Thursday, October 13, 2011

Heaven is for Real - Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent

Summary:  When Colton Burpo made it through an emergency appendectomy, his family was overjoyed at his miraculous survival.  What they weren't expecting, though, was the story that emerged in the months that followed -- a story as beautiful as it was extraordinary, detailing their little boy's trip to heaven and back.

Colton, not yet four years old, told his parents he left his body during the surgery -- and authenticated that claim by describing exactly what his parents were doing in another part of the hospital while he was being operated on.  He talked of visiting heaven and relayed stories told to him by people he met there whom he had never met in life, sharing events that happened before he was born.  He also astonished his parents with descriptions and obscure details about heaven that matched the Bible exactly, though he had not yet learned to read.

With disarming innocence and the plainspoken boldness of a child, Colton tells of meeting long-departed family members.  He describes Jesus, the angels, and how "really, really big" God is, and how much God loves us.  Retold by his father, but using Colton's uniquely simple words, Heaven is for Real offers a glimpse of the world that awaits us, where as Colton says, "Nobody is old and nobody wears glasses."

Heaven is for Real will forever change the way you think of eternity, offering the chance to see, and believe, like a child.  ( Summary from book - Image from today.msnbc.msn.com )

My Review:  Heaven is for Real has been calling to me for a while.  I imagine quite a few of you have picked it up while browsing, turned it over, read the back, and wondered if it was a legitimate experience or just another get-rich-quick-because-my-kid-had-a-dream scheme.   So we’re perfectly clear about where I'm coming from in this review --  I’m one of those religious types.  I believe in God.  I believe there is more to this life than what we can see, and I believe that ordinary people can see extraordinary things in extraordinary circumstances.  I also believe there are a lot of nut jobs out there who like to fake it.  I tried to read this book with an open mind but kept my skeptical spectacles on hand, just in case.

The first part of this book, when Colton was hospitalized, was extremely difficult to read from a parental perspective.  I cannot imagine what it would be like to almost lose a child, but I cringe at the thought of having to watch my child or any child in such pain.  I could feel his parents anguish, frustration, terror, and confusion as they waited to see what would happen to their son, Colton.  Todd was very honest about his struggles with understanding and accepting God’s will in regards to his son.  I was moved to tears by these emotional moments, as well as Colton’s miraculous recovery, and the undeniable power of faith and prayer.   
Your feelings about this book likely will depend, first, on if you believe something like this could actually happen and, second, on if you believe it actually did.   I believe this could actually happen – that Colton’s spirit could actually leave his body and visit a more heavenly realm.  I believe that, if God willed it, anyone could talk to Jesus, meet the angels, and see family members he or she had never met.  I believe most of Colton's story.  Most, but not all.  Here’s why…

[Puts on her skeptical spectacles]

I think that Colton tried to describe his experience to his parents in the best way that he could, but ultimately, he’s  still a four-year-old.   I have lived with a few four-year-olds in my time.  While they are innocent, they are also very creative and don’t always distinguish fact from fiction when they are telling stories.  I think that the majority of Colton’s story is accurate and based on his actual experience, but that some of the more extraneous details may have been distorted or imagined for no other reason than that they sounded good to Colton.   
I’m inclined to be skeptical of Todd’s claims that his son hadn’t at least heard of certain widely held Christian beliefs (like about Jesus having nail marks on his hands and feet).  Kids may be little but they have huge ears that pick up far more information than we realize.   Although Colton’s parents  seemed very careful not to ask leading questions, I doubt they successfully hid their reactions to his extraordinary experience.  If Colton realized that his parents were pleased or excited by what he had to say, he might have sought to please them further by telling them more about Heaven than he actually experienced.  That’s it.  I’m done being the cynic.

[Takes off skeptical spectacles]

While there were a few discrepancies between Colton’s descriptions and my own personal beliefs on the nature of God and Heaven, there were other aspects of the book rang true -- things Colton simply could not have known and were more than mere coincidence.  Overall, I enjoyed reading this book, felt uplifted when I finished it, and appreciated the message about faith, family, and the existence of a loving Father in Heaven.   
Sidenote:  There is a book called The Message (by Lance Richardson) that tells of one man’s encounter with heaven from an LDS perspective, for those readers that are interested.  I read it a long time ago (pre-blogging) and remember being very impressed by his experience.

My Rating: 4.25 Stars
Sum it up: The intriguing story of a child's heavenly encounter.

3 comments:

Amy said...

Good review. I stopped reading it a third of the way through because I could hear to much of the parents' beliefs and not enough of the child's experience. When he started saying "they've got to be saved and accept Jesus in their hearts or they can't go to heaven" I was done. I think your right, it did happen, but I agree with your more cynical points as well.

Anonymous said...

it mentions rose spiders with 6 inch long legs their legs in real life and in the picture included in the book are about 2 inches long shows how exadurated the facts are

MindySue said...

Well, I guess that (dis)proves it! Personally, I try not to get hung up on the little things. I mean, he was four.

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