Spiritual Bucket List

ultimate-bucket-listI’m 44 years old (as I write this) and the weight of time has become a more heavy reality recently.  I’m in good health and I’m more energized about life than ever, yet I have a renewed sense of “I’ve got to get after this stuff….” bubbling in me.   I’ve never had a bucket list of things I need to check off before I die but the thought of getting focused around the larger things in life and the limited time I have left led me to consider a spiritual bucket list.  A list that is pushes me beyond normal annual goals or pithy wish lists and is leading me to follow God in such a radical way that my boundaries are being reset.

I doubt the concept of a spiritual bucket list is new. While doing some research on great spiritual bucket lists (try Googling “spiritual bucket list”) I saw many spiritual destination locations and self help suggestions. Suggestions of prayer resorts, experiences for healing your past, finding inner peace and exercises that will increase joy seem to top the list. That wasn’t the list I was looking for. While those are interesting they don’t significantly motivate me many of those can be completed out of my own strength. God wouldn’t even have to show up…. That’s not right! I decided that my spiritual bucket list should be something that so excites me that I literally launch out of bed in the morning.  A spiritual bucket list should ONLY be able to be accomplished when God shows up and amazes me through the process. When I stretch into my spiritual bucket list I should see God’s fingerprints throughout it as He would need to open the doors and make the way or I’d fall down in the process. He would need to show up and show off as I could never complete this list out of my own strength.

Don’t get me wrong, these are not about “me” and what I can see or do. These are about Jesus. They are about creating an environment around me that significantly impacts the word with His love and His power. It is about really understanding how much God wants to interact with us and impact not only our own lives, but the lives around us. I cannot imagine a more exciting time to go after the things that God can do!

Here’s my list…. What’s yours?
  • Live out of a wildly strong identity in Christ
  • Regularly fall in love with the Bible and it’s author
  • Steward a family relationship with Jesus that is unshakeable
  • Learn to worship God in new and unique ways each year, even if I look stupid doing it
  • Pray for / share Christ to 500 people a year
  • Raise at least one person from the dead (Matthew 10:8)
  • Give away 90% of our income per year and live on 10%
  • Write at least 1 book that is meaningful to many
  • Introduce and foster a kingdom mindset into the local marketplace and city government
  • Make Jesus famous by regularly teaching in a multitude of locations and settings (both marketplace and ministry)
  • Be invited to teach and share kingdom principles to the largest organizations in the region
  • Read 20 books a year that stretch me
  • Help to end homelessness is South Bend forever
  • Help create a church planting and leadership development process that is not dependent on me and launches at least 50 churches in 30 years
  • Help start and lead a tent revival where 1,000 people come to know Jesus

Perhaps the Lord – Giving God Room

YmQFmoTjAfter hearing a great message in the fall and while praying about some major initiatives recently I have become more aware of the importance of giving God room to move.  While God can certainly move any direction He wants in any situation, what I believe He has shown me is that our prayers and our expectations of what He can do are woefully inadequate.  If we believe God can provide the BEST answer, are we asking Him for things that are miles too short of what he could provide?

In 2Samuel 14:6, Jonathan leads his armor bearer to an interesting journey and says to his young armor bearer  “Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf.”  Are we leaning in to situations and giving God room to show up?  Are we praying prayers that, if He answered, would ONLY give glory to Him because it would be impossible to accomplish in your own strength?  Are we trying to get a glimpse of what God may want to happen, stepping in to that and asking Perhaps the Lord….?

This has substantially changed my prayer life and I now encourage:

  • Pray instead of act toward my desired outcome – There are times that I act first to get the outcome that I desire, hoping or assuming that God will agree with me.  I’m learning to pray and give God room to move.  I’ve seen more answer to prayer because I’m giving God space where I used to jump out of my own effort.
  • Pray and ask for a timeframe – I don’t do this to test God, but perhaps the Lord will answer my prayer instead of putting an open ended ask.  It builds expectation.
  • Pray the crazy prayers – When we were looking for a new church property for a campus we prayed some crazy wild prayers.  Looking back it allowed us to see God in the process more clearly.  We saw things that only God could have done in response to those prayers.
  • Pray with expectation that it will be answered – If you are going to pray it, then test it.  If you pray for healing, check it out right away.  If you want an answer to a question, have paper and pencil in hand expecting an answer.

Perhaps the Lord…..

Changing from “What if God doesn’t….?” to “What if God did?”… Rethinking reasons we don’t pray for patients

nurse-praysWhen I’ve inquired why healthcare professionals don’t specifically pray for their patients, usually the top reason is the potential for disappointment if God doesn’t answer the prayer.  “I don’t want to leave the patient spiritually injured and questioning God while they are also sick” is a common comment.

Healthcare professionals, especially ones that work in hospital settings, are regularly dealing with situations that are dire, tragic or at the very least, challenging.  Patients frequently desire a “now God intervention”  in their situation and it can be scary facing the reality of God’s timing, which may be an answer of “not yet”. Trying to navigate this with a patient, in the moment, can be unsettling.  The question that stops us from praying turns to “What if God doesn’t…..”

Let’s not mix up that the satan comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10) and that a loving Father God doesn’t send sickness and disease to teach his children a lesson.  Using that as a foundation  What if we turn the question from “what if God doesn’t” to “what if God did“?  How can we start thinking in a way that the God of the universe wants to show up and change a life in a significant way today? We might be one prayer away from a miracle 3 feet in front of us. Praying for your patients and their care can be incredibly healthy and spiritually significant.


John 14:13-14 – Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

In a future post I will share practical tips for praying with patients without leaving them spiritually injured….

Practical thoughts on praying for patients

medicine-prayerAfter transitioning to full time ministry after 20 years in healthcare I have heard numerous stories and questions about praying for patients.  I love hearing the stories of how healthcare professionals pray through their floor or room, or pray for their patients before procedures.  I recall being informed of a patient who was seriously injured and in the intensive care unit and someone asked me, as the president of the hospital and a Christian, to go pray with that patient, which I absolutely did.

What I’ve learned over the last few months as I’ve spoken to many healthcare professionals is that the question about prayer in patient care is changing from an academic question, to one that is more practical.   There has been growing evidence about the healing power of prayer (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18414311  – one of many research studies on prayer in healthcare).  While the ethical considerations of prayer for patients and healing potential could be debated forever, what seemingly isn’t being discussed is the practical HOW question.  Moving the question of prayer from “Can I pray for my patients” to “How do I pray with my patients” is incredibly important!

I want to share some practical ways to bring your faith and the power of God into the discussion of caring for your patients.

  1. Pray for your patient list as you are reviewing your assigned patients – It can be a quick prayer for each as you review their current plan for the day.
  2. Let your patient know that you prayed for them – This is a great way to break the ice with them and let them know, in a non-confrontational way, that you took the time and prayed for them.  I’ve prayed for atheists, muslims, satan worshippers, agnostics, other christians and I’ve not had anyone yet get mad that I said that I prayed for them.  They may clarify their beliefs and may reveal they are not Christian, which is helpful for you to know, but almost always they will be grateful.
  3. Ask what you could pray for  – This might sound silly as you likely already know why they are in for care, but you might be surprised what they ask for.  Many may ask for healing (a future post coming on this topic), but others may ask you to pray for their family, for financial situations to work out, or for spouses.  This also helps you understand what their fears are and what their hopes are.  Praying for the fears can be incredibly powerful.  May years ago I had the privilege to with  Colleen Sweeney who has done a phenomenal job understanding and speaking on the importance of addressing fears of patients.  What better way to address them than to pray for them!
  4. Don’t wait to pray, pray NOW – After you ask what you can pray for, many people believe you are going to pray later.  Don’t wait – PRAY NOW!  When Jesus found someone in need he acted immediately.  When I read the book of Acts I see needs being met with prayer in the moment, not later in the evening.  Don’t be afraid to pray right away.  I’ve heard a few in healthcare be frightened to pray because “what if it isn’t answered”?  Great question, but it’s not your concern – pray and let God figure out the timing and the answer.  (This will be a future blog post as well)
  5. Pray specifically and pray with command, with expectation and with confidence – One of my favorite quotes about prayer is from Mark Batterson “Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers. God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less. If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God”.  When you pray, pray with confidence that the God of the universe hears you and wants to show up and intervene.  Remember – The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10) and the situation you are praying for is to bring the kingdom of God into the situation.  The prayer doesn’t have to be long or eloquent.  Some of the best answers I’ve seen to prayer (in the moment) is from sloppy prayers that I prayed.

The power of prayer in healthcare is yet to be realized!


Prayer Lists – A Journey

Grand TetonsMaybe I’m unique, but having a prayer list has proven to be a challenging journey for me over the years.  I’ve wrestled with paper lists, electronic lists, reminders, no-lists and just from memory, etc etc.  I’ve downloaded all the great prayer apps for my phone looking for the perfect app or system – guess what…the perfect app doesn’t exist.  Stepping into full time ministry, and being the pastor over prayer ministries has again been a growing season as the number of things I pray for has substantially increased which is an incredible blessing and exciting but also pushed me to clarify how I manage and be productive and honoring with a prayer list.

Here is how I manage my prayer list:

First and most importantly if someone wants you to pray for something – pray for it NOW instead of writing it down.  If someone asks you to pray for something there is NO better time than in that moment to pray for it.  This shocks people sometimes, but WHY WAIT?

For requests that I should be praying for regularly, or for things I’m praying for frequently I have to keep a written list.  Paper lists don’t work for me because I tend to find time to pray for things at different places and times and I want my list with me all the time.  Don’t assume that you have to mark out an hour every morning as your only time to pray (although that’s a great time!) – go through your prayer list during the day, review it before you jump in your car for a drive so you can pray while you are driving instead of listening to the radio (with your eyes open), review it when you are waiting in line for something.

I use an electronic task management system (an app called 2do).  In that system I also store my prayer lists in multiple categories.  My categories currently are:

Wednesday Group – a group of guys that meet on Wednesdays to share life together.

Family – self explanatory, but all of the requests for my entire family.

Vineyard – This is for church specific prayer requests.  For example, leaders, members needing prayer, etc.

Project WARM – Another ministry we run in downtown South Bend.

Personal – Requests I’m praying for related to me

Home Group – Items I’m praying for related to our home group.

Because I’ve grouped the requests it is easy to review in context and update the notes for the request.  Once that prayer is answered I write down as much detail as I can recall and mark it complete.  I keep those completed requests and search them later to remind myself of all of the prayer requests that God answered and how.  Most any todo app has the same functionality, and the benefit of using a todo app is you can also use it for all of your other tasks.

For 2016 I’ll be challenging myself to memorize as much as my ongoing prayer list as possible.

Hanging out with God – What that looks like for me

logo-twgOne of the areas that I’ve been working on over the last year is spending quality time with God. This goes beyond just worship during normal weekend services, or prayer times each day.   I try, twice a month, to mark 6-8 hours (at least) to spend time alone with God.  From a previous post on “How to Recharge in Ministry” I received a great question on what that looks like specifically for me.  We are all busy, have a million things going on, and so I thought it might be useful to process the practical way in which I try to spend that much time in a focused manner.

Here are the practical steps I take when I’m spending that time along:

  1. Take only the necessary items – For me this includes my laptop, my journals (blog post of how I journal) and my phone.  I don’t take any books, study helps, etc. but take enough that as my mind races to different things I have what I need to mentally process things only once.
  2. Don’t go with an agenda – If I go into my time with a specific agenda, because I’m task oriented, I can blow through time I should be spending with the Father in a matter of minutes or at most an hour or two.  If I approach the time with an open agenda and allow God to build the agenda as I go I find that a few hours is never enough.
  3. Mentally process things once – My mind races when I try to spend time with God, especially when I first start out.  Processing things once is a fairly common productivity tip that tells you to only touch tasks once.  Too often we think of something and then have to think about it frequently before it gets done.  At its basic form, if an idea, thought or task comes to my mind I want to be able to get it out of my mind as quickly as possible without having to remember it later.  It wants mental cycles to think about it and try to remember it, why it was important, etc.  The key, for me for this, is to WRITE IT DOWN.  It doesn’t matter what your system is, but HAVE A SYSTEM.  I use a paper journal and an electronic todo system.
  4. Journal your dialogue with God – Have a dialogue with God, through prayer, and write down your question or thought and what you heard.  If you were meeting with the President, or the Mayor wouldn’t you have a paper and pencil, or have some way to record the conversation?  Do the same thing with God.  Some of the greatest answers to prayer I’ve received was through journaling a dialogue of prayer.   For me this starts out what a normal journal might look like and then moves to questions that I’m wrestling with and then I write down what I believe God is saying about that.

While I’m still “perfecting” how I do this, I find the time incredibly useful and productive.  The more I focus on this time, and look forward to it, I believe the more useful I am in between these longer meetings with God.

I pray that you the time as well – I highly recommend it.