May 31, 2011

Is Anybody Out There? 'Heaven Is for Real' Tackles the Age-Old Question with a Child’s Insight

By Sherri Breitigan, Contributing Writer

With modern technology so apt to provide us with immediate solutions and clarity, it is sometimes grounding to realize that the oldest questions of humanity remain unanswered. What is our purpose on this Earth? Is there a Heaven? Did God see me eat that entire half gallon of ice cream or cut off that person in traffic? If so, will that send me to Hell or just Purgatory?

In all seriousness, no matter what our religious background or belief (if we have any), we all wonder what lies beyond. It’s why the Greeks are rich in mythology, and Dante illustrated his great Inferno. With the bestselling success of Don Piper’s 90 Minutes in Heaven in 2004, the near-death experience narrative remains relevant and gripping. We suspend our belief, or disbelief, and hope to know it all after reading these accounts.

In the case of Heaven is for Real, Todd Burpo is a pastor from Nebraska, who, along with his wife Sonja, help retell the story of their four-year old son Colton. Colton had surgery for a ruptured appendix and nearly died on the surgical table. Over his recovery in the ensuing months, Colton reveals his astonishing revelations as he gives precise details about his surgery, his parents’ prayers, meetings with deceased family members in heaven, and his encounters with Jesus and God. Colton is bright with energy, and eager to tell of the love that exists in heaven, and what is to come for us all. The Burpo family was on The Today Show several months ago, and Colton, who is now eleven, told his story with an interesting balance of maturity and child-like exuberance.

With that description, it is easy to throw this book into the pile of religious accounts that are unbelievable, too far-fetched, or have conversion agendas. However, there is a wonderful thing about reading books, and just as I tell my students, there is no one interpretation or "right" way to read anything. You can be an atheist and find insight in this account. There is no Book Police looking over our shoulder to make sure we read every sentence and apply it to our lives. My religious interests range from Presbyterian to Buddhist, and while there were parts that my cynical self raised an eyebrow at, I found it refreshing to read about a good family who was experiencing a string of wretched luck, and managed to come out alright, if not better, in the end.

So, whether you believe in heaven, an afterlife, or just want to believe more in this life, Colton’s account can shed some light on it all.

Recommended for:
- Those seeking perspective or a different karmic direction

Not recommended for:
- Anyone experiencing unexplained abdominal pain, unless you want to enter panic mode