FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE: June Book Review For MAMAs

Review Of Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo

So, the world was supposed to end last weekend.  It didn’t.  I don’t think.  I guess this could all be a matrix or a dream.  I have to admit I did not for one second think the world was going to end.  I don’t even know what that means.  If “the world” ends, why would anyone be worried about it?  You aren’t going to be around!  What I find interesting is that everyone who did believe just assumed they were going to heaven.  They were in Times Square, super fired up about the celestial bash they were assuming they were invited to.  I didn’t see anyone anywhere in the media who was bummed out and wishing for more time to maybe atone, or make amends to avoid going to hell.  I mean, if heaven exists, then it’s likely the alternative does too and I’m sure we can’t all fit in heaven.  Somebody has to be going down, right?

I don’t know exactly when I became such a cynic, such a non-believer.  I do know I was a teeny bit worried about the Y2K thing but not in an apocalyptic way, just in a “ugh, what a hassle” way.  That actually seemed like something that could happen—far more so than “the rapture.”  But I also talked to some computer programming geek friends of mine who were utterly appalled and insulted that the masses actually thought that they wouldn’t have planned for that.  It’s not like they didn’t know how the calendar was going to go.  So I stopped worrying after that.

Remember I’m the uber-lapsed Catholic with kids attending Episcopal school.  And I did believe!  I believed it ALL until I went to college and did all (most) of the reading for Great Works of Western Culture etc. etc. and realized that there was a great big world out there and lots of other religions and lots of other people who felt just as strongly as the Catholics do about being the chosen ones.  And there are a great many big organized groups who don’t have quite the sordid history the Catholics do.  I still have the guilt though.  I feel guilty even writing this. 

My daughter said to me on Easter, “So Jesus rose from the dead? For real?  Like he was fully dead and then he came back to life?”

“That’s what they say.”

“That’s what who says?  Do you believe it?”

“A lot of people do believe that really happened.”

“But do you?”

“Can I get another mimosa over here?”

And I don’t want to be glib, ever.  I get that this is big. This is it.  I am watching tornado devastation on the news and I start crying.  Believe me, I am no stone pillar, but at the same time, part of me thinks..well then, rock on!  It could all disappear like that!  Devastation is 5 minutes away…do you want to be pissed off?  On a diet?  I’m there at the gym ellypticizing myself and watching CNN and thinking, what if that were our town?  Joplin, Missouri—those people have never known another place.  Who cares who’s thin and who has visible roots?  Let’s get our priorities straight for God’s sake!  Like my husband says, “I’m not here for a long time, I’m here for a good time!”

So this little book actually gave me a little pause.  It’s very readable and very believable, believe it or not! 

Todd Burpo is a pastor in Nebraska.  When his son was 4 years old, he had emergency surgery for a burst appendix and nearly died.  Since then Colton (the kid) has told his family stories about what happened to him during the time that he was “dead.”  Colton’s story seems to be true.  Isn’t he too young to make stuff like this up?  Plus, there were things he knew that were impossible for him to know—like the baby who died in his mom’s “stomach.”  His mom had had a miscarriage but they had never told Colton.  He said he visited with his grandpa who had died 30 years before.  He knew details about Grandpa that no one had ever told him.

His experience was beautiful, incredible, and had a remarkably positive effect on his family and the people around them.  The things he experienced of God and Heaven gave him peace and comfort and strengthened the faith of everyone he encountered—everyone who heard his story.

The book has gone back for re-printings 22 times, mostly because of word of mouth—the family has had zero marketing campaign, but I think people are desperate to know what happens when we die—and somehow this book seems to offer a glimmer of an answer.  Also, Lynn Vincent collaborated with the Burpos on the book which I guess accounts for some of its readability.  She also wrote “Going Rogue” with Sarah Palin!  But that aside!

The Burpo family seems very down to earth—typical salt of the earth Midwesterners.  And even they were very skeptical of their son’s story and it wasn’t until they realized that their parish and their friends were finding the story so inspirational that they thought they might want to further share it.  Hey, if it inspires anyone to try to be a better person, it’s got to be a good thing.  I do think that there is good and evil and right and wrong–whether you believe in punishment or the hereafter or thereafter or what have you—karma’s a bitch, at least, right?

My sister has faith.  Real honest to goodness faith.  She talks the talk and walks the walk.  She won’t even go to the Good Friday carnival because it’s not a day to be celebrating—her lord was nailed to a cross for crying out loud and you want to go in a bounce house?  She’s pretty legit, actually, I have to give her a lot of credit.  I don’t know why the Catholicism stuck with her and sorta slid off me.  The best damn Catholics I know are she and my 94 year old grandma who shouted out “there better be some fish at this barbecue” when she was semi-involuntarily wheeled into the (hopefully meat free) Good Friday carnival.

I wish so much that I did believe.  I wish I believed in anything besides what I know and feel right now.  All I know and feel right now is that I love my children to pieces and would die for them.  That’s what I believe.  That’s working for me right now.  I believe in love and music and laughter as dorky and cliché as that sounds.  I believe in my friends and I believe in being kind and doing the best we can.  That’s all I know for sure.  I want to believe that Colton Burpo really went to heaven and saw God, but I’m not sure that I do.  I mean his dad’s a preacher so that could mean he would never lie about this stuff, or it may mean that he interprets everything through a “religious framework,” and if one of our kids had been saying stuff like that we would have just blown it off to just more spastic toddler behavior.  See how cynical I am?  Doubting Thomas has got nothin’ on me.

I do pray on the airplane though, just in case.  When that turbulence kicks in, I mentally fly through those Acts of Contrition like a nun on fire. No atheists in the foxhole, right? 

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