Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo

  Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo tells the story of a 3-year-old's experiences in heaven in a fascinating and completely believable way. Initially, I feared the story would be one of leading questions and ideas planted in a young child's head. This, however, was not the case.

After going through various physical trials and ready to relax with his family, Todd Burpo takes them on a vacation. Almost postponed by a particularly bad case of the flu in his son Colton, the well-rested, recovering boy, his sister and parents take off for a nice trip. Suddenly waylaid by a frightening recurrence, the family returns to their hometown and family doctor.

Days later, with an increasing look of death on the boy, Todd and Sonja make the call to remove Colton to a bigger hospital 90 minutes away. Immediately diagnosed with a burst appendix, the boy is whisked into surgery screaming for dad. Todd pours out his anger and fear to God in a small out-of-the-way room while his wife frantically calls friends and family for fervent prayers.

Once out of surgery, Colton immediately begins to scream for Dad again. After another horrific relapse the family is released and Colton celebrates his 4th birthday.

Not until several months later, while passing by the hospital, does Colton mention that the hospital was the place "the angels sang to him." After several of these kind of extemporaneous statements, including stating that he had seen Jesus, the Burpo's begin to believe that Colton had some kind of supernatural visitation in his hospital room. He also accurately described his father and mother's actions and location during the surgery, using details he could not possible have known.

Over the next year and beyond, the details slowing begin to come out that Colton had, in fact, visited Heaven. Even though he had never technically died, he vividly recalled meeting Jesus' cousin, John, his grandpa, Pop, who had passed away 25 years before his birth, seeing God's throne, and sitting by the God the Holy Spirit, whom he described as "blue." Committed to asking no leading questions or even supplying words to describe what Colton told them, his parents patiently waited for the story to come piece by piece from their pre-schooler.

Shock and true belief set in when Colton described his older sister greeting him in heaven. Unbeknownst to Colton, his mom had miscarried a baby at 2 months gestation between the birth of him and his older sister. They never knew the baby was a girl, and they had never named her. Colton quoted her as saying she couldn't wait for her parents to arrive so she could finally have a name!

Vivid details and knowing things he could not possibly have known convinced his parents that their son had in fact been to heaven. Later, Todd is convicted for yelling at God when Colton tells him the reason he screamed, "Dad" when coming out of surgery. God had told Colton that He was sending him back to answer the father's prayer. As Todd puts the pieces together, he realizes that while he was screaming to God about how unfair He was, his son was sitting on the lap of Jesus. God answered the prayer of a man who had no idea what he was talking about!

The biggest message Colton wanted to get out was the love of God. It ended every story, every detail, every new revelation. In describing the throne and size of God, Colton felt it necessary to add how big God's love is. He especially focused on the love Jesus has for children.

Although Colton sat on Jesus' lap and remembered Him vividly for his eyes, beard, and especially for His love, he could not exactly describe what He looked like. For the next several years, it became a game with the family, when in the presence of a "portrait" of Jesus, to ask, "What's wrong with this one?" Never did Colton find a picture that he believed accurately depicted the Prince of Peace.

Once day, after finally sharing the story publicly, someone mentioned a girl named, Akiane Kramarik. Raised in an atheist home without television, the girl had begun having visions of Jesus and heaven at the age of four. A prodigy painter by the age of six, she was finally able to communicate on canvas what she saw. Her picture of Christ caught the attention of the Burpos. In one glance, Colton knew exactly who it was. For the first time, here was an image that had nothing wrong with it. Jesus looked back at Colton with the eyes he knew so well.

This chilling story tantalizes with the reality of heaven. I can't wait to go there!

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