Recently I read Heaven Is For Real, by Todd and Sonja Burpo with Lynn Vincent.
I didn't intend to read it. But I kept hearing about it, and then there it was on the NY Times Best Seller List. For years I have kept an eye on the "List" - as it is one of the ways I try to stay well-informed.
But I just was not interested in reading some cheesy story about some "visit to heaven". I believe in heaven, but I also believe that most of the "I walked toward a tunnel and a brilliant light beckoned me" stuff is just some body's over-active imagination, and not a brilliant one either. But this account was not like that.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but one of things that most impressed me about the story of little Coulton Burpo was that despite the fact that it is decidedly "heavenly", it is also very down-to-earth. It was an encouragement, and I needed one. Real warmth and humility shone through its pages.
There is also another book on the NY Times Best Seller List about heaven, and it has been on the list for over 100 weeks so obviously lots of people have read it and liked it. I also recently read this one - or tried to. (Here is where the irritated part comes in.) Repeatedly the narrator says, "words fail me" or "there are no words", etc. in reference to what he saw or heard during his visit to heaven. Although I believe the author was honestly trying to give an accurate account of his experience, this one was a frustrating read.
Yesterday I sent a copy of the Burpo book to my sister, whose adult son, my nephew, is terminally ill. I spoke with her first by phone to check as to whether she would welcome such a book at this time, or whether it might be too much, too close, too imminent?
She said, "Oh, please send it. This is so hard, sitting here day after day, hour by hour. Hospice is here for a couple of hours at a time, but this is a 24/7 situation now, and I could really use the encouragement. So could K. (her son). The nurse asked him yesterday whether he had given thought to his funeral arrangements."
Yes, heaven is for real, and some of us are going there sooner than others. I believe heaven is real, and that through the sacrifice of Jesus for my sins, I am going there when I die. But I have not been told that I have only a few weeks to live. That is a message that is hard for our human ears to hear and accept.
And thus, just today, I read yet another wonderful testimony of a heavenly-home going. And thank God, it was another powerful account of God's grace and willingness to meet us at our worst, love us anyway, and welcome us home in His perfect timing.
If you are like me, in a very tough time in your family, I would recommend this book called Same Kind of Different As Me . It is no cheerful little homily about how everything goes nicely for God's chosen. It is a tough read, especially if you have recently stood by the bedside of a loved one who died, and you are preparing to do so again in a matter of weeks.
But if you are up to the journey, it is one worth taking with Ron Hall and Denver Moore, both aided and abetted by the terrific writer Lynn Vincent. I believe you will be encouraged, and we can all use an encouraging word.