There have been many stories written about heaven - to the delight of believers and to the boredom of skeptics. Some relish in knowing what the future may hold, that is, what it's really like "up there". Others may chalk it up to fantasy. But this is the time of the year that reminds us that something special is happening and stories of supernatural experiences are usually welcomed.
Whether we want to be assured that we're on the right track or simply want to know more just to satisfy our curiosity, is up to the reader. But we have available to us a delightful story about a charming little boy who tells us with his innocent honest and truthfulness about his trip to heaven and back. It's a relatively short read that will appeal to both the religious and to those who may still have doubts. Chances are that once the reader picks the book up, he may not be able to put it down.
The name of the book is "Heaven Is For Real" and it's written by the little boy's father, Todd Burpo (with Lynn Vincent), who is the Wesleyan pastor of a small church in Imperial, Nebraska, a volunteer fire-fighter, a high school wrestling coach and, to help keep body and soul together, owns an overhead garage door business.
The little boy's mom is Sonja, a teacher with a master's degree in library science. The little four-year-old boy, the hero of our story, is Colton, and he has a six-year-old sister named Cassie.
The story has many ups and downs so the details will not appear here to spoil the suspense. But it traces Colton's very serious illness and tells the reader what he saw and heard in his out-of-body experience. Although his heart never stopped, Colton rose up over the operating table and saw his doctor "fixing him". Then he went on a magical trip to the great beyond.
Much later, after he had healed, he would unload some bombshells on his startled parents. One day, when the family was driving past the hospital where Colton was operated on, his father asked him if he remembered being there. He answered, "yes, that's where the angels sang to me." What? Both parents paused, looked at each other in total surprise, only to be further astonished when he continued, saying, "I was sitting on Jesus' lap."
Later, to explain the circumstances even further, Colton said to his parents, "you know Jesus has a cousin? Jesus told me his cousin baptized him. I don't remember his name, but he was really nice". What? The tough, no-nonsense John The Baptist, who ate locusts and risked bee strings to eat their honey, was nice?
Colton would drop bombs of close and personal experiences on his parents revealing knowledge he would not have previously known even though he is the son of a very devout minister. He even put the age-old question we mortals always ask - do dogs go to heaven? Well, according to our precious, little friend, not only dogs go up there, but also all kinds of animals. And, you equestrians out there, who are reading this column, will be pleased to know that "Jesus has a horse".
Other startling revelations include Jesus' clothes. According to Colton, "Jesus was the only one in heaven who had purple on". Although he didn't explain it further, because he probably didn't know, that the color purple is the color of kings. And, after each revelation, he'd say to his parents, "did you know that?" His dad thought, "yeah, but how did you know it?"
Colton saw a lot of people in heaven. He mentioned that there were a lot of children because "Jesus really, really loves children". He even recognized one of his great grandfathers. The strange thing is that "Pop" didn't look like the photographs around the house. He was much younger, like in his 30's. Colton told his folks "nobody's old in heaven and nobody wears glasses".
Eventually, the conversation moved to Jesus' "Dad". Colton was too young to visualize the Trinity. He didn't explain Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But in his innocent child's language, he acknowledged that Jesus had a "Dad". When his father asked Colton what God's throne looked like, he answered with great youthful enthusiasm "it was big, dad, really, really big because God is the biggest one there is and He really, really loves us. Dad, you can't believe how much He loves us". Our little friend even explained which side of the throne Jesus sat on correctly.
Colton was often asked what Jesus looked like. Then he'd be shown drawings or paintings of artist's concepts. Invariably, he'd look for a moment and shake his little head, "no, that's not right". This went on until he was shown a photo of a painting done by another little girl who had a similar experience and painted Jesus' face the way she remembered it. A copy of this painting by Akiane Kramarik appears in the section reserved for photos.
Other chapters in the book include glimpses of Michael the Archangel's fight with Satan, who will be in the welcoming committee when someone arrives in heaven, what happened as a result of Sonja's miscarriage and the coming war that we will fight. This delightful book contains 154 pages of heartwarming experiences centered around a typical American family. The reader can relate to all the episodes presented there.
When it was time to decide what to name the book, Todd, the father, suggested "Heaven By Four." Sonja, suggested "Heaven, According To Colton." Sister Cassie's sense of humor prompted her to suggest "He's Back, But He's No Angel." But Colton himself came up with the winter. When the editor asked him what he wanted people to know from his story, he looked her in the eye and said, "I want them to know heaven is for real". The story offers many convincing arguments.