8C Monday , Feb . 27 , 2017
Estate , Pre-Planning , and Sympathy Guide
What is heaven like ?
There are many answers . Correct or not , we don ’ t know – yet .
Quite a few years ago , I heard a reference on TV to Raymond Moody , a psychiatrist who interviewed dozens of people who had near-death experiences . He summarized the common patterns of their descriptions in a book “ Life After Life .”
Intrigued by that , I later read many books by people who state that they had experiences in which they saw glimpses or spent a short time in heaven , then returned to earthly life .
Like Moody saw in his subjects , these independent writings have many overlapping themes and details in their descriptions of heaven .
Of course , we should base our knowledge and hope on God ’ s descriptions of heaven in the Bible , not man ’ s words .
While respecting that position , considering the stories of those who claim “ to have been there ” offers much to think about . Even reading these books with a healthy dose of skepticism , they are interesting and inspiring stories that can lead a reader to stronger faith .
Many of these authors came to these experiences through serious accidents or illnesses . They underwent severe pain , in some cases lasting months or years .
Once “ there ,” they felt overwhelming peace and love . Some just got glimpses from the outside while others saw more details – the gates of heaven , the Book of Life , even the Throne .
Most of them mentioned brilliant colors , way beyond what we know here , as well as incredible music – sometimes numerous songs simultaneously , yet it all made sense and again was exponentially better than our earthly music . Usually , the writers simply called it “ indescribeable ” with our language .
Communication was often understood but not actually spoken . Messages were thought and received so there was no language barrier .
Many tell of seeing dead relatives , some of whom they had never met on earth . Colton Burpo learned of a sister who died in a miscarriage before
What is heaven like ?
“ In My Father ’ s house are many rooms . If it were not so , would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you ? And if I go and prepare a place for you , I will come back and welcome you into My presence , so that you also may be where I am .”
– John 14:2-3
he was born that he had never been told about . He also later identified a youthful photo of a departed grandfather who he had not met on earth .
Others say they had encounters with people from the Bible – John the Baptist , Peter , and even Jesus himself .
Another common theme in these stories is those who had a taste of heaven did not want to return , but were told their time had not yet come and were sent back . Often , though they knew what they experienced , they withheld from telling others , realizing they would not be believed .
Marvin Besteman , in “ My Journey to Heaven ,” didn ’ t even tell his wife for five months . Although he remembered it vividly , he had no desire to discuss it at first . Later , he learned that he was sent back to earth for that purpose . “ I know that God wants me to tell you what I saw , and trust him with the details ,” he wrote .
Dale Black didn ’ t write “ Flight to Heaven ” until 40 years after seeing heaven on advice to keep the experience sacred and live his life accordingly .
On the other hand , “ The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven ” by Alex Malarkey and his father Kevin , was later recanted and then pulled off the market by the publisher . Alex was severely injured in a car accident at age 6 . The book was published in 2010 , but several years later , at age 16 , Alex retracted it . His mother , Beth , stated , “ Alex never concluded he was in heaven . He was a small boy who experienced something extraordinary . The adults made it into what would sell to the masses .”
So how should we view these books that have become termed “ heavenly tourism ” genre ?
Are these authors modernday prophets who were granted a supernatural experience and given the means to tell about it to mass audiences ? Or are they greedy pigs who fabricated it all to make a buck ?
We cannot know what is in someone else ’ s heart .
John MacArthur in “ The Glory of Heaven : The Truth About Heaven , Angels , and Eternal Life ” refutes some of these books in detail .
He outright calls them untrue because they do not match visions of heaven in the Bible – especially that they are too self-focused rather than an emphasis on the glory of God .
He writes : “ . . . all of them are teeming with false , flawed , and fanciful notions about heaven . . . it elevates human experience to a higher level than the Word of God .”
MacArthur warns : “ We must reject every anecdotal account that contradicts or goes beyond what Scripture teaches . We must also refuse to get caught up in every kind of speculation , every truth claim , and every supposed new revelation that detracts from or leads people away from simple reliance on the Word of God .”
Though I agree , I at least wonder if there is the possibility these authors are telling of real experiences , and what they are describing does not contradict scripture .
If you interviewed a dozen people who went to the state fair , their responses would have much in common , but each would provide his or her own details and perceptions of what it was like . Thus , some of the commonalities in these books , written independently at different times by people in different places , is what keeps me from dismissing them entirely .
What we can do is be confident that heaven is perfect in the presence of God , and know who will bring us there and how to get there – by trusting in the shed blood of Jesus Christ as the way , the truth , and the life .
Like a wrapped gift , we can tell a little bit about it – size , weight , sound when it ’ s shaken – but we don ’ t know and aren ’ t supposed to know more . . . until the right moment arrives when we ’ re allowed to open it .
If you or anyone you know of has had a near-death or heavenly experience and would be willing to talk about it for a future newspaper story , please contact us at ( 320 ) 485-2535 or
• “ Heaven is for Real : A Little Boy ’ s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back ” – 4-year-old Colton Burpo from Nebraska visits heaven during emergency surgery . Also became a movie . Follow-up book is “ Heaven Changes Everything .”
• “ 90 Minutes in Heaven : A True Story of Death and Life ” – Baptist minister from Texas experiences heaven after car accident . Follow-up book is “ Heaven is Real .”
• “ To Heaven and Back : A Doctor ’ s Extraordinary Account of Her Death , Heaven , Angels , and Life Again ” – Mary Neal , orthopedic surgeon from Michigan , who drowned in a kayak accident .
• “ Proof of Heaven : A Neurosurgeon ’ s Journey into the Afterlife ” – Eben Alexander , neurosurgeon from Boston , who went into a seven-day coma from bacterial meningitisencephalitis .
• “ 23 Minutes in Hell ” – Bill Wiese , real estate agent from California . Experienced a visit to hell but also was rescued to heaven .
• “ When Will the Heaven Begin ?” – Ally Breedlove . The story of her brother who died at 18 from a heart condition , and used videos to share his visions of heaven .
• “ My Journey to Heaven : What I Saw and How It Changed My Life ” – Marvin Besteman , a retired banker from Michigan . After surgery to remove a pancreatic tumor , he is escorted to heaven by two angels where he is met by St . Peter .
• “ Flight to Heaven ” – Dale Black , the lone survivor of a California plane crash at age 19 , is healed and strives to live out his life as a reflection of his heavenly visit experience .
• “ Waking Up in Heaven : A True Story of Brokenness , Heaven , and Life Again ” – Crystal McVea , child abuse victim from Oklahoma , learns that God has a perfect plan for everyone .
• “ Akiane : Her Life , Her Art , Her Poetry ” – by Akiane and Foreli Kramarik . A young girl born in Illinois , after a heavenly vision , becomes a prodigy poet and painter , including an image of Jesus she painted that Colton Burpo later identified as “ they finally got one right .”
• “ Heaven ” – by Randy Alcorn . Not about an experience , but cites numerous scripture references to show heaven as a physical place .
• “ The Glory of Heaven : The Truth About Heaven , Angels , and Eternal Life ” – by John MacArthur , a direct refutation of some of the above books , plus scriptural descriptions of heaven .
How to talk to children about death
Death is a difficult , but unavoidable topic . Talking to children about death gives them the chance to get used to this reality in the cycle of life . No living being is eternal , and it ’ s important to remember dying is a part of living .
The death of a beloved pet is often a child ’ s first experience of this reality . For them , the loss of their hamster or goldfish is far from trivial . For the parent , this is an opportunity to broach the theme of death , to explain in simple words that every living thing has a life span .
If children ask questions , parents should reply as best they can . Above all , they shouldn ’ t make anything up . If they don ’ t know the answer , they must tell the children that they don ’ t know and that there are things that even adults find hard to understand .
If someone close to them dies , it ’ s best to tell children the news without delay . In any case , children are able to sense their parents ’ pain very quickly .
Young children between the ages of 3 and 5 can ’ t fully grasp the concept of death so it ’ s better to avoid using round-about words like “ Grandpa fell asleep ” or “ Aunt Julie has gone away .”
Such expressions can cause children to develop a fear of falling asleep or be anxious about departures .
Suppor t i ng children through the mourning period means letting them express their emotions in their own time , without forcing them to talk . A hug is sometimes worth a thousand words when you ’ re feeling sad .
Talking to children about death gives them the chance to observe the natural cycle of life .
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“ Celebrating Life ”
Have you prearranged your funeral ?
While it ’ s true that thinking about prearranged funerals isn ’ t the happiest of jobs , it ’ s certainly an essential one . Not only does it enable you to discuss your wishes with your family , but you also find out if your plans meet their needs and expectations . Just remember that when the time comes , they ’ ll need some kind of ceremony to help them begin the grieving process .
A funeral organized at the last minute ( the type of service , how much it should cost , etc .) can become a source of conflict for bereaved family members at a time when they need to rely on each other more than ever . By prearranging your funeral service ( called a “ pre-planned funeral ”), you save your loved ones from having to make those tough decisions at a difficult time . You also give yourself peace of mind , since you ’ re making sure your wishes are respected and that the ceremony is personalized . However , try not to leave overly detailed instructions ; give some leeway to your loved ones so they have the possibility of getting involved in the organization of the funeral and expressing their feelings .
Do you believe that a prearranged funeral is unnecessary because your wishes are already set out in your will ? Don ’ t forget that a will is often read after the funeral . That means your family may not be in a position to receive your instructions about the ceremony before it takes place .
It ’ s important that you prearrange your funeral services , not just for you , but for your loved ones , as well . Maybe now is a good time to think about it .