I was at the airport in Columbia, SC, about to take a plane to Atlanta. Many times while at that same airport, I had seen that the bookstore there was offering that you could buy a book and then return it within the next 6 months and get half the price you had paid for it back. Even though I had thought of doing it, I had never done it. This time, the sign with such an offer was not displayed. I decided to go in and ask if they still had that offer. The lady pointed me to the books that were included in such an offer. I glanced through several of the books and I wondered which one would I take. There were several best-sellers…mainly novels. I had not read any novels in quite a long time. It was not as easy as I thought it would be to decide which one I would get. Suddenly, the lady from the counter pointed me to some other books and said that I could also buy any of those books which were only half their price since they had already been read by someone. As soon as I looked towards where she had pointed, a narrow book caught my attention. The title was “ Heaven is for Real.” I just immediately knew this was the book I would get and I also knew that the reason that I had gone into the bookstore this time was to get that book. Sometimes things were so clear to me that I was amazed… I just knew…Other times, I just asked God for forgiveness when things seemed not to be so clear and then I realized this was only due to my own human doubts and fears.
The power of this book surprised me. I boarded my plane with the book in my hand. Before reaching my seat, a young man asked me “Where are you already in the book?” I did not understand the question and he asked me again up to what part had I already read. I told him that I was just going to start reading it. He smiled and he said he had already read it.
I started reading the book and there were several phrases that caught my attention. They had to do with the purity and innocence of the comments made by the child and with the reactions of the parents. I marked those phrases without yet knowing that I would use them later to write what I am now writing. After that first flight, I did not take my book out again until I sat down 2 days later in another plane. While I was reading the book, some passengers were still boarding. One young lady passed by me and talked to me saying: “I have that same book! I can´t wait to start reading it!” I smiled back, amazed at how people who I did not know were just talking to me because of the book, and knowing that this were not just “coincidences”, but new evidences of how God works.
While finishing the book during that second flight, I felt the urge to write a summary of what I had felt while reading it. Some parts had brought tears to my eyes…
Pastor Todd Burpo, Colton’s father, writes about the events that had to do with his almost 4 year-old son´s health critical condition and how his son recovered miraculously. He describes how, after his recovery, his son started to talk about his visit to heaven during several conversations and basically for years. Pastor Todd, and his wife Sonja, tried to rationalize everything their son said. They were trying to look for an explanation other than simply accept that their son had really visited heaven and had really talked to Jesus and seen the Holy Spirit, God the Father, his great grandfather, John the Baptist, and many others.
This book is very easy to read, very down to earth and simply narrates how Colton explained his visit to heaven.
For me, the more interesting part is how it is filled with evidences that are not just coincidences…How everything happened for a reason…How God just made a miracle and how we, with our human logic, that has nothing to do with God´s mysterious ways, try to find explanations to what to a child would seem completely normal and logical.
Life continues normally for Colton…but he and his family were blessed…He is a normal child…but he had the opportunity to live an amazing experience and his family participated of it…Now, others reading the book, can also participate…
The angels sang to Colton…He saw his great-grandfather whom he had never met…He recognized him in a picture where his great-grandfather was young…He realized no one in heaven had glasses…He knew about a sister that had died when she was only 2 months within his mother´s womb…He sat in Jesus´s lap…He described Jesus and the angels…He talked about how pretty Jesus’ eyes are…He knew exactly what his parents were doing and where they were while he was in surgery… So many evidences…but still, his father Todd, a pastor, explains how he doubted…how he wondered…Todd has always believed in God…He decided to serve Him after he heard His calling when he was 13 years old…and notwithstanding this, he reacted like any human being would…trying to rationalize what would have been quite clear to the eyes of a child…He acted like a detective…But…thanks to that and because of his understanding, his wife´s support and the advice of his friends, he wrote this book that I believe can help explain many things about heaven.
The following questions and statements are spread throughout the book, evidencing how many times Pastor Todd questioned what had happened…
“how could he have known?”…
“could this be real?”…
“…we were astonished when we found out that…the total was what we needed…”
«Man, those Sunday school teachers sure are doing a good job!”…”It was not until four months after Colton´s surgery … that Sonja and I finally got a clue that something extraordinary had happened to our son…Sure there had been a string of quirky things Colton had said and done since the hospital…But rushing by as brief scenes in the busyness of family life, those things just seemed…well, kind of cute. Except for the funeral thing which was just plain weird.
But not supernatural weird. It was not until we were driving to North Platte in the way to South Dakota that the lights came on.”
“If Colton really had a supernatural encounter, I certainly did not want to ask him leading questions.”
“Mentally, I scolded myself: Don´t offer information. Just let him talk…”
“Suddenly, I realized that up until that point, I’d been toying with the idea that maybe Colton had had some sort of divine visitation. Maybe Jesus and the angels had appeared to him in the hospital.I’d heard of similar phenomena many times when people were as near death as Colton had been. Now it was dawning on me that not only was my son saying he had left his body; he was saying he had left the hospital!”
“Slowly, I began to wrap my mind around the possibility that this was real.”
“I was amazed that my son was describing Jesus in pretty much human terms –then amazed that I was amazed, since our own faith revolves around the idea that man is made in God´s image and Jesus both came to earth and returned to heaven as a man.”
“How could my little boy know this stuff””
“Maybe it was true.”
“With all my heart I wanted to believe.”
When we are in deserts…very hard moments…our faith and strength may fail us…It is then when we most need it and we need to ask the Holy Spirit for it. This also happens when we try to give a scientific explanation to everything that occurs. I wished we could all have child-like faith…
Tears came to my eyes when I read the following paragraph, “it dawned on me that maybe we´d been given a gift and that our job now was to unwrap it slowly, carefully and see what was inside.”. I have felt the same way for the last 2 years and I am still unwrapping my gift. I call it “the Project” because it all comes together and I know it…I have also known from the beginning that it is not just for me to keep…That it is something that I need to share and that it will touch many hearts…I have already seen that happening and continue seeing it happening…However, it still amazes me, like it amazes Pastor Todd, and I continue day by day just standing in awe at the power and love of our Creator.
I could just agree with the statement that we should all have childlike humility…Why and how did we lose it? I prayed that we would recover our humbleness…
It was interesting to learn that Colton had indicated that he had just left his body for 3 minutes. As Pastor Todd indicates and the Bible says, with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day…
Tears filled my eyes again when I read this part, “…when I was angry at God because I could not go to my son, hold him and comfort him, God’s son was holding my son in his lap.” I have asked God to always take care of my children. It does not matter where they are. They could never be in better hands than in His hands.
It was nice to read how the Holy Spirit in Colton´s words “shoots down power” for us…I have experienced the peace that surpasses all understanding and I have felt His power when I know I can not continue any longer…as I am sure many of us have.
The part which relates to the Lithuanian American girl named Akiane Kramarik, who lived in Idaho and had begun having “visions of heaven” at the age of 4 really caught my attention. I always wonder why we do not share more all of the circumstances where we have felt the power of God in our lives…If we would, there would not be time to do anything else but to praise Him and to thank Him… The part where it read, “A self-taught artist who says her inspiration comes from above. Paintings that are spiritual, emotional…and created by a twelve-year old prodigy”…These words were so similar to the ones I had pronounced so many times in the 2 last years…the inspiration is contagious and I was just an instrument…I knew I was not capable of writing the beautiful poetry and the amazing songs that were just flowing…I knew they were coming “from above.”
It was beautiful to realize that Colton finally recognized Jesus in the image painted by Akiane…”Coincidences or simply evidences?”
We just know…we just know when something we do is beyond us…Pastor Todd also recognizes that when he writes, “I breathed a prayer of thanks to the Holy Spirit, who had clearly “shot down power”, giving me an answer for this grieving woman, because I can tell you right now, I´m not smart enough to have thought of it myself.”
There have been two seasons in my life, that I can identify very easily, which I have defined to be “the two worst years of my life and the two best years of my life.” Both times, separated by almost exactly 10 years, have been really the best and the worst at the same time. When reading the following paragraph in Todd’s Burpo recount, I understood perfectly well where he wrote, “To this day, the miraculous story of his (Colton) visit to heaven and the story of almost losing our son are one and the same event to us.”
Life continues and I liked the title that Colton’s sister suggested for Todd´s book…”He´s back, but He´s No Angel.” No need to be an angel…We are humans and God understands it…He created us…What we need is to be humble…to achieve and maintain the humility that will allow us to be close to Him, notwithstanding all of our faults and weaknesses. May we just always recognize His glory and share with others the beautiful gift that His Son gave us when He died for us on the cross…
November 3, 2013
Flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Atlanta