Thursday, February 20, 2014

Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo

This is not my usual book. In fact, when my book club members picked it to be one of TWO books we're reading in February, I scoffed. Just in my head because that would be rude.

But I was surprised that I really enjoyed this one. It was not without its issues, but on the whole, as a Christian and as a mom, it touched me. 

Todd Burpo, his wife, and their children live in small town Nebraska. Todd is a pastor, and when his son, Colton, nearly loses his life to a burst appendix that goes untreated for a week, his faith is tested. After the surgery, his son begins to divulge details that indicate that he had some sort of supernatural, out-of-body, and decidedly spiritual experience. In short, he went to heaven!

I am a questioner of all the things. While I am very much a Christian, I've had my share of skepticism over the years. As I was reading about the details Colton divulged to his family, I did try to "debunk" his story. And it's certainly possible. But does it matter? Not really. 

I'll tell you a quick personal story. Back in 2009, when I found out I was pregnant, I was immeasurably terrified of telling my mom because....awkward! Unmarried and having a baby. I'm sure it wasn't her plan for me. I finally worked up the courage to tell her, and while she wasn't happy with me, I felt relieved to have gotten it off my chest. We got off the phone after that first conversation with some things still unresolved, and I had a little crying fit, but it wasn't too long before she called me back to smooth some things over and assure me that all would be fine. Here's where things get...odd. 

My grandparents were two of the most important people in my life, and they both passed away in 2002. I was incredibly close to my grandfather, and we had a bond unlike I've ever had with anyone else. He was so special to me, and me to him. We kept their home landline phone number after they passed and had it changed over into my mom's name. So, for about seven years, the caller ID displayed my mom's name...until that day that she called me back to tell me it was going to be fine. That day, and every day until shortly before my son's birth, the caller ID suddenly and inexplicably displayed my grandfather's name. Not the name he'd had on their account when they were alive, but his "everyday" name that everyone actually called him. 

Can I explain it away? Oh yes. A technical glitch? A coincidence? Sure! But I choose to believe, in all my skepticism, that I was given a little gift. A little extra assurance that we were being watched over and that my son would be blessed. 

Those who want to believe will believe. Those who don't, won't. It's really that simple. This book touched me even more as a mom since I can't imagine being in that same position with my own child, and I feel certain if I had some of the same conversations with him that the Burpos had with Colton, I would also feel changed and blessed. 

So aside from the whole issue of whether this kiddo spent time in heaven, something tangible I can say about the book is that the writing was not great. I found it to be a little cheesy and stilted at times, but the story was enough to suck me in and help me look past that. 

If you're looking for a quick, light read that might make you cry, this one might do the trick.

Pub. Date: November 2010
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN: 0849946158 
Source: Bought it!





25 comments:

  1. Wow, I love your story about the caller ID but I'm still skeptical of the book's story. I guess I should read it and really decide for myself.

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    1. Thank you! I haven't had too many unexplainable (or hard to explain) things happen in my life, but this one sort of smacked me in the face.

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  2. I'll probably skip the book, but love your story!

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  3. This just gave me goosebumps. What a great story!

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    1. Thanks, Kate! It still gives me goosebumps, too!

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  4. Oh :*) That story just put a big lump in my throat. Wonderful!

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    1. Me too, Jennifer. I totally cried (again) when I typed it up.

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  5. Is the book listed as non-fiction?

    I know that terror of telling loved ones about an awkward pregnancy, I'm glad that (for whatever the reason :>) you got some additional comfort. I had the horrific realization yesterday when I was clearing my Facebook data that I hadn't backed up my father's messages (he died suddenly in 2011).

    Javascript malfunctioned and I managed to keep (I think) most of them - including the ones where he told me to watch my language. :)

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    1. April, yes this is considered non-fiction. This was a really difficult review to write, because even though I had some issues with the book, I would be a huge hypocrite if I discounted everything since I've had my own unexplainable stories, too. But like I said, I think it's one of those books that will provide comfort to many and that many people can see themselves in to some extent.

      I'm so glad you were able to keep most of your father's messages! Even the ones about your language (right there with you). lol

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    2. This one would have been way out of my comfort zone... and I'm used to traveling there, but I think this one might have been a step too far for me. :)

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  6. There is nothing wrong with believing in miracles.

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    1. So true, Trisha! So true. And have I mentioned HOW HAPPY I am that you're back? I keep meaning to tell you that and then I get sucked away to doing something else. Hugs!

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  7. Totally been there with the awkward "hey I'm pregnant story." I love your story! I was so worried to tell my mom and the first thing she said to me was, "you don't have to marry him." She said that she was surprised she said that, but that God told her it was the right thing to do. It was because Hope's bio-dad was an abusive tool. I probably wouldn't read that book, but I do love stories like yours.

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    1. I love your mother's reaction. It sounds like JUST the thing you may have needed to hear from her? They have a way of doing that.

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  8. I have no intention of ever reading this book because I don't trust strangers. But I do trust you and that story about your grandpa just hit me with some waterworks. <3 OMG I need to stop thinking about it. I'm at work and I look like a basketcase!

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  9. I think you wrote a really balanced review. I've put off reading this one both because I heard that the writing was poor and because my gut reaction is that the little boy in the story is being used to make a point. But...as a Christian, I do believe in heaven and I have had my own share of experiences that defy explanation a bit. So I guess that leaves me about where you are!
    Thanks for your honest and thoughtful review.

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  10. I appreciate your viewpoint on this one because it didn't really work for me--but I admit that I'm much of a skeptic there were a few things that were a bit too much--but I love your story about the caller ID. I do think that the universe has a way of taking care of us when we need it most.

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  11. I loved this one. It isn't fabulous written but it's earnest and sticks with you. Great post.

    I love what you shared.

    I love that it happened all the way till your son was born. So neat. I've had amazing things like that happen to me twice. Once, the night of my grandmother in law's funeral, our hotel room phone kept ringing. Even when we unplugged it. We're pretty sure it was grandma. Also, my father's cell phone number rang me after he had passed away and the number had been disconnected.

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  12. My mom gave my kids this book but I haven't read it. As a believer, I think these things are possible, I'm just never sure I can trust who is telling the truth and who isn't. Your review was well balanced I think. I guess there's a movie coming out for it close to Easter..

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  13. My grandmother passed away 3 years after my grandfather and she was ready to join him. The night before she passed (she was in a coma), by aunt (who was having trouble letting her go) and I had the same dream; that the two of them were together in a beautiful place and were so happy. The next day we agreed that it was time to let her go.

    You can't make me believe there isn't more than meets the eye!! But yeah, I'm not so sure I'll be reading this book. Like Kelly, I don't trust strangers, especially ones that publish their story for money. I'm such a damn cynic and that is such an oxymoron. LOL

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  14. I love your story! Sometimes things happen how they need to happen, even if it might actually be a coincidence, it doesn't mean that it wasn't also meant to happen (that makes sense in my head, hopefully it kind of does in type). But I can definitely see your issues with the book. I'm a Christian (always struggling at it but definitely a believer) and my dad was of a different denomination and he was huge on televangelist type stuff and would read books about people who saw heaven or hell and most the time I was so skeptical but sometimes when I was younger I would get freaked out by some things. So in general, stories where people believe they saw heaven or something are usually something I would be very skeptical about. I don't always discount like out of body experiences or other things, but I tend to be kind of strict on heavenly stuff? I don't know. But I can see what you mean. It does sound sweet anyway, though! I'm glad you found something good in it, especially as a mom!

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  15. This is one of my mom's favorite books. She gave me a copy over a year ago and I still haven't read it. It is also one of the favorite reads of a book club I just joined. I enjoyed your review. Maybe it is time I read this one too.

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  16. I am very like you (surprise, surprise, Fellow Scorpio!) and would have been skeptical as well (even tho, as a Christian, I'm not supposed to be). I may yet pick this one up because of this review. Excellent job.

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  17. This book has been so popular since it first came out, particularly here in Lincoln, Nebraska. It's been on and off the best seller list forever. We were selling dozens of copies A DAY for weeks on end. As a skeptic (and agnostic), I've scoffed at the hype and rave reviews for the book, so I doubt I'll ever read it. But I do have to share a quick story with you, too. After my stepdaughter died, I wound up in the living room after packing our bags to fly to VA. It was 2 am and my husband had finally fallen asleep. I turned on the tv and Stepmom (with Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon) was on. That was "our" movie. We always joked about it and she called me Steppie and I called her (with love) Step Brat. Was it a sign or merely a coincidence? On that night (and yes, even now) I believed it was her way of reaching out and saying she loved me. And, I believe, somewhere, somehow, your grandfather was doing the same.

    I'm not sure about heaven, but I am sure about love.

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