and who now have a little time on their hands, this would be a wonderful thing to do. Visit your local plant nursery and read up on the subject. Or help a friend with his garden and learn by the old-fashioned hands-on method.

14. Read a book of Christian theology.

Too many laypeople leave the theology to the pastor. Not a smart thing to do. Not every pastor is trustworthy or, even if he is, not every pastor is diligent in working out finer points of Scripture’s teachings.

Start with your church library. Browse. And don’t worry about the posted hours for the library to open. Call the church office. Unless you are unknown to them, the secretary will unlock the door and turn on the lights and you can pull up a chair and enjoy yourself.

Find a good book on what Christian’s believe. That’s theology. If you are fairly well versed in the Bible, get the kind of book that a seminary would use for a text. Ask your pastor to recommend a good one. Or go online at and see what they have.

It’s not easy or we’d not put it on the list.

13. Develop a 15 minute comedy routine–and present it in public.

There are two main approaches to this: compile all your family stories into one routine, or flesh the program out with your favorite jokes and funny stories.

I do a half-dozen banquets a year. For the first part of the program, I’ll get people from the audience and caricature them on posters. The second part is made up of stories from churches I’ve pastored, church people I have know, lessons learned in nearly 50 years of ministry. For the last part, I gently segue into a devotional, inspirational conclusion. And even in this last segment, I’m telling stories.

Anyone can do that. If you need help telling the stories, enlist help. Get friends or family members to listen and critique and make suggestions.

12. Throw a street party for your neighborhood.

Get the permission of neighbors (and the police if necessary) to block off the street for a couple of hours, print up flyers and invite everyone, talk some friends into helping you prepare food and lead games, hire the space walks and clowns, and if you’re in the New Orleans area, call me to come over and sketch people. If I can, I’ll do it.

Why in the world would anyone want to do this?

To get to know the neighbors. To add some fun into the humdrum lives of everyone. To have the perfect excuse to over-eat. Or best of all, because you are a fun person.

11. If you live in the area where you went to school, buy season tickets to the ball games. Attend and cheer, learn the names of players, and act like a kid again.

There is too much seriousness in this world. Sometimes we just need to relax. Few things are as recreational as attending a high school or college ball game.

I dare you.

10. (Next one.)