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Book Review — “Heaven is for Real”

While walking through the grocery store this past weekend, I ran across a fairly new book entitled Heaven is for Real for Kids: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back. It was published in 2010 and became #1 on the NY Times best seller list in March 2011, with more than 1.5 million copies sold to date. What caught my attention was that the book is about a boy named Colton who had a near death experience when he was not quite four years old. Over the next year or so, Colton periodically and spontaneously related intriguing bits of information about his experience in “Heaven”, including meeting his great grandfather (who died before Colton was born), his miscarried sister (who no one had told him about), angels, Gabriel, Jesus, Mary and even God.

I am an avid fan of books which discuss near death experiences, life-between-lives, and the struggle to be born into a physical life. I especially appreciate when such events are related by small children, as I consider that such children typically apply very little filtering (personal bias) in terms of the information received — aside from being a child observer with limited understanding and a limited vocabulary. Very young children still have memories of their spiritual existence before physical life began, and many continue to communicate with “spirit friends” until age five or even later.

Such is the case with Colton Burpo. I see this young boy as an honest conveyor of what he experienced, observed and was told while visiting the Soul Side. This is a very important perspective, for any such information which is considered to be credible must be balanced against my own spiritual beliefs. In some cases, this can lead to a transcending spiritual experience that can shake, and perhaps subsequently strengthen, the foundation of personal faith, just as it shook the bedrock of faith for Colton’s father and mother.

The events which unfold in the book are related by Colton’s father, Todd Burpo, who is the pastor at Crossroads Wesleyan Church in the small farming town of Imperial, Nebraska, USA. The town of Imperial and parishioners from other small regional towns play an important role in Colton’s experience and somewhat miraculous recovery. Their generosity and prayer remind us that there is no such thing as spiritual coincidence; everything happens for a reason, and so most blessings happen in response to personal and community requests through prayer.

To the extent possible, Todd relates his son’s communications as precisely as possible in the boy’s own words. Although most of Colton’s early comments were not recorded, they were so startling to his father and mother that the parents discussed the words in great detail: a de facto memorization process. Then pastor Todd worked through his own memory and interpretation of the Bible, gaining new practical insights on Heaven, God, children, prayer, etc., and even a glimpse into the future.

It was especially interesting to follow along with Todd as he and his wife began to change in terms of their own understanding and practical application of their chosen faith. Todd relates how the experience changed them, including the following passages:

The experience “snapped our pride like a dry twig and taught us how to be humble enough to accept help from other people, physically, emotionally, and financially.”

“We learned the value of being vulnerable enough to let others be strong for us, to let others bless us.”

As mentioned above: a “transcending experience”: they were one way before the event; now they are different in definable and measurable ways. I am equally certain that some of the readers of this simple, yet thought-provoking little book underwent their own transcending experience just by the reading. God certainly works in mysterious ways, and so often His messengers are little children.

In fairness to the reader, it should be noted that this is less than a masterpiece of literature — nor was it ever intended to be. For example, it is written in simple, informal terms, which makes it more endearing and believable. The author wanders on at times in terms of background information and seemingly unrelated information; yet a good background makes the work more public and adds important local, family and interpersonal color. I admit that I was frequently confused by the event timeline, as the various discussions bounce back and forth across months of time. There is a timeline at the end of the book, but it is rather limited during the months of greatest importance. Yet none of these literary concerns should sway you from reading this book, and none weaken the strength of the conviction and importance of the message which Colton is able to convey is his boyish way.

For additional information on this book, Colton and his family, visit the Heaven is for Real web site.

“Thank you for participating in The Soul Channel!” — John